It’s been a long and winding road from my first idea to create firefighter artwork over a decade ago, to now. However, my personal hard work is only a part of what it has taken to launch FireArt.
In 1994 I created the first FireArt piece, Pullbox (very soon to be made available again.) Actually, it was my final exam for an illustration class I was taking at the behest of Fire Engineer, Randy Marsh – also a climbing guide and excellent photog. In November of that year, I was asked if I had a piece that I could donate to the Festival of Trees and Lights, a Holiday season Downs Syndrome charity fund raiser. I matted and framed Pullbox. Several firefighters were present when I gave it to Pat McAllister, one of the coordinators of the event and the wife of Fire Captain Jim (Jaws) McAllister, an academy classmate. A few asked if it would be possible to get a copy of Pullbox. Chief Bill Whealan, another academy classmate, suggested that if I were to sign and number them he would also buy one. FireArt was born.
The beginning of FireArt was humble to be sure. There was only myself and then girlfriend, Isa January. She believed in me probably more than I did. Her spirit and sense of prosperity (as well as her excellent bookkeeping) was an essential part of the project. I was working in my 500 sq. ft. apartment selling mostly to other guys on my department. Today, it has grown into a business which relies on the input and assistance of many others. From ad agencies, publishers, gallery owners, printers, suppliers, advertisers, software designers, attorneys and legal consultants, web designers, accountants and bookkeepers, to computer techs, public relations consultants, media liaisons, sales and distribution people, packaging and production personnel, ground & air freight companies and message/answering services as well as the brotherly help and support of my fellow firefighters and administrative personnel of Las Vegas Fire & Rescue, the list is long.
Special thanks also go out to retired Firefighter/Paramedic Larry Wrangham, Firefighter Frank Muñoz, retired Firefighter David Helton, Captain David Arenaz, Captain Mark Fleischmann, Captain Dean Fletcher, Captain Rusty McAllister, Captain Angelo Aragon, PIO Tim Szymanski, and Former LVFR Fire Chief Mario Treviño. I thank the officers and members of the LVFBA , the IAFF, former General President Al Whitehead and Local 1285 for believing in FireArt.
Without the thousands of people who now have my work hanging on their walls there would be no story to tell. So I thank all of you for supporting FireArt. I can’t express my degree of appreciation. My promise is to strive to make each new painting worthy of such honor. Hang in there folks. There are many more works to come.
Without the hard work of my immediate staff I would have orders strewn about like confetti, and prints would be falling out of every available door and window. Much thanks goes out to my former brother-in-law and original Office Manager, Michael Ricigliano, who, in the early years, kept the insanity at a minimum and put out those “other” fires that, at times, had me on the threshold of a primal scream. His replacement, Derrick DeShazo, by far, put in the most in terms of both man hours and intellectual input. His contribution is appreciated more than I can say. He elevated FireArt in stature and formal correctness and I wish him well wherever his travels take him.
In addition to Michael and Derrick, the other FireArt crew members, include or have included: Melody Helmick, Diana Walthers, Summer Finch, Matt Schmitt, Andrew Lundin, Firefighter Dustin Skoff, Fire Captain Mike Evans, Firefighter/Paramedic Carl Combado, and Firefighter Kelly Doran. I can’t omit our super-cool UPS driver, Joel Topping who has gone out of his way many times to make sure that the orders get out. Between current office organizers Madeline Dolan and my girl Shelley Snyder, the numbers are kept straight and the bills get paid. And lastly, true-believer and friend, the late Pete Pederson, a retired Fire Engineer with Las Vegas Fire and Rescue. As a small tribute to his monetary and spiritual contributions I have chosen his name and his gear to adorn the Moment of Truth certificate of authenticity and the M.O.T. gold foil seal. R.I.P., Pete. These folks have had to endure an obsessive/compulsive, manic/depressive, hyper-critical perfectionist in the throes of pentagenarian decline, depression and desperation. If they can handle my elation/despair roller-coaster (artists can be like that) they can handle anything. Thanks, everybody. You’re the best.
Last but certainly not least of the mortal beings, my family has been there for never-ending moral support. To my late father Alex, my mother Olga, and my son Aris who has periodically updated the website, my hard working brothers Bill and Dan and my much loved and loving sister Cathy whose faith has never waned – thank you all. I couldn’t have done it without you.
And, of course, I thank the Old Master Painter himself for all the blessings that have turned FireArt from a dream into a reality.
Categorised in: True Stories