Mural restoration shows what can happen when development meets community tradition, cooperation

Cherri Gregg
July 24, 2019 - 3:18 pm
The anti-violence mural that struck community controversy a year ago when a developer mistakenly destroyed it has been officially restored and was dedicated Wednesday.

Cherri Gregg/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The anti-violence mural that struck community controversy a year ago when a developer mistakenly destroyed it has been officially restored and was dedicated Wednesday. 

The original mural at 20th and Fernon streets was painted in 1989 as a memorial to more than 40 young people from the South Philadelphia community who lost their lives to violence. 

"Behind every name there is a story, a human being," said Tracey Anderson, who has lived in area of the mural for 58 years.

 

She said she knew some of the youth who died years ago and was outraged when the mural was damaged last August as a developer rehabbed the attached home. 

"When the mural went down, I felt like they had been taking a piece of our community," she said.

Related: Memorial mural destroyed by developers in South Philly being replaced

The incident blew up on social media, and Councilman Kenyatta Johnson stepped in, leading the effort to get the mural restored.  

"Congratulations," Johnson told the crowd Wednesday, giving kudos to the many individuals who came together to make this work. "We know the neighborhood is changing...we welcome change. A diverse community is a strong community, but as a lifelong resident we like to keep some of our traditions and this is one of our traditions."

Cherri Gregg/KYW Newsradio

"I feel sort of a sense of hopefulness because this took a village to create," said Jane Golden, who runs Mural Arts of Philadelphia.  

She painted the original mural during her work with the Anti-Graffiti Network under former Mayor Wilson Goode. 

Mural Arts brought in Felix St. Fort to design the new mural with input from the community. It has a new design but includes the names of the original mural.

"We thought it was the right thing to do," said Steve Brown, a developer with Urban Living. 

He said damage to the mural was a mistake and was caused by structural issues with the attached home. But he donated $8,000 to the restoration effort. 

"It was our responsibility to make good on it," he said. "It was an important part of the community and the history of the community."

Anna Barker lives in the home where the new mural exists. She says it's win-win situation.

"I think it's just been a huge asset to the community," said Barker. "When I heard about it, I knew it was just the right thing to do."

The three-story mural is across from the Ralph Brook Tot Lot, which was built by the Make the World Better Foundation, founded by Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin.