At Least "90 Percent" of Art Saved Following Fire at Baker Arboretum in Bowling Green

Jun 27, 2013

Art from the collection at the Baker Arboretum was rescued from a Thursday morning fire.
Credit Joe Corcoran, WKU Public Radio

Update at 1:42 p.m.:

Efforts are underway to determine what can be done to salvage artwork damaged by the Thursday morning fire at Bowling Green's Downing Museum at the Baker Arboretum.

The museum houses numerous paintings by the late artist and Hart County native Joe Downing. WKU President Gary Ransdell says the Downing Museum art is now at different parts of the school's campus.

"All of the artwork has now been transported to the Kentucky Building, and is in storage and is protected," said Dr. Ransdell. "The art that has been damaged by smoke and water is over in the services supply building where the art restoration experts will look them over and determine what needs to be done immediately, and what needs to take place over time. Only a few pieces were damaged by the actual fire--I'm guessing maybe 30 or 40 pieces."

The fire started before 7 a.m. and was discovered by estate staff members. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Officials on the scene of the blaze this morning told WKU Public Radio the fire was likely started by an electrical malfunction or a lightning strike.

Previous post:

A Thursday morning fire at the Downing Museum at the Baker Arboretum in Bowling Green has led to the destruction of some treasured works of art.

The museum houses numerous works by Warren County native Joe Downing. The fire, which was discovered by estate workers shortly before 7 a.m., led to an evacuation of art from the museum to the grounds outside the facility.

Despite those efforts, several pieces were destroyed.

However, estate manager Craig Cunningham told WKU Public Radio the majority of art was saved.

"We got 90 percent of the artwork out, at least. We got everything out of the basement, which is the storage area."

The Baker Arboretum is owned by Jerry Baker, who has endowed the art collection, home, and grounds to WKU.

WKU President Gary Ransdell was at the arboretum this morning after learning of the fire.

"What a tragic, tragic situation. The artwork that was on display appears to be lost, but we have a restoration artist coming immediately to see what's possible," said Dr. Ransdell. "The building can be replaced, but its' the loss of the artwork that is the real tragedy."

Fire officials say it's too early to name the exact cause of the fire, but several officials at the scene told WKU Public Radio the blaze was likely started either by an electrical malfunction or lightning strike.

Original post:

A fire broke out Thursday morning at an art museum housed on the property of Jerry Baker in Warren County. Photos taken by the Bowling Green Daily News show works of art salvaged from the fire being placed outside of the museum on the ground.

WKU Public Radio's Joe Corcoran is heading to the Baker Arboretum and we'll have more information as soon as we can confirm it.