Creekside Arts Festival celebrates regeneration on Mount Diablo a year after Morgan Fire

By Janice De Jesus

POSTED:   03/12/2014 

Student Kahni Horton with her paintings from Monday Morning Painting class at Civic Arts in Walnut Creek, CA

A Clayton resident for 35 years, Kahni Horton knows her community like the back of her hand -- the same hand that has been capturing the essence of Mount Diablo and its environs using oil on canvas.

"I've hiked Mount Diablo since I've lived here," said Horton. "I can imagine painting Mount Diablo for the rest of my life."

Last fall, while Horton painted inside her studio, she received a call from her neighbor at 4:45 p.m.

"She said, 'You'd better go outside. There's a fire on Mount Diablo,'" Horton recalled.

She went to Irish Canyon within the Marsh Creek-Morgan Territory area near Clayton to take photos of the smoke coming from the mountain.

"It was beautiful and terrifying at the same time," she said. "I thought, 'I need to paint that.'"

Several paintings of the mountain came out of the photos she took. Two months after the fire, Horton went up to Rock City on Mount Diablo to paint.

"After the fire, I wanted to see what was burned and what was left," she said, the reality not as bad as her imagination.

"Thankfully, no one was injured and people who were evacuated had a place to stay," she said. "We haven't had a fire like that since 1977 and I was here during that time."

Since Horton took up painting two years ago, she's been refining her skills through Patsy Taylor's painting classes at Walnut Creek Civic Arts Education.

"Patsy has been instrumental in my painting," Horton said. "She just brings out the best in my work."

Horton and more of Taylor's students will be displaying artwork in the annual Creekside Arts Festival with its theme, "Mount Diablo ... Rising from the Ashes," from March 21-23, which will feature artists from Clayton, Concord, Walnut Creek and neighboring cities.

Several local artists will be demonstrating their techniques at the festival as well as showing paintings of plant life that has emerged on the mountain since the fire, said Arlene Kikkawa-Nielsen, event director.

"We want to focus on the learning aspect of the event and want this to be a complete learning experience for people," said Kikkawa-Nielsen. "As a community, we want to celebrate regeneration and new growth on Mount Diablo."

The event features three days of activities and shows for people of all ages, including a presentation by a wildlife field biologist and Save Mount Diablo members who will discuss the fire and regeneration on the mountain.

There will also be a Clayton Spring Artwalk tour with Jeffrey DeSalles through downtown Clayton, and a Clayton Civil War tale of a young girl living on Mount Diablo, told by Walnut Creek high school student Joy Koonin, who will be dressed in authentic period clothing.

As a painting instructor, Taylor often takes her students on location to paint, and sites include Mount Diablo.

"It's close, full of grandeur and solace, color and mood," said Taylor. "During my demonstration on Saturday I will be sharing tips for painting in plein air, and promoting the process of self-expression through painting so that all students of art may share their views of Mount Diablo rising from the ashes."

Paintings aren't the only art forms that will be paying tribute to the mountain.

Clayton resident Carolyn Victoria will be showing her handmade gemstone jewelry and photography of images of Mount Diablo and surrounding areas.

"Those of us who live near the mountain or love its trails and surrounding hills probably felt very distressed seeing smoke and flames billowing from the mountain peaks," said Victoria, who takes photos during her hikes.

"Rising from the Ashes is a theme of life, often expressed through art. I have wandered the trails very recently to find beautiful green growth among the charred and blackened trees -- reason to always be hopeful and positive," she said.

if you go
WHAT: Creekside Arts Festival 2014 "Mount Diablo Rising from the Ashes"
WHEN: March 21-23
WHERE: Clayton Community Library, 6125 Clayton Road
INFORMATION: Email; visit www.clayton for event schedule