Mural Arts seeking public input on fate of Rizzo mural

Mural Arts Philadelphia is seeking public feedback on what should happen to a controversial mural of former Mayor Frank Rizzo now located in the heart of the Italian Market.

The organization first shared the form seeking “citywide input” on Thursday. Options include keeping the mural, altering it, replacing it, or complete removal.

The mural in South Philly and a statue of Rizzo outside the Municipal Services Building in Center City have been a subject of controversy since last summer, when a rally in Charlottesville, Va., over a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee turned violent and sparked a national conversation about monuments to historic figures.

 >>READ MORE: DA signals deal to drop most charges against activist who defaced Frank Rizzo statue

A spokesperson for Mural Arts said the poll is as an effort to “expand the opportunity for feedback” and noted that it has been meeting with churches, civic leaders and elected officials to decide the fate of the mural.

However, the decision isn’t completely up to Mural Arts. The depiction by artist Diane Keller was commissioned in 1995 in response to a community petition. It’s on the wall of a building whose owner — David Neukirch — wants nothing to do with the controversy. Mural Arts will need his permission before moving forward with any plan.

“I just bought the building,” Neukirch told the Inquirer in August. “I didn’t sign up for this.”

Cari Feiler Bender said the organization has been in touch with Neukirch’s attorney and will make a recommendation on the mural “by the end of April.”

Separate from the mural, the Kenney administration announced in November that the statue would be removed, but it did not say when or where. The city’s Art Commission would make the final call following feasibility studies.

The city also asked for suggestions on what should become of the statue back in September, receiving about 3,600 responses.

Mike Dunn, a spokesman for the city, said Friday that it doesn’t have word on when further plans will be announced.

Rizzo, a former police commissioner who served as mayor from 1972 until 1980, left a mixed legacy by reducing crime but worsening race relations in the city. His obituary in the New York Times is titled “Frank Rizzo of Philadelphia Dies at 70; A ‘Hero’ and ‘Villain.’

Philadelphia Mural Arts Advocates will be collecting submissions on the mural until March 28.