Charcoal from the High Park Fire is the medium for a unique benefit for the Poudre Canyon Fire Protection District.

The Ashes to Art Project, the brainchild of artist Lori Joseph and local photographer Tim O’Hara, is providing artists across the country with charcoal from trees scorched by one of the largest wildfires in Colorado history.

“It was Lori’s idea, she was so moved by the devastation of all of the fires in the state this summer, and I knew people who had lost homes in the High Park Fire,” said O’Hara, a fourth-generation Coloradan whose studio is located near North Taft Hill Road and County Road 56. “I called the Bureau of Land Management for permission, and gathered up a couple of loads of charcoal.”

Then they sent out a call on social media to arts groups, galleries and others hoping to reach about 500 artists. In less than a week, more than 60 artists from 22 states had asked for some charcoal. The original goal was to have two artists from each state submit works, but after the initial response, O’Hara and Joseph increased that to three per state.

“I knew the smell and touch of charcoal from the fires would evoke amazing results from artists across the country,” Joseph said.

There are no restrictions on how the charcoal can be used.

“The works don’t have be done 100 percent with charcoal,” O’Hara explained. “You can sign a watercolor with it if you want, but the work has to incorporated it somehow.”

The deadline to submit Ashes to Art works is Sept. 30. Then an online auction will be held Oct. 7 to 14, with the proceeds going to the PCFPD to repair and replace equipment used in fighting the fire.

“The fire trucks really take a beating in any fire, and Poudre Canyon has responded to three major fires this summer, ” O’Hara said. “We’ve got to keep them going.”

O’Hara and Joseph also plan to photograph all the artwork for a book to sell, with those proceeds also going to the fire district.

“I believe the sale of the art will not only benefit the volunteer fire district but will be a great story for folks to share when they talk about the picture handing on their wall, thus further extending goodwill,” Joseph said.

For more information or to request charcoal for a work of art, contact TheAshesToArtProject@gmail.com, or call Joseph at 570-337-3010.

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