A piece of the “Independent Starts Here” mural collapsed in Center City Monday morning.
Attached to a wall on a Hahnemann University Hospital building at Broad and Race Streets, the 12,500 foot mural began shaking against gusts of intense winds coming from the day's nor'easter. NBC 10 reports that the loosened portions of the wall finally collapsed under the storm's strain at around 10:30 a.m., damaging two cars parked below. No one was hurt, and Philadelphia Police have since blocked off the region to clean debris and prevent anymore of the mural from being destroyed.
The "Independence Starts Here" mural depicts persons with disabilities from various ethnic backgrounds alongside sign language, in honor of the city's diverse disability community. Philadelphia Mural Arts says it commissioned artist Donald Gensler to create the mural in 2006, who then finished the project in 2008 with help from different art and disability advocacy groups. It reportedly cost $75,000.
In a statement to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Mural Arts founder Jane Golden admitted that the collapse left her in disbelief.
"It's shocking. I've never seen anything like it — never," Golden told the Inquirer. "We've done so many projects over the years and I have never seen anything like it — a chuck of wall falling down."
Philadelphia Mural Arts released an official statement to NBC10 that further explained just how unprecedented the collapse was. The organization noted that in a more than 25-year-old history of using parachute cloth, the material with which "Independence Starts Here" was made, there hasn't been a recorded accident at any of the city's thousands of murals.
"Of the over 2,000 murals created by Mural Arts using [the parachute cloth] method, this is the first time that pieces have ever fallen off the wall to which it was adhered. [And] the first mural using parachute cloth was created in Philadelphia in 1989," Philadelphia Mural Arts stated.
It's currently unclear whether "Independence Starts Here" will need to only be repaired or replaced entirely. Nevertheless, Golden expressed her resolve to continue to have a mural honoring Philadelphia's disability community.
"If it means the mural has to come down, we hope to recreate another with the same theme," Golden said.
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