Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Art and Fire

Spanish Banks, 8x8
original painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

Driving back home from our community garden in Coquitlam last Sunday evening, my husband and I noticed a thick cloud of smoke over Port Moody.

Our first thought was a dreaded forest fire, but it didn't look like that. The source of the smoke was clearly somewhere in the old part of the city.

Checking the online news as soon as we got home, we found out that a block of beautiful old heritage buildings was on fire. Sadly, it included a beloved local bistro where musicians, artists, writers, and all kinds of art lovers have been gathering to socialize and share their love of art and good food. At the time of the fire, a group exhibit was hanging on the walls, including several of my paintings.

The first concern was, of course, checking and thanking the fortune that no one was hurt by the blaze. Unfortunately, the buildings were badly damaged, the businesses suffered a terrible loss, and a few residents lost their homes. In the light of all this devastation, nobody dared ask about art. Words of sorrow and support to the affected flooded the internet and the police and firefighters were left to do their job.

I silently mourned my paintings, fully aware of how small my loss was compared to the big picture. And yet, I have to admit that it hurt to say goodbye to my darlings. 

The next morning, we learned from the onlookers that the art seemed to have survived the fire and a few hours later a call came to pick it up. The firefighters had entered the damaged, unsafe building and saved the art.

I rushed to my car as I was and arrived at the location which looked as if a bomb had gone off. Roads blocked, the structures chared, the street surrounded by the police tape. 

In the midst of destruction, I found the paintings carefully stacked by the wall.

Incredibly, aside from the heavy smoke odor, my pieces didn't suffer a single scratch. There were slight water stains on some of the rescued art, but nothing that couldn't be fixed. I had had paintings returned from professional art galleries in much worse shape.

Other artists showed up and we helped load the art in the cars and left the area. It didn't feel right to linger but I regret not being able to give my thanks to the wonderful firemen who saved our art and took such gentle care of it.

Back in the studio, as I was trying to wash off the smoke smell from my paintings, I made a mental list of the fire-smart practices that I follow. They suddenly seemed even more important.

1. Fire extinguisher placed in a location easy to reach. Check the expiry date to make sure it's functional.

2. Smoke and chemical fumes sensor/alarm installed in the studio and tested regularly.

3. The exit door easily accessible, clear of obstructions.

4. Combustible substances stored safely in an air-tight container and according to the manufacturer's specifications.

5. Computer and cloud data backup, including the comprehensive art archive, refreshed monthly and stored in a fire-proof safe. A second copy of the backup is created quarterly and taken to the safe deposit box in the bank.

All this is essential, but what gives me the most comfort art-wise is the fact that whatever happens, my paintings can't possibly all burn down. Thanks to my wonderful art lovers, they are spread around in homes, galleries, and collections all over the world.

I give my gratitude to all of you who are a part of our expansive art world.

Enjoy the summer and stay fire-safe!