The flames are gone, but the memories remain. While daily news reports have thoroughly documented the devastation left by last October’s North Bay wildfires, the region’s artists continue to help us all process the emotional impact. Indeed, their efforts have intensified over the past four months.
On Friday, Feb. 9, a new exhibit titled “Healing by Art: After the Fires.” with local artists expressing the reactions to the natural disaster, opens at Chroma Gallery on A Street in Santa Rosa.
“I started by doing a picture myself. It’s a collage piece called ‘Consumed.’ It was my way of dealing with the trauma. Our place wasn’t burned, but we had to evacuate and like everybody else, we’re still dealing with this,” Chroma Gallery co-founder Simmon Factor said.
In a similar vein, the Museums of Sonoma County has launched the Fire Wall website to display fire-inspired artwork by community members, and that project is also linked with the A Street gallery exhibit.
The Fire Wall website is part a larger effort by the Museums of Sonoma County — both the History Museum of Sonoma County and its fine arts counterpart, the Art Museum of Sonoma County — to document the impact of the October fires, said Jeff Nathanson, executive director of both museums.
“Our Fire Project, as we conceptualized it, has two parts. One is the fire collection; we’re collecting objects, photographs and scavenged items that will help us create a permanent history record of what happened. We all know the fires are among the most significant events in Sonoma County’s history,” he said.
“And then the other current part of that project is the Fire Wall website. That’s an open community project, where anybody who has any creative expression — whether it’s photograph, a drawing, a poem or whatever — they can submit that,” Nathanson added.
The web address for submitting items for Fire Wall and viewing submissions by others is https://museumsc.org/fire-wall.
Popular Santa Rosa artist Mario Uribe, whose studio is located in the A Street arts district, will conduct a free public workshop Saturday at the Museums of Sonoma County for community members who would like to create art for the Fire Wall project.
“I believe the museum’s Fire Wall project aims to give anyone, artist or not, an opportunity to explore expressing their emotions through art. The recurring theme in my artwork involves using circles as a healing element, and I have lead many workshops with that theme,” Uribe explained.
The “Healing by Art” exhibit on A Street is sponsored by a committee organized in September to launch the newly proposed Santa Rosa Center for the Arts, to be headquartered temporarily at Chroma Gallery until the group eventually finds a permanent site.
“It’s an arts and education organization,” Factor said. “Right now we have about a dozen people who are coming to meetings on a regular basis. We’re going to have exhibits, classes and musical performances and events. Chroma Gallery has largely been doing that for several years, but I just continue to do this on my own, and I felt that Santa Rosa needs it own space for the arts, like other communities have.”
Factor said he’s pleased that the Santa Rosa Center for the Arts committee’s first venture is an exhibit dealing with aftermath of the October fires.