Arts Devo

Photo by Douglas Keister

Jess Mercer

A wish for love Arts DEVO has watched the documentaries. If you’re a Camp Fire survivor, don’t. I was not directly involved in the fire, nor did I live in any burned area, and it was still on the edge of being too much for me to watch.

The excellent Frontline episode, “Fire in Paradise,” was doable. It was a balanced report that reenacted the events of Nov. 8 from many points of view—residents, first responders, dispatchers—and chased down the stories behind evacuation/notification and the causes of the fire (PG&E) and its severity (climate change). Netflix’s Fire in Paradise, however, was rough. The interviews with the people who bravely relived the day for the camera were outstanding. But the after-fire portion was brutal, especially one particularly graphic scene that I wish I hadn’t seen. No one navigating trauma should get near it.

I know there’s value in sharing stories in the processing of it all. And again, the people featured were impressively brave. I guess all I’m saying is, if you’re having a tough time, maybe hold off. And if you need help with your recovery, there are resources available. Here are two: Camp Fire Long Term Recovery Group (828-8011, and California HOPE of Butte County (966-7382,

Something that I can imagine being of comfort is art. I’m excited to see that Paradise Art Center—closed since the fire—is reopening on the anniversary, this Friday (Nov. 8).

I’m especially anticipating the unveiling of local artist Jess Mercer’s “Ridge Key Phoenix,” the Phoenix-shaped sculpture fashioned from the keys of those whose homes and cars and whatever else are no longer around to be locked up. In recent weeks, Mercer has put in place the keys she saved for last—those of the deceased, as well as the ones belonging to her family. The sculpture will be gifted to the Paradise community on Friday, and the Camp Fire memorial reveal will take place at 10:30 a.m., at 6295 Skyway. Local musician Erin Haley will perform a song with Ridgeview High School students (one written by them) at the ceremony, and afterward there will be an 85-second moment of silence in memory of those who died in the fire. You can watch a live feed of the event at

Another arts-related commemoration, the Joy Will Find a Way variety show, will take place a couple of days later (see “Art of hope,” page 24). Part of the program includes a reading of a poem written collectively by 229 Paradise junior high and high school students called “86 Wishes for a New Dawn,” and I’ll hold off blathering any more and just let the kids take over. Here’s an excerpt:

I wish for love …

I wish to float through clouds,

fly through stars,

run through fields with you,

letting the colors flow through us, around us,

as we glow in the arms of the moon and the sun and the sky.

I wish you would hold me in your arms tonight,

without you, I don’t feel quite right,

I need you to tell me everything will be alright.

In the dark I see you.

In the light I look for you.

Beer is love A quick shout out to local breweries doing good work for Camp Fire survivors. On Friday, Secret Trail Brewing Co. is releasing Paradise Strong Ale, a bourbon-barrel-aged version of the Scotch ale that was originally brewed with the Brewers of Paradise homebrew club. A portion of its proceeds will be donated to Camp Fire relief.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. just released an update on its Resilience ale campaign. The massive multi-brewery fundraising effort has pulled in $8.4 million for the Butte Strong Fund! That calls for a beer and a toast to local breweries supporting the community that supports them. Cheers.