Risa Mallin: Making her mark

Photo: Caleb Keefer and Risa Mallin on camera filming for “Antiques Roadshow.”

Risa Mallin is adding another jewel to her impressive crown of accomplishments. In January, she will appear on an episode of “Antiques Roadshow” with a prized possession. But before the reveal, here is Risa’s back story:

A Denver native, Risa was a welcome addition to the Valley’s Jewish community when she moved here in 1973 to marry uber-eligible bachelor and native Arizonan Dr. Bruce Mallin. While establishing their home here and being mom to a growing family of four siblings, Risa recalls she determined “to meet people and make a mark.”

This was Risa’s way of life. Looking back, she recalls her time at the University of Texas in Austin when she joined Delta Phi Epsilon sorority and was a member of the sorority’s international education foundation. (Risa will be honored as an alumna this coming April in Phoenix as a part of the Phoenix Panhellenic Association’s 100th anniversary.)

Risa with a photo of her husband, Dr. Bruce Mallin.

To achieve her Valley-based goal, she became active in Beth El Congregation, Jewish Federation, Hadassah and more. At the same time, she put to use her creativity as a crafter, “doing quilting and embroidery for fun,” and at one point designing jewelry with her late friend Florie Amster.

She went on to assume executive posts, serving as Jewish National Fund executive director, director of development at Arizona Alzheimer’s Association and executive director of Arizona Jewish Historical Society.

And then, she says, “I quit!”

While remaining a loyal organizational volunteer for her favorites, she went wholeheartedly into endeavors such as collage and painting on silk. Her home is filled with family heirlooms, crafts and collectibles, including many referencing Bruce’s U.S. Naval experience and Arizona roots.

And now … the rest of the story.

Risa fondly shares her memory of Bruce’s years as a “weekend cowboy.” He owned, boarded and regularly rode a horse on local trails until, some 10-15 years ago, he decided to sell – and found a buyer who wanted to barter. “I’ve got a framed picture for you,” he told Bruce, who was relieved to find a home for the horse, so he did some “horse-trading.”

“I was happy to be done with the horse, hung the picture in the living room – and lived with it,” Risa says.

The picture, as it turns out, is one of 100 posters of an original piece of art painted in 1906 by Louis Akin to commemorate the Santa Fe Railroad’s arrival at the Grand Canyon.

Sensing that this horse trade enhanced the history of the poster, Risa, a fan of “Antiques Roadshow” on PBS, entered the lottery to be admitted to the line to present the poster to the experts when the show came to Arizona. She was chosen.

This past April, Risa, along with the poster and two of her children who live in the Valley, joined the mob of people in line. They waited for hours. “It was like a Super Bowl of antiques,” she says.

“When an appraiser saw our picture,” she recalls, “he called us out of line and we sat, were well fed, talked to other candidates, and waited for hours. At 6:30 that evening, I was interviewed and filmed.” And yes, she acknowledges that she was “a little nervous, but it was a lot of fun.”

It turned out that the appraiser, Caleb Keefer, “is an expert in the field, knew exactly what the poster was, and he was very excited.” But Risa believes that the “horse-trade aspect” definitely added a unique angle.

The poster is now back on the wall in the Mallin living room, with an enhanced anecdote to add interest to its story.

To see Risa on television and find out the appraisal value of the poster, tune in to the Arizona-based PBS episode of “Antiques Roadshow” in early 2020.

Louis B. Akin (American 1868-1913),
El Tovar Hotel, Grand Canyon, Arizona, On The Santa Fe, Chromolithograph


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