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Fire Island Artist Residency looking for home in wake of Cherry Grove fire, which destroyed Holly House

Firefighters survey the damage after a fire in

Firefighters survey the damage after a fire in the Cherry Grove community of Fire Island on Friday, March 27, 2015. The famed Grove Hotel, an apartment complex and two unoccupied homes were destroyed, and the Ice Palace bar and three other homes were damaged in the early morning fire, fire officials said. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

Chris Bogia sat stunned for 10 minutes when he first learned that a summer residency he co-founded for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender artists may be homeless after last week's blaze in Fire Island.

Then he set out to find a home for the Fire Island Artist Residency. The summer residency took place in the Holly House, a guesthouse destroyed by Friday's fire in the Cherry Grove section.

Bogia vowed in an email to the nonprofit's board that the residency "is going to happen this summer."

Bogia said Sunday he is close to securing a new space, the 5-year-old program will remain in Cherry Grove and the new space will likely cost more because the season starts soon.

"There are so many people who want to participate. How could I not make this happen?" said Bogia, whose program drew 440 applicants for five slots last year. "We fill a really unique niche."

The all-expenses-paid residency, inspired by Fire Island's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender cultural and historical legacy, is the first of its kind in the country, founders say. Emerging artists share living and work space for four weeks.

The residency had used Holly House for the past three summers, Bogia said.

Friday's blaze started in the guesthouse and destroyed the Grove Hotel, whose famous guests have ranged from writers such as Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams to entertainer Lady Gaga. The artists' mediums include paintings, drawings, sculpture and performance.

Two unoccupied homes were gutted and three others damaged. Walter Dunn, senior fire marshal with Brookhaven Town, said Sunday that authorities are still investigating the cause of the blaze.

Artist supplies, archives and some of the residency's first fliers were also destroyed, said Bogia, 37, a Queens artist and the program's director.

But the donations, phone calls and Facebook posts have been a "sustaining kind of positive energy," he said.

The residency received 75 applicants as a two-week pilot in 2011. Hundreds of applications began pouring in as it expanded to four weeks.

Applications are due April 15. The program starts in late July.

Bogia said the residency is as competitive as some of the nation's top graduate art programs.

"It is just as competitive to get into [the residency] as it is get into Yale, Columbia, UCLA," said Bogia, an adjunct sculpture instructor at New York University.

Bogia said the residency also fosters discussion about "what it means" to be a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender artist -- a conversation artists don't have in art school.

The residency is popular also because it attracts leading voices in contemporary art as visiting artists and guest lecturers. Bogia said it was important to keep it on Fire Island because of the community's acceptance and diversity. "That really is the spirit of the place," he said.

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