Thanks to roughly three decades of work from Mural Arts, Philadelphia possesses an embarrassment of riches in terms of public visual art. We’re no fans of vacant lots or surface parking lots, but when they’re adorned by a mural, we tend to find them much more acceptable (it’s just when people argue against development in favor of keeping a mural that we get aggravated). Such is the case with the surface parking lot at the northwest corner of Broad & Race, which probably gets most of its use from the Convention Center across the street and Hahnemann University Hospital next door. The wall to the north of the parking lot measures roughly 12K sqft and constitutes one of the walls of Hahnemann’s Feinstein building. Between 2006 and 2008, artist Donald Gensler held workshops to paint the Independence Starts Here mural.

Screen Shot 2017-08-21 At 8.44.45 AM
The view from last year
Clearer image of the mural

According to the artist’s website, the mural displayed images of various Philadelphians with disabilities that had a presence in their respective communities at the time of the mural’s creation. Working with the School for the Deaf, Gensler spelled out the word “independence” in ASL in another section of the mural. We cannot think of another mural in Philadelphia so dedicated to the disabled, and have to think that it was an enormous source of pride for that community.

You’ll notice though, we’re referring to the mural in the past tense. That’s because it no longer exists.

FullSizeRender (3)
Current view

Back in January, heavy winds blew a large section of the mural off the wall and onto two cars in the parking lot. Like roughly 2,000 murals in Philadelphia, this mural was painted on a material called parachute cloth, but this was the first time that this material experienced a failure like this. Over the last several months, we’ve noticed that Hahnemann was repairing their wall, and it was only when we passed by last week that we noticed a clean wall with no mural on it, probably not made out of parachute clote. We wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a new mural appearing here, but given what happened in January we wouldn’t be surprised if the hospital insisted on keeping the wall blank moving forward. It would certainly be a shame, to permanently lose such a beautiful and meaningful mural. As bad as a surface parking lot is in a vacuum, having a giant blank wall next to it makes it even worse. Here’s to hoping that Hahnemann either restores the old mural or works with Mural Arts to come up with something new.