Dentist Dr. W. Baxter Perkinson works with another kind of "Roots, Canals and Bridges." 

Art for Athletes

Ask most dentists about root canals and bridges and they would attempt to explain the intricacies of tooth restoration. However, local dentist and artist W. Baxter Perkinson Jr. would most likely talk about "Roots, Canals and Bridges," an upcoming art auction comprising more than 50 of his landscape watercolors that will raise money for Virginia Commonwealth University's Student-Athlete Scholarship Fund.

The auction will take place at 6 p.m. on Nov. 6 at VCU's Stuart C. Siegel Center, and all the profits will be donated to the scholarship fund. Additionally, each donation will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the VCU Foundation.

The money will go toward two scholarships Perkinson says: one that is merit-based for any VCU student, and one that is merit-based for an athlete who is not already receiving scholarship money. A VCU alumnus himself, Perkinson was not a college athlete but says he admires kids who can dedicate themselves to their sports and still do well academically.

Perkinson says there are many kids participating in college athletics who practice hard every day because they love their sports; these athletes receive no scholarship money and little playing time. "They are the unsung heroes, as far as I'm concerned," he says.

Many, however, might consider Perkinson to be an unsung hero of sorts. A painter for 20 years, he has never sold a watercolor for personal profit, choosing instead to donate his paintings to causes he considers worthy. Originally, he would donate individual paintings to auctions, but three years ago he donated 60 paintings, about a year's worth of work, to the Science Museum of Virginia to help it to raise $50,000. "I decided since the auction at the Science Museum went so well, I'd do the next one for VCU," says Perkinson, who is also an adjunct dentistry professor at the university.

Perkinson started painting at age 35 when he and his wife enrolled in an art class though, at the time, he had little faith in his artistic abilities. "I was one of those people who said, 'I can't even draw a stickman,'" he says with a laugh. Perkinson soon saw, however, that dentistry was not his only calling, and he has been painting watercolors ever since.

Perkinson describes his watercolors as realistic landscapes and prefers to paint scenes in which humans are not present. Dentistry involves a great deal of one-on-one interaction with people, he says, so not including people in his images is a refreshing change.

He cites dentistry as his first love, but is quick to add that he also loves painting and is able to balance his time between his two passions. "I don't have any intention of doing one at the expense of the other," he says.

Perkinson's watercolors can be previewed from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Nov. 4 on the first floor of VCU's Medical College of Virginia Alumni House, 1016 E. Clay St.

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