Editor’s Letter | On Fire: Colorado wildfires and their impact on the art community

By Kristin Hoerth

Beauty and Beast by Dave Santillanes, part of the Richard Schmid Fine Art Auction

Beauty and Beast by Dave Santillanes, part of the Richard Schmid Fine Art Auction

Whether you live in the West or not, you’ve undoubtedly heard about the disastrous wildfires that seemed to consume the state of Colorado at the beginning of the summer. The High Park Fire near Fort Collins took on personal significance for me when my parents were notified to evacuate in the wee hours of a Sunday morning in mid-June. They arrived at my house later that day, hoping to be allowed back home within a day or two.

Little did we know at the time that the fire would soon “blow up,” growing quickly from a few hundred acres to 87,000 acres. The frequent updates sent out by the county sheriff’s office chronicled the thousands of firefighters and hundreds of fire engines, specialized aircraft, and other equipment that arrived on the scene day after day.

On Day 3 of the fire, my folks watched from a high vantage point as the fire burned up the brushy hillside toward their road. Through binoculars, they saw firefighters on the ground preparing to defend their neighborhood, and they held their breath while a helicopter scooped giant buckets of water out of the nearby reservoir and dropped them with mind-blowing precision along the edge of the fire.

Their home was protected that day and survived the rest of the fire. Many in their area were not as fortunate, and many more homes were later lost in the Waldo Canyon Fire near Colorado Springs. And although the fires stopped making national news long ago, the recovery will continue for months to come. The impact on the art community continues, as well. In our editorial offices just outside Denver, we’ve heard about a number of substantial art collections that were lost. Thousands of acres of pristine mountain wilderness that have been painted by countless artists are now blackened.

In the wake of the devastation, though, one show in particular will go on: The 17th annual Richard Schmid Fine Art Auction takes place on Sunday, September 2, in Rist Canyon, one of the particularly hard-hit areas in the High Park Fire. It benefits the Rist Canyon Volunteer Fire Department, which was among the first to respond to the flames; the department lost one fire station, and five firefighters lost their own homes while protecting others. Schmid is a former resident of the area and is donating 100 percent of the sale of his paintings to the fire department; other artists among the 100 participants have followed suit. As you can imagine, this year’s auction is more meaningful and important than ever.

Featured in the September 2012 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
Southwest Art magazine September 2012 digital download
Southwest Art magazine September 2012 print edition
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One thought on “Editor’s Letter | On Fire: Colorado wildfires and their impact on the art community

  1. artsatdenver

    An open letter to victims of this year’s fires in Colorado: if you lost artwork in the fires we are offering a 20% discount on their works in the gallery . We know nothing can replace your loss but we hope this will help begin the rebuilding process.
    Our gallery represents more than 35 Colorado Artists.

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