Artist Shane Grammer revisits Paradise two years after Camp Fire


Shane Grammer

A mural titled “Unexpected Hope” resides on the side of the burned van in Paradise.

Two years ago the Camp Fire ravaged the Paradise community and caused many people to lose their homes. Shortly after the fire, artist Shane Grammer returned to Paradise to comfort some of his friends who had lost their homes. This is when one of Grammer’s friends asked him to paint a mural of the only standing remains of his house.

Grammer grew up in Chico and still has many friends and family in the area and he recalls what it was like hearing about the Camp Fire just two years ago. Grammer remembers finding out through social media that many of his friends had already lost their homes and he began to worry for the family he has in other parts of Northern California.

 “I have family in Chico,” Grammer said. “My wife’s family’s from Placerville and we also started hearing about how bad the smoke was. Some of my family went up to Redding. So that’s when it really was like wow, this is serious.”

As Grammer scrolled through Facebook he saw that a childhood friend and her husband had lost their home and the only thing still standing was their chimney. Grammer said “They posted a photo on Facebook of their (home), where the only thing that was left was a chimney. And as soon as I saw that chimney, I’m like, Oh my gosh, I’ve got to go up there and paint.” 

The artwork was a powerful and emotional piece that was shared among families who had been affected by the fires. The mural is called “Beauty Among the Ashes.” After his first mural, there were people reaching out to Grammer who wanted him to paint murals similar to the one he originally did. Grammer went on to do about 15 other murals that all share the theme of resilience and hope. 

The Paradise Art Center hosted an event on Sunday, Nov. 8 to give people the chance to connect with Grammer. Kathy Dysert, the president of the Paradise Art Center board, said they saw a huge turnout. Dysert mentioned “I know some people had to wait an hour, an hour and a half to get up to see him.” Grammer spent hours talking with people who were affected by the fire and signed prints of his work. 

It was an emotional day for Grammer as it was for much of the Paradise community. Grammer recalls stories of people crying in his arms and thanking him for his artwork. Grammer said, “ A gal said that she stood in front of one of my murals and went to her knees and just wept. And for the first time, and just kind of lost it. As she said it, it started healing in her for the first time.”

Grammer opened up about an emotional experience he had while standing in front of a Mark Rothko painting. This experience is one that made Grammer realize that he wanted to make art that connected with people emotionally. “I think any artist would communicate that that’s their ultimate goal, to influence people emotionally,” Grammer said. “Connect with them. And so to me, that was the biggest miracle that I felt like, for the first time in my life, my artwork was connecting with people in a deep way, emotionally.” 

Grammer has committed his life to creating more art installations all over the world that connect people through tragic life events. He has started a foundation called the Art Through Hope Foundation where he intends to bring peace through his art to those affected by tragedy. Grammer added, “I (have to) continue the rest of my life. Do projects all over the world that are bringing hope and joy to people that are downcast and brokenhearted.” 

To keep up with Grammer and his work his website has more information about his murals in Paradise as well as his other art installations all over the globe. 

Sophia Pearson can be reached at [email protected] or @sophia__pearson on Twitter.