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Inness paintings to move from sinkhole-plagued Florida church

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Tarpon Springs closed temporarily in November because of two hidden sinkholes on the property, but the community's spirit is still going strong.

"The church is still intact, it's just the building that's a little sick right now," church president Ann Rainey said.

No one is permitted in the historic church building until engineers finish running tests and issue their report, expected in mid January.

But as soon as church officials can safely enter the building, they will remove the 12 paintings by noted painter George Inness Jr. that adorn the church walls, crate them and have them stored in a vault in Orlando.

With the paintings out of the building, the church will be able to rehabilitate its sanctuary.

Inness, an American landscape painter (1854-1926), created many of those works specifically for the church. He was a longtime winter resident of Tarpon Springs.

But the paintings won't remain locked away for long. From May to August, the art will be displayed at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art, which is part of St. Petersburg College's Tarpon Springs campus.

"We just have a great connection with him, and his paintings are really world-class paintings," Rainey said. "We have an obligation to make them available to the public."

The exhibit will also include some of Inness' secular work, which the museum is having shipped from Daytona Beach.

"It's going to be a great opportunity to see these paintings, along with the secular paintings, in kind of a new light," said Lynn Whitelaw, the museum's curator. "Our hope is that it will give a new importance to George Inness Jr. as a wonderful artist and also as a very giving philanthropist."

Inness paintings to move from sinkhole-plagued Florida church 01/03/14 [Last modified: Friday, January 3, 2014 3:44pm]

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