A mural that honored the Black Lives Matter movement has come down from one of Philadelphia’s most prominent buildings, but efforts are underway to find a more permanent home for it.
Artist Russel Craig’s “Crown” mural was only meant to stay in place for a year, said Jane Golden, executive director of Mural Arts Philadelphia. It was recently removed from the Municipal Services Building because the Public Property Department requested that it be removed as it had been damaged, she said.
The department was “very supportive” of the work, but the vinyl it was on had started to fray, Golden said. “We made a promise to the city, to public ownership, that it would be removed after a year, and we took a full year,” she said.
The mural was unveiled in 2020. It came together as the city sought avenues of reconciliation following widespread protests against police brutality and racism that year, Mayor Jim Kenney said.
The mural showed a group of people, mostly black people, raising their fists in the air and coming together to form a crown.
The placement of the mural was intentional, given that the steps leading up to the Municipal Services Building once featured a bronze statue of former Mayor and Police Commissioner Frank Rizzo.
Rizzo has for decades divided opinion among Philadelphians. He became police commissioner in 1967 and also served two terms as mayor as a Democrat before switching to the Republican Party.
His four-year tenure as commissioner was marked by both praise for tackling crime and criticism for rights violations. Although he is credited with hiring a large number of African American officers and promoting several black officers during his reign as commissioner, Rizzo’s tenure was also punctuated with confrontations with African Americans.
The statue has angered many city residents and has often become the target of vandalism, including during widespread protests following the killing of black George Floyd, who died of suffocation under the knee of a former white police officer. Minneapolis.
Kenney had publicly said the statue was “a deplorable monument to racism, bigotry and police brutality for members of the black community, the LGBTQ community and many others”, and said the protests had spurred the city to accelerate its withdrawal.
Joe Piette, a photographer and activist from Philadelphia, said he was on a phone call with others when someone mentioned the “Crown” mural had been taken down. Piette said he was present when the mural was unveiled and was sad to see it go, especially because he knows some of the people depicted in the artwork.
“They removed the Rizzo statue and the mural kind of replaced Rizzo, and there was so much symbolism there,” Piette said.
“I share the sadness. I wish the vinyl would last longer,” said Golden, executive director of Mural Arts. The good news, she said, is that Craig agreed to paint the mural on a wall to make it a more permanent part of the city. The challenge now is to find the right wall.
Golden said anyone with suggestions for a good wall can email [email protected]
“It won’t be quite the same because the place where Rizzo’s statue fell was so symbolic and so ‘in your face’ to the power structures of the city,” Piette said, “but if it could at least be put somewhere in a community that would appreciate it, that would be great.