Monday, December 10, 2007

And then they came for the artists: Haven for artists burned in Dunedin, FL

And then they came for the artists: Haven for artists burned in Dunedin, FL
Haven for artists burned

The Imago Art Gallery building at 464 Douglas Ave., in Dunedin burns early Sunday. Authorities found evidence of accelerants. By JOSE CARDENAS & DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD December 10, 2007

 DUNEDIN - The Imago Art Gallery in this town known for its embrace of the arts was home to 15 working artists. But early Sunday an arsonist set fire to artists' studios and hundreds of their paintings, sculptures, jewelry and other works, investigators say.

As news of the 3 a.m. fire spread, some of the artists gathered at the charred and gutted building on Douglas Avenue south of Main Street.

"What is there to gain from burning our work and a building like that?" said Denis Gaston, a contemporary mixed media artist who lost 80 paintings and drawings. "These people lost everything."

Harry Williams, a glass blower who turned the building into studios for fellow artists seven years ago, said that fire officials put the loss around $1-million.

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office estimated the loss to the structure at $500,000.

....."I'm numb. I'm confused," said Williams, 56, who now lives in Odessa with wife Louies, an acrylic painter. "It was our retirement. It's my life savings." The 5,200-square-foot, bright yellow building was a fixture in the local art scene. Painters, sculptors, stone carvers and other artists included John Lowe, Sultana Volaitis and Dorothy Briccetti.

 ..... Investigators used a dog during the investigation. They determined the fire was arson based on witness statements, burn patterns and "the presence of accelerants," said state Fire Marshal Detective Curt Clendenney. .....

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