In 2018, when the shocking Borderline shooting tragedy occurred and the devastating Woolsey Fire burnt hundreds of Malibu homes, including nine of the 10 houses in Karena Lewandowski’s childhood neighborhood, Karena was determined to help her community heal.
Reeling from the tragic events, the 36-year-old graphic designer sifted through the charred remains of the home she had grown up in since age 3, and where her parents had still lived. Despite the despair of loss, Karena searched hopefully for anything she could recover from the ashes of their former home on Busch Drive.
A New Beginning
Out of this tragedy, Karena and her partner, Casey Campanella, decided to form a nonprofit dedicated to helping the community heal through art. They founded ComeTogether, a network of creatives seeking to bring people together to create, inspire and heal, through art.
“What started as wanting to salvage one memory for my parents from our home and wanting to take my apparel and branding skills to create a t-shirt I could raise money to help Borderline victims and my friends and family in Malibu and all those hurting like in Paradise, where there were so many lives lost, ended up realizing there is a bigger calling for the both of us,” says Karena.
Our vision is to serve as “an oasis of inspiration and support for creatives who intend to encourage community and healing through art,” shares Karena, who gathered local artists, including area musicians, painters and sculptors, to join her mission.
Local sculptor Eugenie Spirito, who had suffered her own losses during the fire, answered the call.
“When Karena asked me to create a piece for ComeTogether, I jumped at the chance,” says Spirito. “While I believe that art has the ability for spiritual healing, it is especially important in this case where so many people lost so much so quickly. There was so much love flowing from the ComeTogether project, I absolutely had to be a part of it.”
Spirito created a sculpture, aptly named “ComeTogether” made from Honey Alabaster from Japan. Spiritu has been exhibited at Canvas Malibu for the past 10 years, Malibu City Hall exhibits, “Malibu Rising,” and Flower and Hewes Gallery at Lowe’s Hotel Santa Monica.
“Being artistic or creative just means that you are open to experiences. Innate artistic skills are not necessarily artistic creativity,” says Karena, adding, “humans struggle with depression, anxiety, childhood trauma, addiction, which all play the catalyst for artistic release. ComeTogether is based on the intention that we can heal from art, and our organization collaborates with artistic and creatives from all different spectrums in the hope to bring our community together, and allow us to heal from art. In the coming year, we hope to be working with more artists in our community and begin to fundraise to set our roots in the community. We envision a creative hub that will cater to all creatives, an oasis that will allow artists have access to state-of-the-art equipment to practice their art or give the ability for those dealing with pain and heartache the ability to heal from collaborative projects.
ComeTogether’s first collaborative project was funded by the Santa Monica Mountains Fund and featured large interactive murals depicting the legacy of Paramount Ranch’s Western Town and the local wildlife to benefit the Santa Monica Mountains Fund’s Road to Recovery.
“ComeTogether is something I have wanted to be part of to help everyone have the chance to become artists or at least express themselves through art,” says Casey.
To learn more about ComeTogether, email email@example.com, visit ComeTogether.org, or call 805.312.8222.