The art that rose from the ashes

Shane Grammer

There is little need to remind anyone of the devastating fires that struck California in 2018. The fires in that year were the deadliest in America in 100 years. The damage done totaled almost $17 billion with nearly 20,000 buildings destroyed and 50,000 people left without a home. 85 people died in those fires. The fires burned for 17 days straight but left a devastating impact on the lives of the people of California forever. One man’s art has started to give hope to those who were affected. 

Shane Grammer is an artist based in Los Angeles but he grew up only a few miles from the site of the Californian fires. When he saw what damage the fires did he was devastated. Like others, he wanted to help but there was little he could do. When the news showed the demolished buildings though he felt inspired. After seeing a white chimney he had the urge to paint his art on it. 

He went to the site of the fires and painted a mural of a woman using black and white paints. The same color as the smoke that had devastated these neighborhoods. Grammar wasn’t doing the mural for anyone at the time. It was simply something that he felt he needed to do. He had been inspired. Yet the reaction that the mural received struck him deeply.

People that had their homes ruined in the fire spoke to him about how the mural gave them hope. Once he posted it on Instagram it started to go viral. People told him how it was both beautiful and haunting. Grammar knew that he had to return. In the end, Grammar went back to the site eight times in total and painted 17 murals. He used various images, all of people’s faces, all in black and white. Some were biblical images while others were just images that seemed powerful. 

Grammar describes one mural, in particular, that means a lot to him. As he was walking through the rubble of the site he found a picture of the face of a young girl. It spoke to him. Something told him that he had to paint this picture and he did. He painted the mural of a young girl on the wall of the house where she once lived. Her family was incredibly grateful.  Grammar says that his art has become a stamp of life in this place that is in ruins. It shows that life was here and that it will be again. The best part of this project Grammar says is watching his paintings being demolished. 

While an artist’s work being destroyed is not usually a moment of happiness it means that the rebuild is starting in these neighborhoods. This is the final part of the movement in Grammar’s eyes. There was devastation, the art pointed to hope and now the hope has become something, change has started. Every building with one of his murals that goes down is a sign of a new building soon to be built.

Grammar has since taken this idea across the world. He says he now feels he has the calling to paint in dark places that need some light. He has painted murals in orphanages in Tijuana, Mexico. He has painted a mural on a youth ministry in San Francisco and a non-profit safe place for those who were forced into sex trafficking at a young age in Cambodia. Grammar’s art is doing far more good and has far more purpose than his original intention. What started out as a nice idea has become a powerful movement to try and bring some hope to those who need it.