Artist from the Bay Area raises more than $100K to help firefighters and victims of Camp Fire

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Art is said to heal, inspire, and sometimes stir up deep emotions of love and pride. And in the case of Tim Collom and the thousands who have decided to join in his effort, it has also served as a way to help.

Originally from the Bay Area, Collom is a gallery artist in Sacramento who started a grassroots campaign to raise money for Camp Fire victims through his popular 2017 painting he calls "California."

Selling for $40 a piece, within days, prints of his painting have raised upwards of $100K with all of the proceeds going straight to supporting firefighters and victims of the Camp Fire.

On Nov. 12, four days after the fire broke out in Paradise, Collom took to social media and wrote of how both moved and frustrated he felt as he helplessly watched the horrific images of the disaster, and he recounted a story he saw on the news about a lost dog that was found suffering with burns.  

"A firefighter was being interviewed and broke down on camera while consoling this dog. Just one of a thousand heartbreaking stories," the artist wrote. "This is our state and right now there are so many people fighting for its survival. Firefighters sacrificing themselves to save homes, animals, and other people."

And then Collom called on "anyone that loves California as much as I do" to join in his push to raise as much money as possible to help those affected by the devastation. He invited people to help get the word out through social media.

That call has been answered in a way that has far surpassed anything even the artist could have imagined.

"It's gone ballistic," Collom told KTVU. "Nationwide, people want to take care of California."

Since Collom began selling the 11 by 14 prints of his painting, the orders have been pouring in so quickly, he and his team have not even been able to keep up with an accurate count of how many they've sold so far. 

But they're guessing it's somewhere between 3,000 to 5,000 prints.

"We're getting orders by the hour. It's nonstop," Collom told KTVU filled with awe and gratitude. 

The painting is a tribute to the artist's beloved state and is filled with classic Golden State images, including one representing the Bay Area. 

Collom said many orders are coming in from the Bay Area, but a good portion, an estimated 25 percent, have come from all over the country, and he's even received requests from abroad. 

Notable figures are also now proud owners of "California," including Senator Kamala Harris, who purchased a print during her visit to the fire ravaged area on Sunday.

The artist believes the success of this fundraising campaign is based on the exact reason why he launched it. "I think a lot of people are seeing everything on TV and don't know how to help. I felt helpless and frustrated and thought about what can I do directly," he said.

And as filled with gratitude he's been with the support he's received so far, he's been moved by how others have reacted to this opportunity he's created to help. 

"Everywhere we go, people are giving me a hug," he said blown away by the response.  ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Collom said he's met with the head of the California Professional Firefighters, which will be responsible for distributing the money to those most in need.

He noted his admiration for firefighters and the heroic work they do, and said he has a special connection with them, as his uncle is a retired firefighter who worked in Woodside in San Mateo County.

"Brave, strong and selfless," Collom said of those on the fire line.

In a Facebook post that included photos of fire officials holding his original "California" painting, he wrote, "These men are a representation of the thousands of firefighters working tirelessly to protect so many people and our beautiful state... These men and women need our help and support now more than ever."

It's a story of one artist's love for his state, those who are fighting to keep its residents safe, and a community coming together to take part in a collective effort to help those whose lives have been forever altered by disaster. 

If you'd like to purchase a print, go to Tim Collom's website here


This story was reported from Oakland, Calif.