A Lexington artist is safe, but lost much of his life’s work when fire gutted his Menifee Avenue home early Sunday morning.
Kiptoo Tarus works mainly as a sculptor, creating large wooden artworks, such as the work in front the Lyric Theater, and the giant hands that decorated Short Street during the Breeders’ Cup in 2015. He said Lexington firefighters think the fire started as electrical malfunction, but quickly spread through the one-story, white frame house.
“I lost everything,” Tarus said. “I lost all chain saws (for sculpting). I also draw and paint so all my portfolios were there.”
Tarus said he stopped by the house at 2:30 a.m. to pick up his girlfriend’s dog before going to her house to spend the night. The fire apparently broke out around 3:30. The house, at 1207 Menifee Ave. stands near the corner of Menifee and Owsley Avenues.
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Firefighters and neighbors managed to save at least one sculpture, “Modern Children,” which was only partially charred by the flames and stood on the opposite sidewalk Sunday morning.
The Lexington Fire Department is still investigating the fire.
Tarus moved to Lexington from Nairobi, Kenya, in 2012 to attend graduate school at the University of Kentucky. He has no family in Lexington, but he said: “I’ve got good friends.”
By Sunday afternoon, some of those friends had set up a GoFundMe account to help him at gofundme.com/kiptoo-fire-fund.
In addition, gallery owner Astarre Gudino has set up a fundraiser Friday from 6-8 p.m. to benefit Tarus at her gallery, Open Spaces. Gudino currently has 25 pieces of Tarus’ art in her space because he had been part of a show called “Four Rookies and a Pro.” All of his art and other artists’ work will be for sale and all sales money will go to benefit Tarus.
“Tarus was the pro,” Gudino said. “It would be nice if he could use his older art to start anew because he has nothing.”
Open Spaces is located in the Wellward Regnerative Medicine building at 101 North Eagle Creek Drive.
For more information, call 859-913-1982 or go to the Open Spaces Facebook page.