Durham County

Durham Liberty Arts studio floods again

Members of the nonprofit arts organization Liberty Arts woke up to a déjà vu of sorts Friday after an overnight thunderstorm sent a shallow river flowing through the building.

Liberty Arts moved into the Cordoba building in East Durham after its space in Liberty Warehouse flooded in 2011 and the building was ultimately condemned. The site is now being converted into apartments by a private developer.

Ben Sheehy, a metal artist who isn’t affiliated with Liberty Arts but has been operating his custom art business Bampro out the building, said he got an email late Thursday night about a leak in the building and drove over from his Raleigh home, arriving just before midnight.

“The first thing I saw was water everywhere,” Sheehy, 38, said.

Sheehy went to the third floor to gauge the damage and found part of the roof had collapsed, along with a broken beam that had hit a pipe that was spewing water.

Sheehy spent the rest of the morning trying to sweep water out the building, he said, until it stopped spewing about 8:30 a.m.

Metal artist and Liberty Arts board president Jackie MacLeod said the organization spent about $30,000 when it moved into the Cordoba building on Franklin Street next to the Golden Belt complex. It leases nearly 7,000 square feet, which includes areas designated for artists that work with clay, wood and metal.

MacLeod said water came through the roof Thursday night, a beam broke in half and hit a pipe attached to the sprinkler system, which flooded the building up to two inches deep into areas where artists work and store their equipment and art.

David Huber, 31, of Durham just moved into the Liberty Arts space this week.

“I was mostly unpacked as of yesterday,” said Huber, who makes wooden smoking pipes. The flood soaked some journals and “irreplaceable” art books, ruined two pieces of his art and wet some cables associated with power tools.

“I’m optimistic that it’s going to be fine,” he said about the power tools.

On Friday morning, volunteers pumped and swept water from the building.

Efforst to reach building owner Julio Cordoba were unsuccessful Friday afternoon.

MacLeod said workers had repaired the pipe and sprinkler system by Friday afternoon and that Cordoba indicated repairs to the beam and roof would begin immediately.

The flooding at Liberty Warehouse caused much more damage, because water poured directly onto equipment and members had limited access to areas inside the building to remove items from wet areas, she said.

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Twitter: @virginiabridges