You, Me and James Dupree

By Carol Petraitis, Director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania’s Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project

James Dupree with The Diptych (1976/79). 72×72, acrylic on canvas. Right panel from the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art; left panel from the collection of the artist. (credit: Mike Zaikowski, Profiles Studios, Philadelphia

James Dupree with The Diptych (1976/79). 72×72, acrylic on canvas. Right panel from the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art; left panel from the collection of the artist.
(credit: Mike Zaikowski, Profiles Studios, Philadelphia

In our official capacities, Reggie Shuford, our executive director; Peter Goldberger, the president of the ACLU-Philadelphia Chapter; and I attended an opening for Philadelphia artist James Dupree on Saturday night. Hmmm . . . exactly what was the civil liberties issue at the Dupree Gallery??

Last month, the ACLU signed on to a coalition letter to Mayor Nutter accusing the city of abusing its power of eminent domain by trying to seize Dupree’s Mantua property, which he calls his “private artistic sanctuary and haven.” Dupree, an accomplished artist who has several paintings housed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, spent years turning a broken-down warehouse and garage into a unique art space where he works and has hosted art classes.

The city now plans bulldoze Dupree’s studio and turn it over to a commercial developer to build a grocery store and a parking lot – despite the fact there are numerous abandoned properties throughout Mantua. The city has also grossly undervalued the property.

The ACLU is part of a coalition supporting Dupree’s fight against the city of Philadelphia, along with what may be the strangest assortment of bedfellows ever – from the right-leaning Americans for Prosperity (which David and Charles Koch founded), the Commonwealth Foundation and the Institute for Justice to the artsy Institute for Contemporary Art and the Painted Bride.

(credit: Carol Petraitis)

(credit: Carol Petraitis)

Much of Dupree’s vivid new work (pictured above) has been fueled by the stress of being a David up against a Goliath. If you’re moved by his plight, consider signing onto the petition, write directly to Mayor Nutter, or visit Dupree’s gallery in Queen Village (703 S. 6th Street).

To learn more, follow this link:

Carol Petraitis directs the ACLU-PA’s reproductive rights work, but her undergraduate degree is in visual art.

3 thoughts on “You, Me and James Dupree

  1. I’ve known James for over 35 years. I have watched him inspire young artists. I have watched his art evolve in my directions. I have watched his children grow up from infancy to accomplished young women. I own six pieces of James’s artwork which surrounds me in my living room as I write this. James is a Philadelphia gem. His exquisite studio is a community treasure.

  2. ACLU, Thank you soooooooooooooh Much! In my darkest hours like now 4:00am cant sleep thinking why do my public servants want to destroy me, take my land ,my dream, my dedication to my profession,my end less unthankful labor on this building, its mine and my DREAM. I want the world to see what I built with my own two Hands from nothing and what they want to destroy using these unjust and unfair LAWS of Eminent Domain. My Public Servants are not serving me and this community, they are stealing and tacking home owners properties with lies for future development.This is a Land bank,a Land seize with no Developer or food chain that has been identified at the Declaration of Taking.A FORCED SALE Its time for someone to point out this abuse at the FEDERAL level, and how the last 7 years of my life of living horror and uncertainty can destroy a law abiding Tax paying, hard working AMERICAN. THIS LAW DESTROYS PEOPLES LIVES …….Seven years ago My City council person Screamed at me at the top of her lungs : Who do you think you are ! and DO you know how many ARTIST are in this town, pointing out what I now realize,they dont care about me,my education ,my accomplishment, my business,or what I represent. They want MY LAND for as cheap as they can , For the Good of the Community……to sell back to whom ever….for WHAT ever………This is the……….Promised Land………..With …… Hidden Plans. Thank you for helping fight in my rights as a home owner to my private property………The Dragon is Coming and they want my land for the hidden plans for the good of the community and lets not for get that supper market!

  3. This is horrific. Turning an existing artistic haven (and public service building!) into a grocery store? How can the council and mayor feel so little? The artistic community MAKES Philadelphia the eclectic, spirited place that it is. I’m sure if their property was on the slab “for the greater good” there would be no resistance, right? Please….

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