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Wendy Mikkelsen, pictured with her son Jon, is excited to reopening her Paeroa art gallery. File Photo: KELLEY TANTAU

From ashes to art after Paeroa fire

Wendy Mikkelsen is painting again.
For the first time in three years, the Paeroa woman and gallery owner is able to pick up a brush and turn her grief into art.
“The painting I’m working on at the moment is going to be: ‘my soul is searching for the one I love, but I cannot find him’.
“It’s a way to express how you feel but in a way that brings beauty, because death and love go together.”
Wendy and her children, Jon and Jacob, have faced adversity in recent times.
Her husband and their dad, Stephen, passed away from cancer in June, 2021, and in February this year, their gallery and insurance office on Belmont Rd was destroyed by a blaze.
But on November 4 at 5pm, the gallery will have its grand reopening, and Wendy told The Profile it was the start of a new era. “It’s like giving birth to a baby, and the last couple of weeks of a pregnancy are your worst,” she said with a laugh, “but it is giving birth to a whole new era.
“The past was with Stephen, and now I’ve got my two sons on board. It’s a new beginning and it’s a beautiful time to do it.”
Back in February, a fire completely gutted the Forget Me Not op shop and damaged the facades of The Bakehouse Cafe – now Paeroa Roast and Bakery – Midway Burger Bar, Old Mate’s Pizza, and the Paeroa News Agents.
The fire broke out around 12.30pm, and emergency crews from Paeroa, Puriri, Ngātea, Te Aroha, Waihī, and Hamilton attended the scene.
The fire, believed to have been caused by an electrical fault, was extinguished two hours later.
No one was injured in the blaze.
The name of the gallery’s reopening exhibition is called Beauty for Ashes, which Wendy said was inspired by a piece of scripture which acknowledges how sorrow can make way for strength.
“Because I’ve been through a fire and my husband passing away, I have been through grief. But this is an exchange. Out of the gallery is going to come beauty,” she said.
“Instead of ashes, we will have beautiful art.”