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Plans to restore DeGrazia Gallery's "Mission in the Sun"

Posted at 10:43 PM, Jun 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-12 01:45:32-04

A Tucson landmark at the DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun was severely damaged after a fire on May 29th.

The Mission in the Sun is the building that caught on fire. Gallery Executive Director Lance Laber says the building is the first one DeGrazia built on the property back in the 1950s. When he found out that it went up in flames, he was speechless.

"At first I was in disbelief. Like everybody else, I couldn't believe it," he said.

The chapel was a place where people could find some peace and quiet in town, pray, reflect, remember, and celebrate, according to Laber. He added many people would come from out of town to see it, and many people in town would regularly visit the Mission in the Sun.

"It's just a little, local mission that everybody loved," he said.

Structurally, the building stayed mostly intact. However, the majority of the roof completely burned as well as the interior of the chapel -- that's including the murals, art, and most of the relics people left on the altar.

That being said, Laber has plans to restore the landmark. Though it may look a bit different, he explained it will once again be a special place for people to come to.

"We're going to clean it, we're going to re-roof it," Laber said. "And we're going to hopefully make it nice enough that people will come back and use it the way that they did in the past."

Once a chapel radiant with light, now an empty room of rubble and charred wood -- Laber explained it's still a difficult pill to swallow. 

"I just have a very empty, sad feeling," he said. "We'll get over it, and we will move forward."

Laber explained they do have fire insurance and are hoping that will cover their losses. Many people from the community are doing what they can to help out -- and he wants them to know how grateful he is. But being transparent, he also wants people to know that any donations will go towards the DeGrazia Foundation, and not necessarily to the restoration efforts.