ArtHouse closing pushes artists on

Over the years, The ArtHouse of Charlotte served as home away from home for authors, sculptors, playwrights, makeup artists, painters, musicians, photographers and other artists.

Opened in 2004, it consisted of 13 studios and grew to become a haven for art lovers looking to add new pieces to their collections - or simply to chat with the artists.

There was just one problem: Location.

Though situated in NoDa, The ArtHouse was 50 feet from Little Sugar Creek. This fall, the creek flooded the gallery with more than 15 inches of water for the second time in two years - forcing the building to close.

Despite the setback, the artists have not given up. They are finding new locations and new business models.

Abel R. Jackson, a painter and airbrush artist who leased space at The ArtHouse, has relocated to Area 15, a business incubator on North Davidson Street.

"Instead of looking at (the closing) as a negative thing," he said, "I see it as a sign that it was time for me to step up to another level. What it immediately brought to my mind was that nothing lasts forever."

"My whole studio was flooded with, like, 16 inches of water," he said. "If I hadn't have been there, I would have lost everything. It would have all been destroyed."

The building was condemned by the city. It has been purchased by Charlotte Mecklenburg Storm Water Services, which plans to demolish the building and replace it with green space and a park.

Jackson said the flood made him realize he needed a plan for his business. He said in the past, he just focused on doing his art, but now he is approaching his work with a more entrepreneurial mindset.

The LATIBAH Collard Greens Museum, which was opened in 2009 by self-described "black history buff" T'Afo Feimster, was the anchor tenant of The ArtHouse and took up four studios. It featured a life-sized exhibit with several installments portraying significant moments in history that Feimster believes best illustrate the black experience - from the Middle Passage to the election of President Obama.

Feimster held two regularly scheduled African-American history programs at the museum each month. He now holds the events at Little Rock Baptist Church Community Development Center on the first and fourth Friday of each month.

Feimster's goal is to have the new museum open by February. He plans to keep The ArtHouse concept but with fewer studios.

For more information, go to LATIBAH Collard Greens Museum on Facebook.