Michelle Page and her husband were walking in Nepal’s capital city just before noon as the world around them bustled. Moviegoers from a nearby theater were emptying onto the sidewalk, the streets humming with traffic.
Then it hit.
A 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck with violent force, turning Kathmandu and the surrounding region into an apocalyptic disaster zone. Tall walls crumbled to the ground. Buildings and electrical poles succumbed to the shaking. Cars and motorcycles broke down on the spot.
“Within five seconds, I knew this was the big one,” said Page, a Santa Monica resident. “It was much stronger than anything I felt before. The panic on everyone’s faces was incredible. … It was really frightening.”
Thousands died and thousands more were injured that late Saturday afternoon in April, and the recovery process continues nearly three months after the massive temblor.
The experience has had a lasting impact on Page, a former film editor who regularly travels to Nepal to support local artists through her fair-trade Nepal Art Dogs project.
It inspired her to raise money for the region through a local event, which will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday, July 19, at the C. Nichols Project gallery, 12613 1/2 Venice Blvd., in the Mar Vista area of Los Angeles.
The fundraiser will feature a silent auction and an exhibition of custom folk animal art from the Himalayan region as well as food, drinks and music by the Cerny Brothers and Manohar Gurung. All proceeds from the event will support two charities doing work in Nepal: Portal Bikes and Waves for Water.
Portal Bikes, which distributes custom bikes to help people start small businesses, has been busy delivering hundreds of low-cost shelters to earthquake survivors. Waves for Water, meanwhile, is spearheading a relief initiative to donate water filtration kits to affected communities.
Page, whose credits as a film editor include Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy and Robert Altman’s “The Player,” launched her art company in 2007 in an attempt to keep the region’s hand-painted animal signs alive. Page said the signs, once ubiquitous in Nepal, have been replaced by mass-produced posters over the years.
“I thought it was a shame,” she said. “I would try to save a dying art.”
Customers now send Page pictures of their pets and tell her what they’d like on their handmade metal signs. Page then commissions three artists and pays all of them fair wages regardless of which paintings the customers buy. She works with dozens of artists in Nepal.
Page wasn’t sure how her project would fare after the earthquake. Communication with the artists was extremely difficult at first, and she figured the artists would be busy caring for their families. But she’s realized the role the art plays in their livelihood.
“They wanted the money,” she said, “but I think they really used it as therapy.”
Page’s company has brought hand-painted animal signs into homes, museums and galleries in and around Santa Monica. She is planning to return to Nepal in September.
“I love it there,” she said.
Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter.