Members of the LGBTQ community in Philadelphia are outraged after a mural painted as a tribute to a beloved activist was painted over on Wednesday — without any warnings.
Gloria Casarez, Philadelphia’s first director of LGBT affairs, died on Oct. 19, 2014 after a five-year battle with breast cancer. She was 42.
In honor of her legacy, artist Michelle Angela Ortiz created a mural with more than 50 of Casarez’s friends and family “as a symbol of Gloria’s experiences reverberating out into the community where she worked,” she said in a statement. https://6abc.com/video/embed/?pid=9018745
The work — “A Tribute to Gloria Casarez” — was painted on the side of a building in Philadelphia’s famous Gayborhood and completed on Oct. 11, 2015.
The building has been sold and it’s slated to be demolished. On Wednesday, without any warning to the community, workers painted over the mural.
It is “really disrespectful,” resident Timothy Pepper told CBSN Philly.
“It means a lot to the people in the community,” he added. “I don’t understand why the builders and the people tearing it down didn’t consult the community more.”
The artwork was a project of Mural Arts Philadelphia, the nation’s largest public art program, “dedicated to the belief that art ignites change.” It was sponsored by the City of Philadelphia Mayor’s Fund.
“We are shocked to hear that ‘A Tribute to Gloria Casarez’ has been painted out today. 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,” Mural Arts tweeted on Wednesday.
“We are consumed with deep sadness shared by Gloria’s family, the community, and the artist,” the organization added.
A spokesperson to Mural Arts, Cari Feiler Bender, called the incident a “shocking and sad day.”
In 1999, Out Magazine named Casarez one of the “100 Most Influential Leaders of the New Millennium.”
Throughout her short life, she was also recognized for her social and justice activism by the NAACP, the Philadelphia Bar Association, Philly Pride, among several other organizations.
In the mural, “the circle surrounding Gloria’s portrait was inspired by Pima Mexican pottery from Chihuahua, Mexico where Gloria’s ancestors are from,” artist Ortiz explained in a statement. “Around the circle is one of Gloria’s quotes: ‘engage, find voice, expand your community.’”
On Wednesday, Ortiz projected the image of the mural onto the painted wall adding a banner that reads, “You can’t erase history.”
“Even though this mural has been whitewashed her history is not gone,” Ortiz told WPVI-TV.