Artist Steve Weed and his wife, Laurie, were part of the more than 32,000 evacuees forced to grab a few precious items and run from their home during the Waldo Canyon fire in June 2012.
Not knowing what, if anything, would be there when they returned, the Weeds saw loss all around them, although firefighters had been able to save their home and Steve's art studio. The family had an entire roller coaster of emotions, he remembers, ranging "from shock and anger to grief, relief to gratitude, empathy to guilt."
What was especially heart-wrenching was the charcoal and ashes covering their yard. It was, Steve knew as he gathered it, the perfect medium for his art. He mixed ashes and charcoal into the paint. He painted and painted and painted, working through his emotions and calling it "Weed Art Therapy 101."
His project became "Ashes to Art," a collection chronicling the fire and its destruction as well as the heroism of the first responders. The paintings, some done on reclaimed doors and symbolizing rebuilding and community strength, were to be auctioned for recovery efforts spearheaded by Bob Cutter and Colorado Springs Together.
Summer 2013 and the Weeds watched the smoke and flames of the Black Forest fire from their Mountain Shadows home. The art auction was called off.
Knowing about Steve's project, Ted Robertson gave him ashes from the home he and his wife, Teresa, had just lost in Black Forest. Steve added two Black Forest paintings to "Ashes to Art."
On Oct. 1, people from Mountain Shadows and Black Forest, first responders, builders and supporters gathered at Garden of the Gods Club for the art auction.
The tearful Weed family was able to share the stories behind each of the 22 works, memories so personal that Steve calls the art "my children," and by evening's end, $40,400 was raised for recovery efforts.
Margaret Sabin of Penrose-St. Francis Health Services bought one piece of art from each of the fires. The Waldo Canyon painting was for the emergency department room at Penrose Hospital where the paramedics and firefighters do their reports. The Black Forest fire painting went into the first responder room at St. Francis Medical Center.
Ron and Becky Hehr quietly bid on a piece called "June 26, 2012," showing the Waldo Canyon fire coming over the mountain and destroying their home.
Henry Yankowski of the Regional Building Department chose a large "thank you" piece honoring first responders. Charlie Shea of C.R. Shea Homes was top bidder for a reclaimed door showing the American flag flying above black devastation. "It's called 'We Will Rebuild' and they are," he said.