The Escape is an oil painting by local artist Cassandra Dolen. Dolen took the distress and uncertainty Merritt, and many other communities in the Interior, faced during this past summer’s intense wildfire season and channeled it into art.

According to Dolen, the painting, which is three feet by four feet in size, “is a response to the anxiety of not only being surrounded by fire in Merritt this summer but the collective struggle to control growing panic as the routes out of the city became cut off to evacuate our community.”

This was not Dolen’s original plan for the painting, which began as a simple study of a salmon during a typical season.  

“The painting was a salmon peacefully swimming until I lit the forest on fire in the background,” explained Dolen. 

“The salmon was swimming on the wall all summer until the fires, then he became very worried when the fire appeared behind him. I even repainted his face to reflect more anxiety.”

Merritt became surrounded by three wildfires earlier this summer. 

The Lytton Creek fire which decimated the Village of Lytton was bearing down from the northwest, while the Tremont Creek fire prompted the evacuation of the community of Logan Lake and began to threaten Merritt from the north. The July Mountain wildfire, was propelled by strong winds from the south.

“The fish is vulnerable, yet as long as it has water it can make its escape,” said Dolen. 

“It was also a grateful response to firefighters that worked night and day to safeguard an escape for our city.” 

The painting now also serves as the cover photo for popular local Facebook group, the Merritt Grapevine. Soon, it will be on display in the Nicola Valley Art Gallery on Voght St., where art cards will also be available.