Brattleboro artist's studio destroyed in fire


Photo Gallery | Fire on Stark Road

BRATTLEBORO — A fire destroyed a local artists' studio on Monday evening.

Jim Giddings of Brattleboro has an art gallery, co-owned with Petria Mitchell-Giddings at 183 Main Street, "Mitchell • Giddings Fine Arts," but 45-years worth of his artwork had been stored inside a small structure at 562 Stark Road, just 300 yards away from his home. Around 7 p.m., Giddings was inside his home when he heard an explosion. When he went to investigate, he found his studio in flames.

"That's my studio and all my paintings, and it's all gone," said Giddings.

Shortly after Giddings called in the fire, several departments arrived. Backup was called in because there was a need for more firefighters to extinguish the flames and there was limited water, according to Brattleboro Fire Chief Michael Bucossi.

The structure was located outside of the hydrant district, therefore more tankers were called in to supply water and pump from a nearby brook at the bottom of the road.

Bucossi said that the cause of the fire is under investigation by the Brattleboro Fire Department investigation team. But Giddings has reason to believe the propane tank inside the structure had something to do with it.

"It seems fairly obvious that the propane tank blew up," said Giddings.

Giddings noted he has 10 to 12 paintings at his gallery located downtown, but the pieces inside his studio included a "life's worth." He estimated there were hundreds inside the structure, which was deemed a "total loss" after Monday's fire.

"It's a record for a long time, and I'm just beginning to remember which ones were there. I just sit back and try to remember which ones were there,"said Giddings. "There were certain paintings that marked watershed moments — if that's not being too melodramatic — where you make breakthroughs where something really works, or you remember certain things in your life, and that's 45 years worth of paintings and a lot of drawings."

None of Mitchell-Giddings' paintings were kept inside the structure that was destroyed. She notes that the building was insured, but the artwork is the perhaps the most significant loss.

"You can't rebuild and bring back the archives and all the different memories that Jim has with the devotion of his work," said Mitchell-Giddings.

The following fire departments responded: Brattleboro, Guilford, Dummerston, Vernon, Putney and Chesterfield and Hinsdale, N.H. Rescue Inc. also responded.

According to Bucossi, firefighters planned to keep an eye on a rotting tree that had "fire burning up through it." The tree is located directly behind the destroyed studio, and Bucossi said at some point the tree may need to be cut down.

No people or animals were injured by the fire.

Maddi Shaw can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext 275


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