PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The mural of LGBTQ activist Gloria Casarez was a fixture in Philadelphia’s famous Gayborhood. Tonight, the community is saddened after it was painted over Wednesday without a warning.
For more than five years, a mural honoring Gloria Casarez, a Philadelphia LGBTQ leader, has been proudly been displayed on what was the 12th Street Gym — that is until Wednesday afternoon.
That’s when workers painted over the mural on the building, which has been bought and slated to be demolished.
“Really disrespectful,” Timothy Pepper said. “It means a lot to the people in the community. I live in the neighborhood. I live right here across the street. I see it from my apartment. I don’t understand why the builders and the people tearing it down didn’t consult the community more.”
Casarez was the city’s first director of LGBTQ Affairs. She died in 2014 from breast cancer. The mural, created by artist Michelle Angela Ortiz, dedicated the next year in the heart of the Gayborhood.
In October, dozens in the community came together demanding the mural stay on 12th Street, and it appeared an agreement was reached, but that now seems to have changed.
In a statement, Mural Arts spokesperson Cari Feiler Bender writes, in part, “We are consumed with deep sadness shared by Gloria’s family, the community and the artist. After this unexpected development, we cannot in good conscious move forward.”
“We support Michelle Angela Ortiz’s decision to step away from the project and share the community’s devastation,” Feiler Bender said.
Now with this mural gone, Feiler Bender says it’s unclear how Casarez will be honored in the future.
“It was sort of a permanent, we hoped, recognition of her contributions to the community,” Feiler Bender said. “There is a lot of sadness because Gloria, as I said, was loved and is iconic and it’s a sad day.”
Eyewitness News reached out to the owners of this building, Midwood Investment and Developments out of New York City.
A spokesperson there says they plan to fully honor their agreement with the city’s Mural Arts Program and that this building has been slated for demolition for weeks.
Eyewitness News was also told the painting of the mural is a precursor to that demolition.
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