Fair Trade art broker who survived April’s magnitude 7.8 quake in Nepal throws a fundraiser in Mar Vista

By Kathy Leonardo

Artist Maharjan creates a Danger Dog in Nepal

Artist Maharjan creates a Danger Dog in Nepal

Global media may have moved on to the next story, but the people of Nepal are still feeling the devastating impacts of the April 25 earthquake that killed more than 8,000 and injured some 17,000 others.

Santa Monica resident Michelle Page — widely reported as a missing person after the quake — experienced the initial trauma firsthand while she and her husband were staying in Kathmandu, about 30 miles from the epicenter.

Page is the founder of Danger Dogs from Nepal, a fair trade art venture that offers animal owners an authentic hand painted portrait of their pet created by a Nepali local. She opened her business in 2007 and visits Nepal two times a year, bringing work to local artists.

“It was immediately apparent that this was The Big One,” Page said of the magnitude 7.8 quake. “The shaking seemed to go on forever. Everything was swaying — the electrical lines, the brick perimeter walls, the street itself.”

Page recounted how the couple stumbled to the center of the street as outer walls collapsed around them. She said she saw a man run into his old brick home and come out with a little dog trembling in his arms. Page and her husband walked more than three miles back to Boudha (where they were staying) all while aftershocks kept occurring.

“Every time one hit, a cry of panic would arise from the locals. One large aftershock hit when we were on a bridge, and we ran as fast as we could to get on solid though shaky ground,” Page said.

Along the way the couple passed a restaurant they had frequented and saw that the roof had collapsed and their usual table was crushed.

In all the chaos of the aftermath, it took Page almost two weeks to find out that the artists she worked with were all alive and uninjured.

Page told her artists they could put off work under the circumstances, but they all said they wanted to work as much as possible.

“They wanted a return to normalcy with some art therapy thrown in. And, of course, they needed the money. I left them all with a good cash cushion to carry them through to September, when I intend to return to give them more orders,” she said.

Within two weeks of the quake, the artists completed 48 paintings.

One of her artists had even lost his home to the shaking. Since then, Danger Dog clients have donated money to help rebuild his house.

The suffering caused by the quake deeply affected Page, and now she’s rallied friends to host a fundraiser for Nepal’s recover on Sunday at the c.nichols project art gallery in Mar Vista.

Two nonprofits will benefit from the proceeds: Waves for Water and Portal Bikes.

Waves for Water provides free water filtration systems to ensure that quake victims have access to clean water.

Portal Bikes is providing temporary housing out of building materials that can be recycled for later use in constructing permanent housing.

The art of Alison Frey Andersson is currently on view in the gallery, and Page’s artists’ Nepal Danger Dogs will be on sale at a discounted rate on the back patio, with 25% of the proceeds going to Portal Bikes.

The event will also feature live music from folk-rockers The Cerny Brothers and Nepali musician Manohar Gurung, plus food and drink from local restaurants such as Röckenwagner Bakery.

For Page, the most surreal of experiences during the Nepal quake was reading the many news stories that reported her and her husband as missing.

A Los Angeles Times report was picked up by news outlets all over the country, including Page’s hometown Dayton Daily News. Page said she and her husband went to the American Embassy shortly after the quake to register as survivors, but that information did not reach her American friends and family.

“It was strangely traumatic. It was like reading my own obituary, for sure. I worried that my family would be beside themselves. I had tried repeatedly to get through to the West, but communications were mostly down in Kathmandu.”

Page always supported earthquake preparedness, but now she actively reminds friends and family to make emergency plans and keep plenty of extra food and water on hand.

“Life is precious and short, and everything can change in seconds,” she said. “I don’t want people to forget Nepal. Aftershocks, landslides, and deprivation continue to be
a problem in the quake area

The benefit takes place from 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday at the c.nichols project, 12361½ Venice Blvd., Mar Vista. Suggested donation: $20 at the door. Call (310) 915-1930 or visit cnicholsproject.com or nepaldog.com.