July 16, 2020
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SSU unveils ‘After the fire’ exhibit

September 14, 2018

In recognition of the approaching one-year anniversary of the North Coast fires, the public is invited to experience a new exhibit on display in the Sonoma State University Library Gallery titled “Reflections: After the Fire.” Through painting, photography, video and mixed media, the exhibit features the work of 21 participants documenting and reflecting on the October 2017 firestorm that destroyed roughly 5,300 homes in Sonoma County and claimed the lives of 24 people.

The show is located in both the Library Gallery and 2North exhibit area on the second floor of the Jean and Charles Schulz Information Center and will be on display through Friday, Dec. 14.

“This exhibit is a testimony to the power of art to find meaning in all human experience, including catastrophic fire,” said Karen G. Schneider, Ph.D., Dean of the Library. “We are honored that so many artists participated.”  

The public, as well as faculty, staff and students, also is invited to attend a reception to be held Wednesday, Oct. 17, from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. The date marks the one-year anniversary of Sonoma State’s reopening following its nine-day closure during the fires. Wine and light refreshments will be served. No RSVP is required. Email for a parking pass for the Oct. 17 reception. At all other times, parking on campus is $5. 

“The show is deeply personal, as all contributors were greatly affected by the fire,” said Loretta Esparza a member of University Library Art Committee. “Reflections: After the Fire” includes the work of artists, photographers, videographers, first responders and community members sharing their reactions to the fires.

“Their artist and exhibit statements reveal varied purposes,” said Mary Wegmann, chair of the committee. “Some want to convey inner feelings, report and document for the community, reflect on the sadness of loss and the immense power of nature, and acknowledge the community outreach that occurred. Others wish to use creativity as a way to process the immensity of the fire, show gratitude to first responders, help others understand the experience, and memorialize the landscape. Some desire to recapture people’s stories, offer a sense of optimism and inspiration, understand and contemplate the disaster, and use their creations as a way to facilitate discussion.”

The exhibit is a compendium of creative expression. Painting materials include acrylic, watercolor, and ink on canvas and handmade paper. Some works utilize mixed media, including found objects from burned home sites. Also included are panels from an upcoming graphic novel about one family’s experience. Videos portray the fire as it happened and share follow-up stories. Photographs of the fire and its destruction are displayed in the 2North exhibit area.  

Library hours and exhibit details are posted on the Sonoma State University Library website: An online SSU Library research guide includes artist and exhibit statements and resources about wildfires such as historic California wildfires and fire ecology. The guide can be viewed at

This exhibit is curated by the Art Committee of the Sonoma State University Library and is funded by the Jean and Charles Schulz endowment. For more information, please contact Bonnie Cormier at

ABOUT US: With a student population of 9,400, Sonoma State University is unique in its liberal arts and sciences mission with a longstanding tradition of promoting intellectual and personal growth, leadership opportunities and technological proficiency. We cultivate a community in which a diverse population can learn and work in an atmosphere of civility and respect. We encourage innovation, experimentation and creativity, as well as contributions to equity and inclusion, in the pursuit of excellence for all members of our university community. See more news from SSU at