Artist of the Month

Menifee Painter Inspired by Disaster Volunteer Work

By Bill Zimmerman, President Arts Council Menifee


Mimi Maki

When Hurricane Sandy swept through the Caribbean and up the East Coast of the United States in late October 2012, the storm left dozens dead, thousands homeless and millions without water and power.

“The scene was unbelievable”, recalls Mimi Maki, a Menifee resident who serves as a disaster volunteer and public affairs spokesperson for the Red Cross.  Many of us remember the images of destruction from television news coverage at the time, but Maki’s recollection is from first hand experience. Maki was deployed by the Red Cross to provide humanitarian efforts of mercy to the people whose lives were literally turned upside down.

Maki, a patron member of Arts Council Menifee, has been selected to be honored as November’s “Artist of the Month”.

Maki, a self-taught impressionist and abstract painter, describes how painting has been a cathartic way of expressing and sharing the images from her experiences. “When I return from a deployment, I have a lot of emotions churning inside me. Putting those images on canvas is my way of releasing them while honoring the work that our volunteers do”.

As Maki shares her thoughts, she pauses, and begins to swell with emotion. “Painting is a release for the soul. It opens you up. I cannot imagine a world without the arts. Humans, as a civilization, need music, literature and visual arts to give us our conscience and our humanity” she shares with feeling.

Maki was originally inspired to become a disaster volunteer while she was employed as an airlines customer service supervisor. In January 2000, Alaska Airlines lost a flight off the coast of California near the Channel Islands. As part of the CARE Team, she assisted with the tragedy, the most difficult thing she had ever done.  However, she remembers a feeling of relief that she experienced as she surveyed the scene. “On the beach were these folks in red jackets. They were Red Cross members there to help us, and we could not have accomplished our task without them”.  Maki decided that upon retirement she would sign up to volunteer as a way to give back.

Her experiences on disaster deployments are frequently depicted in her paintings and have won acclaim, especially her “Sandy” series which were made into pins as a fundraiser for the Red Cross and are now much sought after.

As a relatively new member of the Arts Council, Maki already has found her place in the local art activities, and enjoys the benefits of being a patron member. She signed up for a display booth at last year’s “Arts Showcase” held at the Countryside marketplace in Menifee, and sold one of her larger pieces there. “I appreciate the welcoming atmosphere and encouragement I get from the other artist members”, said Maki. “We give each other gentle suggestions and tips, and introduce new mediums to try”.

Maki likes to “tell the story” through her acrylic pieces.  “In using color, I try to tap into people’s emotions and lead them into a story and tempt their imagination to play a bit”. Three of Maki’s framed works are currently displayed as part of Arts Council Menifee’s gallery at the Kay Ceniceros Center.