After months of negotiations, advocates ‘shocked’ to see mural of LGBTQ activist suddenly covered up … story by John McDevitt, KYW News Radio

After months of negotiations, advocates ‘shocked’ to see mural of LGBTQ activist suddenly covered up … story by John McDevitt, KYW News Radio

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — After a months-long effort to salvage the 2015 mural of the late Philadelphia Latinx LGBTQ activist Gloria Casarez, community advocates say they were surprised to learn it had been suddenly painted over.

The mural lies on a building in the Gayborhood on 12th Street, between Walnut and Locust streets. The building has been scheduled for demolition by New York-based Midwood Investment and Development.

However, after much criticism and outrage from the LGBTQ community, as well as Mural Arts Philadelphia, the company had agreed to communicate with community leaders about salvaging the mural.

Images of the mural being painted white circulated on Wednesday, and community leaders said they were not informed of this development.

In October, Midwood CEO John Usdan told KYW Newsradio that the building has to go.

“When we purchased the building, it was subject to an agreement with Mural Arts relocating the mural,” he said, “so there was an agreement in place giving us the right to do that.”

A joint statement from Mural Arts and Midwood — sent by Midwood on Wednesday — said both groups agreed to work with the original artist to create a “new and more expansive art installation … that continues to honor LGBTQ activist Gloria Casarez.” Rock Star Entrepreneurs Answer Big Questions in New Webinars Looking to scale your business? CEO Beatrice Dixon of The Honey Pot talks growth in a video by Inc. and Capital One. Ad by Capital One See More

It continued: “Midwood has agreed to contribute the full cost of the new art installation and work closely with the community in order to shine a light on these important chapters in Philadelphia’s history.”

However, in Mural Arts’ own separate statement, the organization said it was “shocked” to learn Casarez’s mural was painted over.

Gloria Casarez mural

The 2015 mural of the late Philadelphia Latinx LGBTQ activist Gloria Casarez in the Gayborhood was unexpectedly painted over on Dec. 23, 2020, advocates say. Photo credit John McDevitt/KYW Newsradio

“Casarez was a beacon of hope and possibility for the LGBTQ and Latinx community and with the loss of this iconic mural, we mourn the loss of Gloria all over again.

“When we first learned the building would be redeveloped, we invested months negotiating a letter of intent with Midwood to create a new tribute to the legacy of Gloria Casarez and Henry Minton, a leading Black abolitionist who once resided at that location. After this unexpected development, we cannot in good conscience move forward. We support artist Michelle Ortiz’s decision to step away from the project and share the community’s devastation.”

Casarez was Philadelphia’s first director of LGBT affairs. She died of breast cancer at the age of 42 in October 2014.

Casarez’s wife, Tricia Dressel, was appalled.

“It’s just a complete shock to the system,” she said. “I’ve been hearing people walking down the street saying, ‘What just happened? Where is it? It just disappeared.’ And to take white paint and literally paint over the faces and the lives of a mural that celebrates Black, indigenous, Latino, people of color — it’s absolutely appalling.”

Workers on-site refused to comment.

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