By Carol Petraitis, Director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania’s Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project
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.
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: http://www.savedupreestudios.org/
Carol Petraitis directs the ACLU-PA’s reproductive rights work, but her undergraduate degree is in visual art.