Since retiring from Centra in 2012, former CEO George Dawson has devoted much of his life to civic work in the community, helping raise funds for the Lynchburg Humane Society’s current facility and the historic Academy of Music Theatre in downtown Lynchburg.
He also took up painting as a hobby, taking art classes around town and joining the Lynchburg Art Club.
He’s spent the past two years accomplishing another feat: The restoration of a historic Rivermont Avenue home.
“I’ve had an itch to restore an old house,” Dawson said, joking that the project, which he began in the summer of 2017, could also amount to “temporary insanity.”
“It’s more of a slow turn than a flip,” he said, laughing, while at the house last week as he and wife Rosemary worked to put the finishing touches on it.
The house, built in 1913 and designed by architect Stanhope Johnson, was officially listed for sale this week and, over the weekend, Dawson is hosting a pop-up art show there featuring his own paintings, as well as work from well-known local artists such as Ron Boehmer, Sallie Sydnor and Purnell Pettyjohn.
“He knows a lot of the artists in town,” said another featured artist, Doni Guggenheimer, a past president of the Lynchburg Art Club. “He told me [he was asking] either people whose art he had purchased or people he had an art relationship with through various things, friends, etc. I’m a big supporter of the ways George has helped Lynchburg, really. So I wanted to be part of it too.”
“It’s such an intriguing idea to fill an empty house with art,” she added.
Their work will be shown throughout the home, which Dawson said had been vacant for more than two years before he bought it.
“It needed a lot of work,” he said, showing a photo of cracks in the walls of the master bedroom upstairs.
The three-story Colonial Revival was one of eight Johnson designed in the 2000/2100 block of the Rivermont historic district, according to Dawson’s news release about the event.
“The story is he designed this house and that one [next door] for two sisters,” Dawson said in an interview.
Both sit not far from another of Johnson’s commissions, the old Garland-Rodes School at 2244 Rivermont, which most recently served as Virginia School of the Arts.
Johnson dominated the Lynchburg architectural scene in the post-World War I period, according to the Friends of Rivermont Historical Society, which notes that either individually or in partnership with others, he “was responsible for more public, religious and residential buildings in the Rivermont neighborhood than any other architect during this period.”
Dawson views Johnson as an artist in his own right, so he has dubbed the pop-up “Art and Architecture” to highlight the “art of Stanhope Johnson” with that of local visual artists.
“I just thought it would be fun to do a pop-up,” he says, “and the house has such good light.”
The pop-up exhibit will be open to the public for free from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The work will be for sale, with a portion of proceeds going to the Lynchburg Art Club.