The art studio lost in the Tappahannock fire is brought back to life in the painting, which raises funds to rebuild the town

One of the victims of the devastating fire in the picturesque historic district of Tappahannock in July was George Jennings’ art studio, which was destroyed along with other buildings along Prince Street.

Now an art studio painting, created years ago by another artist, is being used to raise money to rebuild this section of Tappahannock.

Shortly after the fire, artist Debra Howard, who lives in Maryland and Michigan, sent a note of encouragement to the Tappahannock Artists Guild, writing, “This breaks my heart,” but saying that she planned to return to Tappahannock for the next plein-air painting. an event. She included an image of the painting she had done of Jennings’ studio over three years ago.

The painting inspired the Tappahannock Artists Guild to seek permission from Howard and the patron who purchased the painting to make fine art prints of the painting and put them up for auction. Each print was hand-crafted by landscape photographer Hullihen Williams Moore.

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Calling the fundraiser “Fighting Fire With Fire/Rebuild Prince Street,” the guild is auctioning 10 prints, signed and numbered, throughout October.

All money raised from the auction of the prints will be donated to the Town of Tappahannock and the Tappahannock Main Street Organization for cleanup and rebuilding efforts on Prince Street.

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The rapid fire destroyed buildings on a stretch of Prince Street as well as adjacent structures on Water Lane. In total, several businesses were relocated, including a furniture store, cafe, real estate agency, hair salon, and Jennings’ studio. Four families who lived in apartments in the affected structures were also displaced. More than 100 firefighters from more than a dozen other jurisdictions battled the blaze. Water had to be pumped from the nearby Rappahannock River.

Damage was estimated at $2.5 million by Essex County officials.

Jennings, 79, is a retired architect-turned-artist who, in addition to his painting supplies and decades of architectural records, lost around 100 framed paintings in the fire, including those on display in the cafe neighbour.

Seeing Howard’s painting from his studio again is “quite emotional for me,” Jennings said, as he remembers well the night she painted it. It was in the spring three years ago at a local outdoor event; plein air is a 19th century style of plein air painting.

“I went from home to the studio to paint, which I did most nights, and noticed she was sitting there with her van backed up on the sidewalk…and she had her easel sitting in front of her , and she was painting the studio,” Jennings recalls. “I spoke to her and told her I was going to paint inside if it didn’t mess up her paint, and she said that would be great.”

Jennings remembers it as a “very laid back, very relaxed event.” He had no idea it would become so significant a few years later. His painting reminds him “how much [the studio] has been.”

The rubble has been cleared from the fire and the land where his studio was located is perfectly flat.

“He’s ready to do something,” he said.

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