What started out as an art and literature project for students in the GATE program at Curtis Creek Elementary School has evolved into a sales phenomenon.
During the devastating Rim Fire of August, September and October, students in Liz Miller's Gifted and Talented Education class were asked to express their emotions and experiences through prose, poetry and watercolor painting.
Miller, who has worked at Curtis Creek for nearly 20 years, guided students on the language portion of the class, while the school's resident artist, Tracy Knopf, taught composition and watercolor painting techniques.
The works of 13 students in grades four through eight were then compiled into a 2014 calendar titled "Rim Fire Reflections" and offered for sale at $10 each.
"The calendar is popular beyond my dreams," Miller said."The calendar is really well done and we are very proud of it.It hits a chord with everyone since we all experienced the fire. but this view from the students in enlightening."
Knopf said they thought parents might buy 100 copies or so "if we were really lucky," but that sales have already surpassed 1,000.
"Some people are buying multiple copies," she said, noting the Black Oak Casino bought 100.
She said the printer has agreed to keep producing copies as long as there is a demand.
"They said they would keep going into January or February, whether the order was for one or 100," Knopf said.
The calendar is available at dozens of locations throughout Tuolumne County, from Sugar Pine to Jamestown, Tuolumne, Columbia and Groveland - even into Copperopolis and Coulterville and as far away as Turlock.
"More businesses are asking every day," Knopf said.
Proceeds will fund future arts and science activities at Curtis Creek School.
Students taking part in the project included Wyatt Francis, Julian Petty, Mattison Knobloch, Paige Parkan, Noah Porter, A.J. Bautista, Morrigan Mathews, Mary Newquist, Jillena Sherf, Kaitlyn Johnson, Angelina Bettanini, Eden Borders and Heather McKannon.
On Dec. 3, Miller, Knopf and the students will make a presentation before 30 to 60 managers and supervisors in Yosemite National Park and the students have been asked to display their artwork in a two-month environmental art show in San Francisco.
The Sonora Area Foundation and Tuolumne County Arts Alliance each have donated $600 to frame the work for the San Francisco art show, Miller said.
The Rim Fire Incident Management Team also has asked the students to sign some calendars for them, Miller said.
"Our entire community was affected by this fire," Knopf said. Through art and language, we can give young people an avenue to express their concerns and fears. There is no right or wrong.
"The expressive language, diversity and quality of artwork are very powerful in these pieces," she said. "Putting the artwork and language into a calendar just made sense."