Rising from the ashes

Fire destroys. Anne Wainscott creates.

On Nov. 15, the creative community in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky will come together for Wainscott to kick off an effort to regain what she had taken from her by fire.

The 101-year-old icon of Cincinnati’s artistic community — she’s the oldest living alumnus of the Cincinnati Art Academy, among many other things that make her notable — lost almost everything she owned in a fire on that destroyed her Covington riverfront condo on the last day of August.

Much of her most cherished work from a career as a fashion illustrator, which started in 1939, was consumed. In fact, she lost almost all of her possessions. She’s now living in the West End with her friend Michelle Holley.

“The fire destroyed everything. It was so intense literally the plaster off the walls was gone. It was a devastating event, as you can imagine, but particularly at [age] 101,” Holley says. “Her whole apartment was truly a reflection of her as an artist. She made everything.”

The goal of the Riverside Revival Art Show Auction, which begins at 6 p.m. on Nov. 15 at the Hotel Covington, is to restore Wainscott’s pre-fire life, or as close to it as possible. The show and auction will include 20 works created by local artists who were asked to draw upon Wainscott’s life and work for inspiration, along with an original poem in her honor, plus other features.

“We can never make where she lived into what it was, but we’re going to do the best we can for her,” says Megyn Norbut, the event director. “We want her to see it restored and feel that she can go back home. To have all these people gather around Anne has been very uplifting.”

The fire was ruled to be arson, and the charged suspect has no connection to Wainscott. Authorities believe he’s a drug user who may have been under the influence at the time.

Immediately after the fire, the Hotel Covington took Wainscott in and gave her a place to stay that was close to her home. Now they are taking care of the expenses involved with hosting the Nov. 15 event.

Norbut says that as word spread throughout Cincinnati’s artistic community about the fire, people were quick to volunteer and organize. Official partners sponsoring the Riverside Revival event include:

  • The Art Academy of Cincinnati – Tyler Hildebrand, Director of Development
  • HighStreet – Leah Spurrier
  • Hotel Covington – Jack Olshan, General Manager, and Donna Salyers
  • Landor – Mary Zalla and the Landor team
  • No Standing Only Dancing: Events – Megyn Norbut, Creative Events Director

An invitation was sent out to artists around the area to create work for the event. All proceeds from the evening will go towards restoring Wainscott’s condo.

Wainscott’s career included four decades as a fashion illustrator for Shillito’s department stores (now Macy’s.) Her pen-and-ink images of high-fashion clothing appeared in Cincinnati’s newspapers for years, and became known as works of art that have influence artists who follow her.

She has lived a long and remarkable life, and has the friends and supporters to prove it. The auction is seen as a kickoff event for a campaign that will go into the future until Wainscott is able to return home.

“It’s very meaningful to Anne that these artists are embracing her,” Holley says. “Anne has been so generous with her home to young artists, to photographers who have come in and used her home as a space for their creativity. And now all of that is coming back to her.”

The Riverside Revival Art Show Auction is free and open to the public. For more details about the event, view their invitation. To see more images of Anne Wainscott, visit melissadossphoto.com.

Signup for Email Alerts