Wildfire charcoal turned to art by students

Wildfire charcoal turned to art by students
Tiernan Weeden's "Cherry Blossom"

A project providing relief and support towards firefighters and those affected by wildfires in Colorado has made its way to Granville.

High school art teacher Mikenzie Monroe, along with three of her students, Abby Desiato, Bailey Phillips and Tiernan Weeden, have created works of art with charcoal rubble from disastrous, widespread fires and become a part of something special.

“We made artwork with charcoal that was sent to us from the Colorado wildfires and mailed it back so that it can be auctioned off to fundraise for the firefighters who fought the fires last year,” Monroe said in an email explaining the project.

Abby Desiato’s “Rejuvenation”

“I think it’s empowering we can figure out to change our world for the better,” Monroe said. “I became an art teacher because I wanted to work with high school students and develop positive relationships… the act of art-making can be healing, especially for all of us right now.”

Working with a delicate, and sometimes messy, material like charcoal, the students and Monroe did run into some challenges attempting to translate their messages in their respective paintings.

“I did mine over acrylic paint, and it wasn’t really staying on, so I had to resort to crushing it up and painting it on,” Desiato said of her work, “Rejuvenation.”

Phillips said the difficulty in utilizing the charcoal led her to blending the rubble into the background of her painting titled “Fireweed.”

Bailey Phillips’ “Fireweed”

“For me, it was actually really hard!” Phillips said.

Weeden took a bit of a different approach, focusing on Japanese forest-styled painting techniques with his artwork titled “Cherry Blossom.”

“It’s so human to me, to do something so selfless,” Weeden said. “Contributing to something bigger than myself.”

Monroe decided to have the centerpiece of her submission for the project be a Lazuli Bunting, a bird native to the area that was potentially not returning due to the fires.

Mikenzie Monroe’s “Lazuli Bunting”

“I chose to draw a Lazuli Bunting perched on charcoal that was a branch caught in the wildfires,” Monroe said in her description on the auction page. “This bird creates its own unique song that is made up of notes from the other Buntings it hears. It keeps its song for life, once composed!”

“The “Ashes to Art Project,” founded in Fort Collins, Colorado, in 2012, is a way for the creative community to support the local firefighters who worked to protect the homes, lives and families during the most devastating series of fires in Colorado history,” a press release from co-founders of “Ashes to Art” Lori Joseph and Tim O’Hara said.

“Through the project, artists across the U.S. donate their submissions, which must include charcoal from the wildfire in some form. All forms of artwork are accepted. For more information about the project, go to www.facebook.com/theashestoartproject.”

Established nine years ago with fires ravaging wildly through the state of Colorado, Joseph and O’Hara felt compelled to request paintings and sculptures from creative minds throughout the country and world to be auctioned off and assist those who truly need it.

“All proceeds from this year’s auction will equally benefit the Poudre Canyon Fire Protection District and the Rist Canyon Volunteer Fire Department — two volunteer fire departments that were financially devastated after working tirelessly for several months to contain and extinguish the wildfires,” the press release said.

This isn’t the first community outreach and involvement project that Monroe and her students have been involved with.

One specific and active project is the Global Art Exchange with children in Afghanistan. Granville students traded artwork and pictures of each other with students in Afghanistan in an effort to create unity and understanding.

“It was really cool to be in connection with someone you wouldn’t (have) without this experience,” Desiato said. “I felt like I had a new friend.”

At closure of the auction, 100% of the more than 100 items available for auction had at least one bid, with 2,075 total bids made and $26,280 raised. The auction started on May 10 and ended May 15 at 8 p.m. MDT.

Monroe, Desiato, Phillips and Weeden’s artwork sold for a combined $670.

To view all of the artwork that was up for auction, go to: https://www.biddingforgood.com/auction/item/browse.action?auctionId=341697649