A Bowling Green museum dedicated to the late renowned artist and Hart County native Joe Downing has reopened following a 2013 fire.
Nearly all of the 1,200-piece collection was damaged, but most was salvageable. A few of the pieces have returned to the museum, but many others face a long, arduous restoration process.
"If you took the canvass paintings to L.T. Smith Stadium, they would cover the entire grass area, so we have a lot of work to do," said Baker Foundation President Bob Hilliard. "I've learned a lot about Joe Downing. He was a workaholic and I think he painted everything he touched and Jerry Baker bought it from him."
Friends, family, and art enthusiasts celebrated the reopening Thursday. Among them was Joe Downing's sister-in-law Harriett who was married to Dero Downing, the late WKU President.
"I've been so overwhelmed they were able to preserve as much," Harriet told WKU Public Radio. "I know he and Dero both are up there in heaven looking down and saying thank you to all the people who put so much effort into making sure this was restored and saved."
The Downing Museum is located at the Baker Arboretum. The estate is owned by Jerry Baker who has endowed the art collection, home, and grounds to WKU.
In an announcement Thursday, officials said the estate has acquired 100 additional acres of land. The Baker Foundation also plans to establish a collection of Downing’s work at the Kentucky Museum at WKU.