Out of the ashes: Gallery show to benefit Madison Fire Department
Written by Katie Emory
Since the late 1800s, the Vason building in downtown Madison has served generations of local residents from its original conception as a drug store, and later as the home to doctors, dentists, a candy store, and many other local businesses. Most recently, its walls displayed more than 40 fine arts paintings by well-known Atlanta dancer, choreographer and artist, Lee Harper. The building, which has been in her husband, Wayne’s family since its construction in 1870, housed her Madison studio. The result of over 30 years of work, her paintings almost vanished in an instant when the building caught fire last December.
“Just before Christmas, my husband and I received a late night phone call alerting us that the structure was on fire. We got there as fast as we could and I feared the worst for my paintings, which had been created over a period of several years,” says Harper. Had it not been for the quick response of local firefighters, her fears could have been reality. “When we arrived at the scene, I was overjoyed to discover that the members of the town’s volunteer fire department had protected my paintings with plastic coverings to shield them from water, and then safely removed them from the building.” While some were subsequently treated for smoke damage, none of the paintings were lost — an act of service she will not soon forget.
Harper is now using her art to give back to the department. She says, “I thought showing all of the pieces together would be the best way to convey the scope of the work they saved, and by selling the paintings, along with some of my more recent art, I could make a financial donation to the fire department to show my appreciation.”
Her new gallery show, “Out of the Ashes” will be held May 19 and 20 from 5 to 8 p.m. at Lee Harper Studios, 3080 East Shadowlawn Ave., in Atlanta. Two galleries of paintings will be on display, including her early work of abstracts as well as more recent landscapes, portraits, and still life work.
Harper has invited the department to join her for the show and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Madison Fire Department. Because of the firefighters, her paintings remain and so will the Vason building, along with the businesses it housed. Harper says she is looking forward to celebrating a grand opening in June when repairs are scheduled be finished.