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Vintage Phoenix Q&A: Halldor Hjalmarson

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Robrt Pela: You've been here forever.

Halldor Hjalmarson: I was born in Phoenix in 1938 and lived on West Willetta Street when I was a kid. I went to Kennilworth School. We moved out to South Mountain later, and I went into the Marine Corps for four years. I came back here and began studying art at ASU in the '60s.

RP: So, right from the beginning, you were going to be an artist.

HH: Well, I minored in Social Studies. I got a Masters in Art Education; ASU didn't have an MFA arts program at the time. I was married and had a kid and I wanted to be able to get a job.

RP: You weren't planning to jump right into clay arts.

HH: I started out as a painter, in watercolor. Most clay artists do. I didn't love ceramics at first. But in the Art Ed Masters program, you had to take at least one ceramics class. I did, and nothing happened. I took a second one, and the bug bit immediately. I've been doing clay work ever since -- for more than 50 years. I had my first studio out at South Mountain.

RP: What changed your mind?

HH: I don't know. I became more confident after the second class, I suppose. I got a kiln and enclosed my carport and after that it was Katie, bar the door.

RP: You were instrumental in historic preservation and one of the earliest downtown preservationists.

HH: Gail and I worked on a committee or two, back then. People thought we were nuts when we moved back downtown in 1973. This whole part of town was just a mess. Nobody had a yard, or kept their lawns up. It wasn't really a lot of artists down here, back then. There were a lot of people who just left for work in the morning with their lunch in a brown bag.

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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela