In the weeks and months that followed the Camp Fire, residents of Paradise returned to find their hometown in ruins.
Mr. Grammer described painting murals as part of his healing process — even if they’ll be torn down. This is a portrait of Helen Pace, who died in the fire.CreditTerence Duffy
I recently talked to Shane Grammer, an artist who grew up in nearby Chico and has worked on installations at Disneyland, Universal Studios and Legoland. Now based in Los Angeles, he said he started to see images of the destruction posted by people he knew.
“The fire didn’t really hit home for me until friends I grew up with started posting on Facebook,” he said. “It’s not devastation where in six months, everything’s going to be normal.”
One friend’s home had burned, but the chimney was still standing. He asked if he could paint a mural on the chimney, continuing a series he had been working on of images of a woman’s face, inspired by a story from the Bible.
“The woman represents us, or people — it kind of challenges me to say that God really loves me,” he said.
Mr. Grammer ended up going back to the area for a week, spray-painting images on burned-out cars and other rubble. On another wall, he painted a portrait of Helen Pace, an 84-year-old woman who died in the blaze.
He completed 12 pieces in all, with homeowners’ permission, and the response from community members has been powerful, he said.
“They’re so grateful and thankful for beauty among the ashes,” he said.
Jeana Darby, who works for Hope Christian Church, told The Washington Post that the portrait of Jesus that Mr. Grammer painted on the church’s “charred baptismal is as encouraging as the wooden cross still standing after the wall burned to the ground.”
But Mr. Grammer knew that the work was temporary from the start. “They will all be torn down,” he said.
And that, Mr. Grammer said, is part of the healing.
“My goal is to move people emotionally, and I think with tragedy and heavy issues, doing artwork for me is also a way to process,” he said.
Here’s what else we’re following
(We often link to sites that limit access for nonsubscribers. We appreciate your reading Times stories, but we’d also encourage you to support local news if you can.)
• The Oakland school board canceled its meeting yesterday, citing safety concerns about teachers picketing outside. Tensions have been rising as educators strike and the board faces a decision about whether to cut from the district’s budget. [The East Bay Times]
• Students in Los Angeles must navigate paths to school as gunshots sound in the air, past aggressive dogs and other dangers. Journalists walked with them for this interactive piece. [The Los Angeles Times]
• Conservative news media have complained that the U.C. Berkeley police were slow to investigate an assault on an organizer who was recruiting on campus when he was punched in the face. A week later, the police said they were preparing to apprehend a suspect, who was not a student. [The Washington Post]
• Newcomers from the Democratic Republic of Congo make up the biggest part of an 85 percent increase in refugees who were settled in San Diego County between October 2018 and January 2019. Sacramento County surpassed San Diego as the one receiving the most refugees. [The San Diego Union-Tribune]
More California stories
• For many South Asian cooks in the U.S., the journey of a yogurt starter traces the journey to America. [The New York Times]
• Mutsuko Erskine, the mother of one of the co-creators of “Pen15,” talks about reexperiencing middle school with her real daughter, and upending conceptions about Japanese-American moms. [Vulture]
• “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge” is the 14-acre Disneyland project that’s been described as the biggest expansion in the park’s history. Analysts say it’ll cost $1 billion. Here’s a look at the new attractions. [The San Bernardino Sun]
California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com.
Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, went to school at U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter, @jillcowan.
California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.