When Did Bureaucrats Become Art Critics? One Artist’s Fight to Keep His Gallery from Greedy City Planners

The Philadelphia Development Authority (PRA) is seizing Philadelphia artist James Dupree’s beautifully renovated art studio through eminent domain to make way for a parking lot and grocery store. But eminent domain is for public use, things like roads and schools - not private development.

James needs your help to save his life’s work and get back to painting: click here to join the fight.

Click here to contact the Philadelphia City Council and tell them to abandon the condemnation of James’s studio. 
James Dupree and his daughter in front of his studio 
An untitled piece of James Dupree's art

Are you a victim of eminent domain abuse? Click here to report abuse and request free protest materials.

To learn more about James and the city of Philadelphia’s unconstitutional land grab, read on:

Nine years ago, Philadelphia artist James Dupree turned a broken-down warehouse and garage into a unique art space where he works and has hosted art classes. James has plans to start a mentorship program so that inner-city kids – like he once was – can learn to appreciate art and maybe even become artists one day.

But James’ plans came to an abrupt stop last year. In November 2012, PRA used eminent domain to take 17 properties from their owners in order to build a new supermarket and parking lot in west Philadelphia. Although the land grab is clearly not for a public use and an unconstitutional use of government power, the city has already seized the deeds of some properties, including James’ 8,600 square-foot studio. James’ studio houses over 5,000 pieces of art and has been a classroom for many local artists in the community. He is one of the city’s most highly sought-after artists. Five of his paintings are housed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and numerous pieces of his are displayed throughout the city.

Not only does the Constitution say that property may only be taken for public use, it also requires local governments to provide “just compensation” for land taken through eminent domain. But the city offered James a little over a quarter of its appraised value.

Incredibly, his studio was seized just four days before an eminent domain loophole was closed in the law. A law that went into effect on December 31, 2012, prohibits the city of Philadelphia from condemning property that was previously declared blighted. But though Dupree Studios occupies three addresses, the PRA failed to list all three addresses in its condemnation, oddly condemning only two thirds of his studio. The city is still set on bulldozing James’s studio.

Read James’s Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed here.

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