Donations pour in for vanessa german after fire damages Homewood ArtHouse | Visual Art | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Donations pour in for vanessa german after fire damages Homewood ArtHouse

click to enlarge Donations pour in for vanessa german after fire damages Homewood ArtHouse
Photo: vanessa german
vanessa german's ArtHouse
On Mon., Feb. 16, local artist vanessa german took a major hit when ArtHouse, the creative community center she runs in Homewood, was damaged by a fire. Now, just days later, a GoFundMe campaign has raised over $55,000 to help repair the space.

Trib Live reported that a fire investigation unit found that a blaze started on the second floor of the building when a tenant “left candles burning on the edge of a tub, which in turn ignited the shower curtain.” Public Safety spokeswoman Cara Cruz said the ArtHouse took on water damage.

“The art house caught on fire last night,” german wrote on her Instagram account next to a post of firefighters spraying ArtHouse as smoke billowed above. “There is a lot of damage, but everyone is ok.”

On Wednesday, german launched a GoFundMe to help repair the space. As of Thursday evening at 8:45 p.m., the campaign has raised $55,067 of its $75,000 goal.

In an emotional Instagram post on Wednesday evening, german expressed her extreme gratitude for the swift response.

“You all are so generous,” she says.

In the video, german explains that while she doesn't live in the ArtHouse, an artist in residence does currently live in the building. There's also a studio space that she says has not been open since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The fire did major damage to the ArtHouse roof, according to german, which had to be cut through in order to let heat out, and that firefighters had to strip to the walls as well.

She credits the firefighters for rescuing her art projects that were still in the building by moving them away from where water was coming in and covering them with tarps.

“Later, the fire chief came up to me and said, 'I'm a woodcarver and I saw your work,' and he just shook my hand. And he was like, 'I know what this means,'” says german.

The Black artist, poet, writer, and performer became a prominent figure in the local art community and abroad, primarily with her striking Power Figure sculptures made from found objects. She opened ArtHouse around four years ago, transforming a Hamilton Avenue property into a safe space for artists and writers, and for neighborhood kids to come and learn how to create art. The project allowed german to put her practice into helping Homewood, a community that has long struggled with gun violence and economic hardship.

In a Shondaland article from 2019, german revealed that the idea for ArtHouse came from having to move her sculpture projects to the front porch of her Homewood residence when they became too big for her basement workspace. She soon bought art supplies for curious onlookers, mostly kids, and invited them to come up and join in by making their own art. This turned into Love Front Porch, which then resulted in the creation of The ArtHouse after german bought more properties on Hamilton Avenue.

The GoFundMe says ArtHouse now boasts a large garden, an outdoor play space, a reading room, a backyard theater, and an indoor art studio “filled with supplies.” ArtHouse has also played host to a reading and writing series called Tuesday Night Monologue Project and fall festivals.

In the video, german says there's a lot of work to do, but that the ArtHouse will come back.

“We're gonna rebuild the house,” says german, adding that they have to completely replace the plumbing and electrical wiring, as well as fix the walls and roof. “It's gonna be better than it was before. The future is so bright.”

To donate to vanessa german's fundraiser, visit: Rebuild the Arthouse