12 Days of Help and Hope
Art Print Sales Raise $151,520 for Paradise Fire Victims
By Cecily Hastings
The “Twelve Days of Christmas” song is still fresh in my mind in early January. As every child knows, the festive tune tells the story of a series of gifts given to a loved one that grow in quantity each day.
Local artist and gallery owner Tim Collom, who’s also an accomplished Realtor, experienced a similar joy when he set out to offer some signed giclee art prints to help raise funds for the Paradise fire victims.
“Like everyone, I was just blown away at the devastation of this community. And I had no connection to that area at all. But the whole darn town had burned to the ground,” Collom says.
In 2017, Collom created a large, colorful painting of the entire state of California. Previously, he specialized in landscapes common to the state’s major regions, including Tahoe, the Wine Country, the Capitol, beaches and the like. “Someone suggested I combine them into one painting,” Collom says.
After selling hundreds of paintings over the years, he loved the California piece enough to keep it for himself. “The only one,” he adds.
But the image became iconic to Collom. He sold prints of all sizes, and generously donated prints to charity fundraisers.
“This was the first image that came to mind when I thought I could raise funds. I chose it because it is the entire state that was so saddened by the two regional fires,” Collom says.
Tim’s original goal was to raise $4,000 in print sales. He worked with local HFA Print Gallery to determine the cost of 100 prints, plus packing and shipping. The prints were sold for $40, plus tax. They promised delivery by Christmas.
He and his gallery launched the fundraiser Nov. 12, using Collom’s extensive social media audience for his art business. And boy, did he underestimate the demand!
The first day brought $35,000 in orders after it went viral on social media. “We were blown away, yet very anxious that we could manage the demand,” Collom says. “We were worried that our website would crash, but thankfully it didn’t.”
As sales grew every day, he began to worry about how the money would best directly benefit the victims.
Gratefully, one of his Facebook fans introduced him to her husband, Brian Rice, president of California Professional Firefighters. Collom met with Rice and decided to donate the funds to the organization’s foundation after realizing that firefighters are literally the boots on the ground and know a community’s needs firsthand.
“What I loved was that they issue $250 debit cards to each victim registered with FEMA. They can spend it on whatever they need,” Collom says. “It was the perfect solution. One-hundred percent went to victims.”
Bay Area media coverage helped broaden the appeal. A social media post by U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris brought a fresh audience that kept the sales coming in. By Nov. 24, the campaign ended after reaching $150,000.
“Everyone involved was exhausted, and this included me, my gallery staff and the printer. And we had reached the timeframe where Christmas delivery was not possible,” Collom says.
But another twist came when they started planning for Collom to sign all 4,000 prints as promised. The signing—which was still not complete when I interviewed Collom in early December—took an enormous amount of his time, mostly at night. And this was despite a system to organize the process, including having a page-turner at his side.
“I’m certainly not complaining, because this is my contribution, and a completely insignificant one after what the firefighters went through. Keep in mind that 55 of them lost their own homes.”
Collom reports print sales came from around the world, but more than 75 percent came from California residents.
It was a glorious day when Collom handed the California Professional Firefighters Foundation a check for $151,520 on Nov. 28. Brian Rice received the money at a local fire station. Collom brought the large original painting along for folks to see. Sort of by accident, the firefighters started signing the back. “I was delighted when I saw them doing that,” he says.
“I was totally blown away by the generosity and kindness of folks. I’m so proud to be a part of this wonderful community. I am grateful from the bottom of my heart for the support,” Collom adds.
The experience was the highlight of Collom’s life so far. “No question!” he adds for emphasis.
In fact, the United States is the most generous country on the planet, by far. Americans are moved to give large and small for those in need every day of the year.
But the genius of this beautiful small print is that it takes a cash donation one step further. By hanging the work in your home or office, you are reminded every day that you were part of a generous community that takes care of people in need.
And hopefully, it will lead to a lifelong habit of helping others with your time and treasure.
For more information on Collom and to purchase prints, visit timcollomgallery.com. And like Tim Collom Art on Facebook.
Cecily Hastings is at email@example.com.