E m i n E n t   d o m a i n
n.  a right of a government to take private property for
public use by virtue of the superior dominion of the
sovereign power over all lands within its jurisdiction

jan. 13, 1995
611 w. 5th street, uptown charlotte, nc

setting:  1928 vintage 3 story warehouse,
structurally over built with huge cedar timbers,
18" thick brick walls, heart pine floors,
enormous window and totaling 18,800 sq.ft.
it was  run down and neglected
covered with graffiti,
1080 broken windows,
leaking roof,
no electricity, plumbing nor heat.
the neighborhood was frightening.

we saw beyond the shabby
to what it could be.
we had a vision and poured our hearts and souls into
bringing the old place back to life.

fast forward:  8 years later
the 1st floor gallery is outfitted with a stage,
pa and professional theatre lighting system.
the space morphs into a gallery, theatre, music venue.

16 studios surround the 2nd and 3rd floor galleries  
you can feel the creative energy that
makes this building come to life.
a virtual think tank of creative forces nurturing,
encouraging, motivating, inspiring ...

our vision to become an incubator for the arts
has become a reality.

during our first 5 years,
as pioneers in the neighborhood, we had been robbed
and vandalized so many times i have lost count.
we even lost our beloved dog to gun shots.

then development began.
we were excited to be part of the changes in the
neighborhood.  we lived with the dirt and inconvenience
of construction all around us for 3 years, looking
forward to its’ completion and the ability
to enjoy our new surroundings and neighbors.

we paid our dues and were ready to reap the rewards of
years of diligent hard work as pioneers in the area.

as the last orange cone was removed from in front of our
building the north carolina dept. of transportation,
rail division, instructed us to be out in 90 days.

"just compensation" was deposited with the clerk of court

the search began for a new home for our gallery,
theatre, musicians and artists.
i don’t shop much, but surely with a pile-o-cash in hand
you could find something you liked.

i was wrong.

there are no properties on the market in charlotte
that come close to providing the amenities
we currently enjoy.
the few properties that would make comparable new homes
carry asking prices 3-4 times the allotted
'just compensation'.
any property under consideration will require
significant up fit and another truckload of dollars to
re-create everything we currently have in place.

"just compensation"?
i just don’t get it - someone please explain it to me.

in a nutshell the task is to locate a suitable property,
negotiate and close on the property,
prepare an up fit plan
submit the plan to building standards,
await approval of the plan (conservatively 4 weeks)
hire contractors,
accomplish the up fit,
move several tons of furnishings, stages, woodworking
equipment, art pedestals and partitions,
all 16 tenants belongings
and get on with business without interruption.
this is my livelihood
the sole means of support for my family
as a single parent.

a daunting task for the dwindling 90 days.
please explain to me how this can be accomplished
given the budget and time restraints I have been given.
how is this "just compensation"?
i don’t want more than i deserve.
my entire pie is being taken from me.
i just want to be put back together whole.
not a mere slice of my current circumstance.

sometimes i'm ashamed of myself for whining about
how to spend this pile-o-cash.
everyone in the world should be so fortunate.

but haven't we have paid our dues?
our place has been earned with risk,
hard work and years of diligence.
please explain to me why we don’t deserve
the equivalent of what we have earned.

we receive no corporate or government support.
we contribute to the community by providing a venue
for the public to experience all forms of art
as well as serving as an affordable venue for
emerging visual and performance artists to create,
exhibit and  market their art form.

contributing members to our capitalistic society at no
expense to anyone. sounds like a pretty good idea to me.

the NCDOT decided that the amount of money i rake in
determines the value of my property. i chose to rent my
space to artists at a lesser amount than i could have
collected from other more affluent members of the
business community. am i to be penalized financially for
how i chose to operate my business?
if i were wealthy enough i would have charged even less
rent - then i’d be in really big trouble.
something is clearly wrong with this picture.

inevitably i'll be explaining to the talented artists
that have given our place life..."sorry guys,
it’s not a pretty sight, you’ll have to use your
imaginations. ... a few flowers, an exterminator, a yard
dog, some morning glories on the barbed wire, some
natural light ... and we’re home ... It’s going to be
Maybe in about 6 years or so, 10 tops. I’m sorry, really
I am, did the best I could,
please don’t loose
confidence, let’s not lose momentum, please
, we can do
it again, come on ,
where’s everyone going, don’t you see it

the arts and women in business have been put in their place
Lived & narrated by cindy hart
on jan. 21, 2003 a manila
envelope from the DOT informed
me that we had until may 8, 2003
to vacate the property.    

18 days later
the property no longer
belonged to me.

i was instructed to pay rent
to the NCDOT equivalent
to more than double
what my mortgage payment
had been.  

after 74 consecutive  days
of construction  
our new home was ready for occupancy.  
thanks to clayton, mystri hardaway
architects, mark & todd, the quan family
plumbers, jose and the amigos the
awesome folks at building standards and
countless others
the last moving van pulled away from
611 w. 5th on sept. 15, 2003
en route to our new home on
36th st. in NoDa
Our new home is in a flood plain,
miles from uptown
in a transitional neighborhood,
22% smaller than our former home,
totally devoid of any architectural
and cost over a
hundred thousand dollars
more than i was "justly compensated"
our 1928 vintage big old timber and
brick architecturally awesome former
home is now a parking lot
why did i have to perform some super
human construction feat so that the
land could sit idle and vacant?  
they gave me
90 days            
one single middle aged woman to
relocate and rebuild an 18,800 sq. ft.
today we are on
1371   of
absolutely nothing
happening with the land.

i just don't get it
someone please explain it to me
the only evidence remaining  that we
ever existed

on august 3rd 2004 a settlement was reached with the ncdot
while there was no apology, it is apparent that the ncdot  
hugely short changed me.   

in a nut shell, it's not really WHAT they do that pisses you off - it's how they do it.
speech at amherst college
by John F. Kennedy October 1963
making a promise to end forever the 2nd class status of the artist.

if sometimes our great artists have been the most critical of our
society it is because their sensitivity and their concern for justice,
which must motivate any true artist, makes him aware that our
nation falls short of its highest potential.

the men who create power make an indispensable contribution to
the nation's greatness ... but the men who question power make a
contribution just as indispensable.

when power leads man toward arrogance, poetry reminds him of
his limitations.  when power narrows the areas of man's concern,
poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence.  
when power corrupts, poetry cleanses.

for art established the basic human truths which must serve as
the touchstones of our judgement.  the artist, however faithful to
his personal vision of reality, becomes the last champion of the
individual mind and sensibility against intrusive society and an
officious state.

i see little of more importance to the future of our country and
civilization than full recognition of the place of the artist.  if art is to
flourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to
follow his vision wherever it takes him.
tri state sculptors exhibition
august 2001

Hart Witzen Gallery
611 W. 5th St
gallery theater artist studios events
party fund raisers charlotte nc art
studios alternative arts venue

Our beloved building went down in style dressed in it's finest
thanks to dozens of artists and 100 gallons of paint from Sherwin Williams & Home Depot

what a horrible waste
thanks for the great photo chris radock
1st floor gallery
2nd floor gallery
3rd floor gallery
November 22, 2003