Grand Lake’s East Troublesome exhibit captures tragedy, resiliency a year after the fire swept through Grand County |

Grand Lake’s East Troublesome exhibit captures tragedy, resiliency a year after the fire swept through Grand County

McKenna Harford
SkyHi News
Visitors of the Troublesome Stories exhibit look at the photography of Thomas Cooper, a photojournalist who captured the East Troublesome Fire. Cooper's work is featured prominently at the exhibit, and prints can be purchased with 20% of the proceeds going to a recovery fund.
Photo by McKenna Harford / Sky-Hi News

GRAND LAKE — Charred metal remnants of a banjo, a pasta maker, a wedding veil, a pocket knife, truck parts and many other items sit on display at the new East Troublesome Fire exhibit in Grand Lake, telling the story of Grand County’s historic experience last year.

An effort to share the story of the East Troublesome disaster in a way that allows locals to heal, the new exhibit, called Troublesome Stories: Art & Artifacts From the East Troublesome Fire, opened Tuesday, June 29, in the Pitkin Center in the Town Park with plans to be open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day until the end of October.

“This is for our people, our Grand Lakers, our first responders and the people who Grand Lake has made a mark on,” Grand Lake Chamber Director Emily Hagen said.

Hagan constructed the exhibit in partnership with Studio 8369 owner Laura Kratz, who lost her home and contributed several items to the exhibit, and Thomas Cooper, a photojournalist who covers wildfires.

In addition to the donated items from locals, Cooper’s photography of the fire and written accounts from residents that highlight their experiences evacuating and returning home after the fire round out the exhibit. There’s also a memorial for the two people who died in the fire, Lyle and Marilynn Hileman.

At a local’s opening June 23, Grand Lake Mayor Steve Kudron and Grand Lake Chamber Board President Jim McComb choked up as they thanked the team that put together the exhibit. Kudron noted that the labor of love provides an important asset to the community’s healing and recovery.

“This is a place to remember, to reflect, to learn a little bit about what came through here and what took so much of our community,” Kudron said. “What we see is not only the artifacts, but the dreams, the hopes and the futures of a lot of the people in this room.”

A main goal of the display is to educate guests on the disaster and fire risks in Grand Lake. For Kratz, it provides a way for her to answer the questions she gets on a daily basis without having to relive her trauma and grief.

“Some days, I just have to close the door to the studio,” she said about the bombardment of questions since the end of the fire.

Hagen added that she hopes everyone who visits the exhibit will leave with a renewed sense of appreciation for Grand Lake as well as an understanding of the importance of fire bans and personal responsibility.

“No one will walk out of here feeling good, but you will walk out of here feeling changed,” Hagen said.

Volunteers and donations are still needed for the exhibit at Cooper’s photos are also available for purchase, with 20% of the proceeds going to the East Troublesome Fire Emergency Fund.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Now more than ever, your financial support is critical to help us keep our communities informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having on our residents and businesses. Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.

Your donation will be used exclusively to support quality, local journalism.