Tragedy times two: Nathan Jensen and five fellow artists lose their work in a studio fire, and musical star Steve Barton, an alumnus of UT, dies unexpectedly.

Fire Destroys Studio

It was supposed to be a party. Last Saturday, July 21, artist Nathan Jensen had invited some friends to his place for drinks to toast the new co-op studio he'd just created out of a 30' x 50' industrial building on the property behind his home. But by the time they arrived, the cause for the celebration was literally going up in smoke. The studio was on fire. By midnight, it was gone, and so were all the paints, canvases, tools, art supplies, fans, furniture, books, personal effects, and art created by Jensen and the five other artists sharing the studio. Investigators suspect a defective industrial fan caused the blaze.

Jensen had conceived of the Art Hive, as he'd christened the studio, as a space for local artists to share not just space, but ideas, resources, and opportunities. To make it happen, he'd taken out a loan to cover building expenses and spent months upgrading the space, painting it, building shelves and storage racks for paintings, bringing in couches and desks, filling bookcases with 10 years' worth of resources on being a professional artist. He lost it all. And his fellow artists suffered equally serious losses. Randy Jewart lost numerous expensive tools. Bonnie Brushwood lost her artwork, plus $2,500 in paints, canvases, and supplies. Chris Chappel and Judy Paul lost supplies, paintings, tables, and fans. Chad Palmer lost all of his artwork.

Despite their shock, the Art Hive artists are working to recoup losses from the fire. Jensen has already devoted a portion of his Web site -- -- to the disaster, with photos of the studio before and after the fire, and information regarding ways the community can help. The group has set up a trailer in front of the Art Hive at 5614 Jeff Davis Ave. (just off Koenig Lane between Burnet Road and North Lamar) to collect donations of paint, canvases, tools, chairs, art supplies, and anything else anyone is willing to give to help lighten the load for these artists. Money is also being gratefully accepted; checks payable to Art Hive should be sent to 5614 Jeff Davis Ave., Austin, TX 78756.

In Memoriam

Lovers of musicals the world over are mourning the loss of a star this week, and he's one that Austin helped make. Steve Barton, an actor, singer, and dancer who appeared in more than 30 productions as a student at UT from 1972 to 1976, before going on to a career starring in major international productions of most of the signature musicals of the last 25 years, passed away unexpectedly on July 21. He was 47. From the 40 Acres, Barton and his wife, dancer and choreographer Denny Berry, headed to Europe, where Barton played Jesus in the Berlin and Vienna productions of Jesus Christ Superstar, Zaza in the Berlin La Cage aux Folles, Magaldi in the Munich Evita, the Beast in the Vienna Beauty and the Beast. He was the original Raoul in Phantom of the Opera in London and recreated the role on Broadway, then played the title role for a year. Most recently, he originated the role of Count von Krolock in the world premiere of Dance of the Vampires, a new musical by Jim Steinman and Roman Polanski based on the film The Fearless Vampire Killers, and was honored with an IMAGE Award -- the European Tony -- for his work. He was scheduled to reprise the role on Broadway in 2002. Though his career took him far from Austin, he returned to the city frequently, to visit Berry's mother, who lives here, and to perform and work with students at his alma mater. For their efforts, he and Berry were honored with a Presidential Endowed Scholarship in the UT Department of Theatre & Dance. Barton is survived by his wife and their son Edward.

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Nathan Jensen, Art Hive, Randy Jewart, Bonnie Brushwood, Chris Chappel, Judy Paul, Chad Palmer, Steve Barton, Denny Berry, Dance of the Vampires, Jim Steinman, Roman Polanski

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