Art of hope

Photo by Ken Pordes

David Zink leading a group of players in the Norton Buffalo Hall, which was destroyed in the Camp Fire.

Just one month after the Camp Fire had destroyed the Norton Buffalo Hall—as well as the homes of most of the members of the Paradise Community Guilds organization that operated the facility—there was dancing. Despite initial worries that it might be too soon, President David Zink (whose Magalia home burned down) and the other guild members honored the Dec. 12 booking of Greenland singer/songwriter Simon Lynge, hosting the show at the Chico Guild Hall, where roughly 50 people turned out.

“Toward the end of the show, [Lynge] was doing some tunes that were just so up[beat]—it got us up and dancing,” Zink said during a recent interview. “It was the first moment any of us had had a chance to feel a lightness after the Camp Fire. And it was beautiful, and it was joyous, and what a release and a relief to feel that things were going to be OK.”

This Sunday, Nov. 10, there will be another chance for meaningful communal merriment as local performers fill the stage at the Paradise Performing Arts Center (PPAC) for Joy Will Find a Way, a variety show commemorating the one-year anniversary of the start of the Camp Fire.

“What better indicator of life renewing itself, of our resilience, is there than creativity?” asked Zink. “As folks have been responding to their pain with creativity—even if it’s just a howl to say, ‘I hurt’—that creative expression itself is an expression of life rising, [of] that resilience.

“That’s what hope is about, and that’s what this show is about. We want to put the spotlight on that dynamic in the community as it’s actually happening.”

The show is part of a weekend of Camp Fire anniversary events overseen by an ad hoc committee made up of various community groups and arts organizations calling itself Camp Fire Anniversary Remembrance Events Committee (or CARE). (See Camp Fire calendar.)

Zink said that the plan for the PPAC event is for there to be a narrative arc to the performances (which will have two showings, 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.): from pre-Camp Fire, to the day of the fire and the immediate aftermath, to community resurgence, and finally an eye to the future.

Highlights include many original compositions, with performances of songs written post-fire by two burned-out Ridge residents, Mark McKinnon and John-Michael Sun, as well as a couple of works presented by the Paradise Symphony Orchestra—“Song for a Glorious Day” by Trevor Lloyd, and a tribute from conductor Lloyd Roby called “March of the First Responders.”

There also will be performances by Theatre on the Ridge players, climate-action films by Nirvan Mullick and Allen Myers, artworks curated by Paradise Art Center Museum and Museum of Northern California Art, and the culmination of a poetry project with area junior high and high school students. Bay Area poet Anna Sergeeva worked with Paradise students and their English teachers to write about their “wishes” for the future, and the 229 works were edited down and stitched together to form one piece, “86 Wishes for a New Dawn,” which will be recited with accompaniment by the symphony and a drone-footage film of Paradise.

Zink will perform as well, debuting his hymn “Pines of Paradise,” playing the first half solo at the beginning of the program, and the other half with the orchestra and a chorus at the end.

The show is a benefit for the PPAC and the Norton Buffalo Hall. Zink says that the long-range goal is to rebuild the hall (currently dubbed Norton Buffalo Hall West as it temporarily operates out of Chico Guild Hall), as well as to collaborate with other arts groups on the Ridge—such as Theatre on the Ridge, Paradise Art Center, Paradise Gem & Mineral Club and Gold Nugget Museum—“to brand Paradise as a destination for a cultural and arts experience.” He sees Sunday’s event as the first step.

“This is when we begin to say to the world, ‘Paradise is a destination for arts and culture. We’ve got a vibrant thing happening here. It’s a worthwhile place to live, you ought to come. And if you can’t live here, you should visit here often because we’re going to be doing interesting things.’”