What would you do if your art studio caught fire?

Here is a slightly morbid question meant to stir your thoughts to priorities. If you had to evacuate your art studio abruptly, is there anything you’d wish to save above all? A few summer’s ago, we had a big scare when a carpet cleaner van caught fire and was parked right next to our wooden garage door. You guessed it, flames got quickly out of control and the fire department was out on another call, so it took them a little longer to respond than we’d hoped. Fortunately, they did arrive in time to put out the fire before it spread to the rest of the house or roof. My art studio is above the garage, and would have been the first room to go.


Our neighbor was home and took this photo after she called 911. I was actually working in the studio when the carpet cleaner man called me to come down. We tried a home water hose to no avail, though it did help buy a little time and save more damage. Our pets were outside and no family members in danger. Just me freaking out a little on the front lawn with a kind police officer trying to keep me calm until the firemen arrived. Minutes seem like half hours in these situations.

I’m thinking back on a lifetime of art work that might have been lost. What is the most important thing a person could try to save if it’s one’s life work, (knowing we are not talking about personal family mementos, etc.)

The computer comes to mind, with lots of digital photos stored there, and disks with artwork stored there as well. What about real portfolios of original drawings? Art supplies? Favorite paint brushes or tools?

I think I would really miss my sketchbooks more than many things. Drawings from over the years are like a personal diary of ideas. Sure, I would be sad to see my art books go away, and some favorite paintings I have kept for my own collection. Most other things can be replaced.

If a person values the sketchbooks, does that mean they contain ideas that can still germinate to something new in the future? I think that might be true. Should a person place greater value on what work might be coming next rather than holding on to what is accomplished and done?

Do you have a tangible portfolio of favorite works you value enough to save? A “morgue” of visual ideas and clippings you have collected over the years that is an inspirational tool? I would miss those things too. Then there is the thought that maybe we should be ready to just start all over again and make new work, not think about the past, just move ahead to the new. I think I could cope with that idea, and it might even foster a sense of freedom.

Serious questions brought on by difficult things that could actually happen. I’m glad we survived a scary time. But it does give a person some things to consider. Maybe it’s good to consider certain artistic priorities such as this.

I’ve raised a lot of questions and would love to hear your thoughts.



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4 Responses to “What would you do if your art studio caught fire?”

  1. nancyadair Says:

    What a frightening time! I often wonder if I should find good homes for the quilts I have designed, rather than leave them in a personal home closet. Books and fabrics can be replaced, but if I lost my design drawings and templates I could not even recreate these quilts. I would feel my life’s work was for nothing.


    • karen Says:

      It’s something to think about… I don’t have all the answers. A person could take photos of their creations and store them on CDs away from home. Or store the digital images online someplace. Our physical property is another story…


  2. paintlater Says:

    I once had to do an artists talk to a group and I said that my sketchbooks are my most treasured things and if there was a fire that’s what I’d take. Now a few years on Im not so sure, my lap top has become pretty indispensable and a lot easier to store than a pile of old paintings. Very glad you didn’t lose anything. Cheers Sue.


    • karen Says:

      Interesting you had a similar comment, Sue. It makes me want to store my digital records of images off site, away from the house. I’d like to rescue both the computer files and the sketchbooks, but the sketchbooks do have sentimental value. My kids drew in them too, on pages here and there. 🙂


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