Chris Smith: Art continues to rise from ash of the North Bay firestorm

Junk artist Patrick Amiot’s tribute to firefighters on Cleveland Avenue at 10th Street in Santa Rosa. (Chris Smith / Press Democrat)


Local artists can’t help but be inspired by all that’s transpired since human eyes first beheld the flames of the night of Oct. 8.

A dramatic piece of laser-cut sculpture has appeared at the site of the destroyed Mark West Community Preschool on the forlorn stretch of Old Redwood Highway just north of Mark West Springs Road.

Created by Jim Macken, the sculpture portrays a great, phoenix rising from flames. Macken readily acknowledges borrowing from a line drawing of the mythical bird by Dani Rainingcrow Lebeaux.

He placed in the heart of his phoenix the image of a rose.

Jim created the sculpture for the November parade that accompanied the Winterblast celebration in Santa Rosa’s South A Street art district. Laser-cut art is something his family’s been doing a long time.

His father and uncle, John and Don Macken, founded Lasercraft Inc. in Santa Rosa in the early 1970s. Jim operates Macken Instruments and his brother, Ron, owns Lightwave Laser.

After showing his phoenix at the SOFA parade, Jim took it home. But with so much going on following the fires, he said, “It didn’t really feel right just having it in my living room.”

So the sculpture stands now alongside the sidewalk in Larkfield, a neighborhood rising from the ashes.

And on Cleveland Avenue at 10th Street, just north of Railroad Square, you can take in renowned Sebastopol junk artist Patrick Amiot’s delightful tribute to firefighters.

If you can, check out the fireman and trusty engine No. 707 both before and after dark.

CHRISTMAS TAMALES: There will plenty of good food to eat at the free, community meal in Sebastopol on Christmas Day. Not be missed, I’m told, are the handmade tamales.

The folks at Mexico Lindo restaurant in Graton oversaw the kitchen crew of about a dozen volunteers who worked for two days making more than 500 chicken, pork and veggie tamales.

They and a bountiful array of other foods will be set out at the Community Church of Sebastopol from 1 to 4 p.m. on Monday.

Members of the hosting Rotary Club of Sebastopol Sunrise have arranged also for gifts for the kids, music, cold-weather clothing and a visit by Santa.

FOLKS WITHOUT HOMES are known to camp behind the 1917 Petaluma and Santa Rosa Railroad depot in Sebastopol that has long served as home to the West County Museum.

Jan King, the museum’s director, recalls one morning days ago waving to small group of people and one dog who had spent the night out back.

She watched them pick up any cigarette butt or other item that might have dropped on the ground, then disperse. Shortly after the museum closed for the day, the campers returned and settled in outside for another night.

As Jan left for home, she called to the daily after-hours visitors, “Merry Christmas!”

The next day, she found a note written on the back of a discarded shopping list, a large bar of Ghirardelli chocolate and a package of mints.

The note read:

Thanks for the shelter and your patience. We are grateful. Enjoy these Christmas treats. They are unopened and fresh. We will try to get a broom and clean up after ourselves even better.