Manitoba

Artists displaced by raging Jarvis Avenue blaze offered new studio spaces

A Winnipeg artist says he’s “in disbelief” after the landlords of a historical building have stepped forward to offer studio space to him and others who lost years of work in a massive warehouse fire on Jarvis Avenue.

Group of 27 artists offered space in Annabella Street building

Artists who lost their studio spaces in a July fire on Jarvis Avenue are being offered temporarily rent-free spaces at this warehouse on Annabella Street come January. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

A Winnipeg artist says he's "in disbelief" after the landlords of a historical building stepped forward to offer studio space to him and others who lost years of work in a massive warehouse fire on Jarvis Avenue.

Tom Lovatt said he lost about three years of work — including large drawings of boxers and mixed-martial arts fighters — after a fire on July 22 razed a warehouse he shared with other artists at 274 Jarvis Ave.

But now, Lovatt said he and 26 others affected by the blaze were offered studio spots in an Annabella Street building in Point Douglas, rent-free for the first six months.

"The light in it is just spectacular," Lovatt told CBC News. "It's beautiful." 

Winnipeg artist Tom Lovatt with one of the works he lost in the July 22 blaze. (Supplied )

And that the building's owners would step forward so quickly to offer the displaced artists assistance shows a "real generosity of spirit" and that they're community-minded people, he said.

The eight-storey J.R. Watkins Company building is noted for its exterior design features and large number of windows, according to a Manitoba Historical Society synopsis of the 1914 structure.

And it's those windows, which are the major selling feature, left a major impression, Lovatt said. "It has a wonderful view of the North End of the city."

Winnipeg city councillors voted in April 2017 to add the building to its list of historical resources.  

That the building's landlords would extend a helping hand is "a vote of confidence" on their part, he said.

The artists all come from a range of different backgrounds and disciplines but have almost become a "loose collective" as a result of the losses they each suffered from the fire, Lovatt said.

"To be invited into the building as 'the 27' has been really exciting for everybody."

A wall collapses in front of a firefiighter battling the blaze at 274 Jarvis on Monday. 0:40

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