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Vallejo Artist Comes Up With Unique Way to Help Neighbors Salvage Treasures Damaged By Earthquake

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Sherry Tobin says art has always been a form of therapy for her. Perhaps, she thought, it could do the same for her Vallejo neighbors still recovering from the South Napa earthquake. (Published Tuesday, Sep 2, 2014)

What do you do when a magnitude-6.0 earthquake shatters what used to be your grandmother's china into thousands of pieces? 

If you live in Vallejo, you turn to Sherry Tobin.

Sherry, a professional artist, hosted an "earthquake art party" this past weekend in downtown Vallejo. Anyone with a shattered family heirloom or damaged work of art was welcome to come, and Sherry would help them create a new treasure out of their shattered mementos in the form of a mosaic.

"They can just make a new keepsake out of their precious things that they would (otherwise) have to throw away now," Sherry said.

Sherry Tobin, a Vallejo artist, came up with the idea of hosting an "earthquake art party" for neighbors who had lost family treasures or favorite works of art during the earthquake.
Photo credit: NBC Bay Area

Sherry was, like most of her neighbors, sound asleep the Sunday morning of the South Napa earthquake. "During the earthquake what I was thinking was, 'Let it stop. Let it stop. Please don't let it get any bigger. Let it stop.'"

When it eventually did stop, Sherry was happy to find that her home and studio suffered little damage from the quake. When she went online, however, she began to see pictures and stories of all the damage her friends had suffered.

One picture in particular, posted by a friend, stuck with her.

"She just had these absolutely beautiful, broken china."

Dozens of Vallejo residents took advantage of Sherry's offer: to create new, mosaic works of art using pieces of ceramic and glass from among the earthquake rubble.
Photo credit: NBC Bay Area

Sherry, whose portfolio is filled with mosaics, saw an opportunity; not just to create art, but repair some physiological damage as well. "Art has always been a form of therapy for me," Sherry said. Perhaps it would do the same for others, she thought.

She decided to host the party at her home with just a few friends, but as word spread and more and more people asked if they could come, Sherry moved it to a downtown arts, events, and community center called The Hub.

Dozens of people showed up, carrying the pieces of shattered plates, statues, and vases in boxes, bags and baskets.

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Sherry gave them some backing, some adhesive material, and a few tips then let them alone to create whatever they wished.

She also lead the group in covering a three-foot tall statue with various pieces of ceramic and glass from among the rubble. When finished, the statue will be placed in a community garden for all to share.

A visible reminder, Sherry hopes, that while the earthquake may have shattered many things in Vallejo, spirits were not among them.

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