Re-opened Disaster Recovery Fund helps restore lost equipment and income
Sewing machines, woodworking tools, an accordion, yarn and wool batting, sheet music, an entire recording studio, a kiln, sketchbooks, framed paintings, photographs and prints ready for exhibition, guitars, colored pencils, paint, easels, looms, wood carving tools, cameras both digital and film, laptops filled with short story and poem drafts, semi-precious stones and beads, two silver flutes… The Redwood Complex Fire took all of this and so much more. In the words of one applicant to the Arts Council of Mendocino County’s Redwood Complex Recovery Fund, “The list is painful and extensive.” Another writes, what was lost was, “rare and irreplaceable,” and, “it is difficult to estimate the impact of this loss.” There were 32 applicants to the ACMC’s fund with a combined total loss of income as a result of the fire of $185,300.
The Arts Council of Mendocino County (ACMC) is committed to long-term disaster recovery through the arts. Following the Redwood Complex Fire of 2017, the ACMC sponsored multiple community healing through the arts projects, including Art from the Ashes, the community-built mosaic now installed at the Redwood Valley Grange. The ACMC issued twenty-nine mini-grants of $200 each to fire survivors in the immediate aftermath of the fire, shared information about business discounts and national grant opportunities, and helped Northern California Grantmakers assess the post-fire impact on the arts community. ACMC Executive Director Alyssum Wier, states, “Following a year of destructive natural disasters in the state of California, the California Arts Council invited counties affected by wildfires or mudslides to apply for a grant to help their local communities recover. The ACMC’s grant application was successful and we were able to re-open our Disaster Recovery Fund for artists directly affected by the October 2017 Redwood Complex fires in Redwood Valley and Potter Valley.” ACMC’s re-opened Disaster Recovery Fund helped to restore physical losses and lost income for Mendocino County artist residents. A total of $30,500 was regranted to Redwood Valley artists in June of 2019.
Applicants to the Arts Council of Mendocino County’s fund shared about the way their artwork connects us all to the “healing and holistic aspects of all art to better balance our society.” One applicant has been inspired to document in photographs his neighbors’ lives as they rebuild. One applicant stated: “I have always wanted to write, and with the October 2017 fires, I have been given the chance to start my life over. My aim as an author is to give voice to the magical and beautiful aspects of humans relating to each other and the land that sustains us all.” Another writes: “The fire has catapulted me to create more and express more of my expressive self.”
Applicants to the Disaster Recovery Fund were Mendocino County residents directly affected by the Redwood Complex Fire of October 2017. Determinations regarding grants were need-based, and not related to judgments on quality of artistic output, although scope of loss and other available resources were taken into consideration. Non-professional artists were welcome to apply. “Artist” was defined as full-time, part-time or contract actors, architects, artisans, craft artists, dancers, filmmakers, designers, musicians, photographers, traditional/folk arts practitioners, visual artists and writers.
With these small grants, the Arts Council of Mendocino County hopes to offset some of the material and financial losses experienced. The staff and board of the ACMC fully realize the scale of this tragedy and will stand forever humbled by it, honored to join in remembrance of both the small losses and the incomprehensible ones.
This project is made possible by the California Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. To learn about how state and federal arts grants impact individuals and communities, visit www.arts.ca.gov and www.arts.gov.