Frank Rizzo Mural

The mural "A Tribute to Frank Rizzo" by Diane Keller is seen in the Italian Market neighborhood of Philadelphia in 2017. — AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Mural Arts Philadelphia announced Wednesday afternoon that it is disowning the mural of controversial former Mayor Frank Rizzo.

“The Frank Rizzo mural in South Philadelphia has again become a target for defacement amidst this national chapter of pain, grief, and anger over the recent death of George Floyd and the systemic racism plaguing our country," Mural Arts leaders said in a written statement posted on their social media accounts.

“For several years, Mural Arts Philadelphia has engaged the community in a discussion about the fate of the mural. After careful consideration, Mural Arts has decided to cease all involvement with the mural, effective immediately."

Mural Arts leaders said the mural is a "painful reminder" of Rizzo's legacy, and "only adds to the pain and anger" people feel.

"We do not believe the maintenance and repair of the Rizzo mural is consistent with our mission. We think it is time for the mural to be decommissioned and would support a unifying piece of public art in its place," they said.

Frank Rizzo was the city's police commissioner from 1967 to 1971, and mayor from 1972 to 1980. 

His supporters believed he was tough on crime. But many others have noted that his policies were often discriminatory against minorities.

Still, in 1995, an artist painted a mural of Rizzo on the side of a building at 9th and Montrose streets in the Italian Market in South Philadelphia. And in 1999, the city installed a 10-foot tall bronze statue of Rizzo on the steps of the Municipal Services Building in Center City. Both pieces of art have been frequent targets for vandalism since their installation.

Mural Arts leaders' announcement Wednesday came just hours after work crews removed the Rizzo from the steps of the Municipal Services Building.

Mural Arts leaders have suggested replacing the mural with a more unifying piece of public art, but said the decision lies with the hands of the property owner.

“Legally, in this case, because the mural is located on private property, the owner would need to approve of the removal or replacement of the mural, which has not been granted," Mural Arts leaders said. "At this time, Mural Arts will no longer be involved in the repair or restoration of the mural."

215-893-5749; jperry@phillytrib.com

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