Frank Rizzo mural vanishes -- for now

Agnes Viso and the Frank Rizzo mural in 2003. The mural was painted on the side of her home in 1995. Restoration work begun on April 5, 2010, was to repair the wall and redo the painting. (Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer)

Frank Rizzo had looked down Ninth Street for 15 years, peering from the side of Agnes Viso's house at the corner with Montrose Street. But today he's gone, covered over with gray stucco.

Rizzo fans need not despair. The scene with the former mayor and police chief is becoming redone because the wall  needed repairing.

Can't have the Big Bambino's nose falling off, can we?

“It was the wall, it was not the paint,” said Mural Arts director Jane Golden, who personally worked on the original in 1995, when the program was still the Anti-Grafitti Network. “There was no way to preserve just part of it.”

The stucco work, which started yesterday, will only take a few days, but the curing of it will take a month.

Then artist Diane Keller, who designed the original, will recreate it, good as new.

"Oh, yes, it will be exact," said Cathy Harris, director of community murals.

Councilman Frank Rizzo Jr. has led a nearly completed campaign to raise $15,000 for the project, Golden said.

The restoration project is just one of many way Mural Arts works to preserve its vast legacy, which has grown to include more than 1,700 outdoor paintings.

"We feel very strong we’ve turned Philadelphia into an outdoor museum, and we need to be very mindful of preserving the collection that we have," she said.