Jun 3

Mural Arts Philadelphia Statement: Frank Rizzo Mural

by: Mural Arts Philadelphia

Mural Arts Philadelphia has painted out the Frank Rizzo mural in South Philadelphia. 

UPDATED 6/7/2020

As of Sunday morning, the Frank Rizzo mural has been painted out by Mural Arts Philadelphia with the consent of the wall owner.

Mural Arts is grateful that we were able to work with the owner toward this positive resolution, and look forward to collaborating with the community on a new mural project that can reflect the fabric of S. 9th Street.

We know that the removal of this mural does not erase painful memories and are deeply apologetic for the amount of grief it has caused. We believe this is a step in the right direction and hope to aid in healing our city through the power of thoughtful and inclusive public art.

In the coming weeks, we will be laying the groundwork for creation of the new mural, which will include an extensive community engagement and artist selection process. We will make further announcements regarding next steps in the near future. If you’d like to receive communications from us, sign up for the Mural Arts newsletter at muralarts.org.

In the meantime, if you would like to support this new project, donations are being accepted at muralarts.org – note “S. 9th Street Mural” in the comment box.

We thank all who voiced their opinions and are hopeful that this may be one more step towards true equality and social justice.

For public inquiries, contact info@muralarts.org

For media inquiries, contact Cari Feiler Bender, Relief Communications, LLC



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.

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.  

We do not believe the mural can play a role in healing and supporting dialogue, but rather it has become a painful reminder for many of the former Mayor’s legacy, and only adds to the pain and anger.

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. 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. At this time, Mural Arts will no longer be involved in the repair or restoration of the mural.

For public inquiries, contact info@muralarts.org.
For media inquiries, contact Cari Feiler Bender, Relief Communications, LLC.


Last updated: Jun 7, 2020

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Gloria J LAMORGIA says

Not surprised. Maybe the South Philadelphians will pay for its upkeep..

Barney Michel says

So sad, but the time has come to move forward and this piece, regrettably, just recalls a troubled part of our past. My daughter helped restore this piece once, but no more.

Gaetano says

It seems the media and our weak leaders are not formulating a balanced summation of the man. At a time when many cities were on the verge of bankruptcy including the then rotten apple N.Y.C. Rizzo oversaw the construction of the Gallery Mall, and The Suburban train station connecting the mall that replaced the Reading Train Shed above Reading Terminal Market. He eliminated the decades old congestion through center city by finally having a highway, the Vine Street Expressway built through Center City. Some of his extended family was black. He encouraged Korean business owners to open shop at the Reading Terminal Market when it was on the verge of closing in the 70's early 80's. He supported integration within the police force and began patrols of black and white officers in predominantly black neighborhoods. Frank Rizzo also promised, and it was printed in the papers like an I.O.U., to give his administration balance, to make it truly representative of the ethnic and racial makeup of the city. He created P.A.L. to help kids have activities after school and during the summer. The list goes on and on of accomplishment at a time when many cities where unable to even meet their budget. The bottom lin is he represented strong leadership for the city, not for individual groups or causes. Strong leaders will always alienate those who oppose him. Lastly he never said vote white, however his opponent was saying vote black. He said vote your mind.
Rizzo was personally responsible for the promotion of several African-American officers during his tenure as commissioner. While he was deputy police commissioner, practices that kept African American officers from patrol cars were ended, a practice that Philadelphia’s first African-American police captain James Reaves had accused the department of keeping white only. It was during Rizzo’s tenure as deputy commissioner in which officers assigned to the city’s African American neighborhoods worked out of patrol cars in teams of one white and one black officer per car in an attempt to reduce friction between the citizens and police. As commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department, Rizzo had one of the largest percentages of African American officers among large U.S. police departments, with African Americans comprising 20% of the department’s officers in 1968, at a time when other police departments had little if any success in recruiting African-American officers. Rizzo was known for his loyalty to the department.

Gaetano says

Freedom of expression in the arts must be preserved. The individual has the right to accept or reject any work of art for himself or herself personally, but does not have the right to suppress those works of art to which he or she may object or those artists with whom he or she does not agree. Private groups and public leaders in various parts of the nation are attempting to remove certain artworks from public display, to censor exhibitions, to label particular works as “controversial”, and to identify some artworks and artists as “objectionable”. These actions arise from a view that censorship is needed in order to avoid the subversion of politics and the corruption of morals.

Moreover, it is not only artworks that are being subjected to efforts at suppression. These efforts are related to a larger pattern of pressure being brought against education, the press, film, and television. It is important to note that even when such efforts do not actually suppress particular types of expression, they cast a shadow of fear which leads to voluntary curtailment of expression by those who seek to avoid controversy. The arts cannot thrive in such a climate of fear.

Art educators should be deeply concerned over efforts at any kind of suppression of works of art. Freedom of expression is guaranteed by the Constitution. This freedom of expression includes both verbal expression—speech and writing; and non-verbal expression, which includes the “language” of the various arts.

Free communication is essential to the preservation of a free society and a creative culture. Now, as always in our history, artworks—literature, theatre, painting, sculpture, music, and dance, are among our most effective instruments of freedom. They are powerful means for making available ideas, feelings, social growth, the envisioning of new possibilities for humankind, solutions to problems, and the improvement of human life.

On the other hand, suppression of ideas and of artistic expression leads to conformity, the limiting of diversity of expression to a narrow range of “acceptable” forms, and the stifling of freedom.

Naomi Serviss says

While an indelible part of the city's legacy, Frank Rizzo sought to normalize institutional racism. This shameful part of Philadelphia's storied history should be studied as a cautionary tale, not celebrated. Kudos to Mural Arts for choosing not to glorify a mayor who excused and condoned police brutality.

Lorraine Lowery says

Dear Mural Arts:

I have been a citizen of Philadelphia for over 60 years. And while I love art, I have nevertheless had mixed feelings about your murals. I won’t go into my reasons for the basis of this opinion as that’s a dissertation of its own.
However, I am disgusted by your treatment of our city’s citizens for whom the Frank Rizzo mural did NOT cause grief, pain, etc., but rather felt it was a fitting tribute to an actual Philadelphian who spent his career serving and protecting this city. Perhaps in its place you would rather depict a few looters whose faces have been caught quite clearly by security footage as well as by many of our news outlets during their coverage of the mayhem over the past few days.
I understand the mural was on private property, but I’d have liked to have been a fly on the wall to witness Mural Arts arm-wringing tactics and veiled threats while discussing the mural’s future with its owner.
You, as a proponent of the arts, should stand up for ALL citizens of Philadelphia, stand up for free speech and artistic expression in all forms and for ALL people.
Your organization obviously has bought into the untruths, bigotry and false innuendo concerning Mr. Rizzo. At least a bomb that eventually killed children and wiped out numerous blocks was never dropped on his watch- and I guarantee would not have been done-Mr. Rizzo would have had more sense and compassion to do so.
Your organization has helped to smear the name of a -yes-“tough on crime and criminals” leader, but a truly good man.
As you have no doubt surmised I am a white Philadelphian. As I have driven and moved about Philadelphia, I have seen many murals. I would appreciate receiving information on how many black vs. white mural subjects exist.
Is there one of Connie Mack and Shibe Park that stood at 21st & Lehigh from 1909 to 1970? I recall being taken their as a child by my beloved Poppy who taught me a lifelong and nostalgic love of the game- but I digress-for a reason. Benjamin Franklin? Thomas Edison? The Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society whose members included Lucretia Mott? Leopoldo Stokowski? Eugene Ormandy?
Please forgive my ignorance if such murals exist as I have not, I’m sure, seen every mural created by your group.
My point is- if your organization has never chosen to honor any of these contributions to our city- shame on you.
Please- if you would be so kind- advise me if any of these groups have been memorialized
via a mural.

Lorraine Lowery

Barbara Hoekje says

You don't silence a conversation by painting over a reminder of a painful past; you simply drive that discussion underground. The City needs to find a way to engage with all its residents about the meaning of the Rizzo reign. There are many conversations that need to be held so that we can move forward in understanding each other. I hope that the creation of your new mural includes the opportunity to have these conversations with each other.

Mary Anne Ciasullo says

It is at this time that a true PHILLY HERO should be honored. A beautiful mural of RUFUS HARLEY should be painted. He is the one person in recent history of Phila that epitomizes BROTHERHOOD, RESPECT and LOVE for ALL. After the death of JFK he focused his entire musical career by learning the bag pipes to transmit to all in the U.S. and across the sea to importance of caring for your brothers and sisters. His costume had flags of many countries and he passed his legacy on to children in elementary schools as well as concert halls. He gave out Liberty Bells,played his bag pipes and SPOKE loud and clear to one and all. He is our forgotten hero who played and spoke his message to all $$$$ or not.His portrait in colorful kilts and bagpipes surrounded by old and young alike with a liberty bell and global symbols would inspire ALL . Please look at him, listen to him on interviews and to his music, he deserves the honor and respect of a true Philly Brotherhood Leader and Symbol of what our city represents. I have sent this message multiple times, never received an answer., but NOW IS THE TIME. TAKE it! DO IT. I understand the multiethnic community of South Phila. Rufus Harley symbolizes brotherhood and unity , All for One , ONE for ALL;, a theme for which he lived his life and a theme long forgotten as is Rufus Harley. Please respond.

Maria Farnese says

I am a 65 year old Italian American. I remember well the reign of Frank Rizzo when he was police commissioner and it is not a memory thaI hold with any fondness. So I was more than happy to see the removal of his mural but I also think it should be replaced by another illustrious italian who would represent the market amd it’s history. That person would be Antonio Polumbo.
Please read a little of the markets history and I think you will find that a mural of him is sorely overdue!
Thank you.

Russ Versaggi says

Hypocrites you took money to do the mural back then!!

James Wielander says

Taking away his statue will not erase his place in history or rectify the wrongs he may have committed in his lifetime.Removing our history,...piece by piece is not the answer and what will be left for future generations to reflect on after we are log dead? His monument needs to be placed in a less glorifying place with a plaque that describes what he stood for and believed in his era.Some of his racist and anti-gay actions were reprehensible; however,were part of the mindset and culture of his time,...that needs to be explained,not erased !"