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Rising from the Ashes in Yates

Much has changed for local artists Dexter and Faith Benedict since the morning of Nov. 1, 2017. That’s the day a fire destroyed their Penn Yan business and studio, Fire Works Foundry.

“We were woken up around 5 a.m. by our dog, Leo, barking,” recalls Dexter, sculptor and professor emeritus of art at Keuka College. “Out of the bedroom window, I saw flashing lights in the driveway, and my first thought was it was a patrol car. And then I realized what was happening—our studio and foundry were on fire! We were in absolute shock.”

The fire is believed to have been sparked by a propane gas leak in Faith’s ceramics studio. The losses included not only the building, but many pieces of both Dexter and Faith’s life’s work.

“It was a hot fire, and an equal opportunity destroyer,” says Dexter, who received a Doctor of Humane Letters from Keuka College in 2014. “I lost about 43 years’ of works and pieces of interest—it all burned up. But while the pieces and prototypes were lost, the ideas are not lost in my head.”

Faith, a member of the Keuka College Class of 1981 and former instructor at the College, lost nearly everything as well. Ironically, she had fired the kiln the night before, and while the kiln was destroyed, everything inside survived intact.

“That day, and the days after, were devastating,” says Dexter. “Right away, we decided to rebuild. With the help of our Mennonite neighbors, the Keuka College community, and the Yates County Arts Center, we rebuilt our studio better than ever.”

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