Kenney: Rizzo Statue is Art Commission’s Choice

The mayor still hasn't taken a position himself on whether it should come down.

One day after protesters demanded that the city bring bronze Frank Rizzo down from the perch where he’s stood since 1998, Mayor Kenney said he’ll let the Philadelphia Art Commission decide this latest great debate.

Kenney told the Inquirer on Tuesday that he hopes to announce “a possible starting point for discussion” about relocating the statue of the divisive longtime mayor from Municipal Service Building Plaza by next week. “It has to be a request to the Art Commission for them to conduct a hearing about the pros and cons of the piece,” Kenney said.

The city’s policy for removing public works of art is as follows:

  1. Proposals for removal shall be initiated by the Public Art Director, after assessment by the Public Art Division of the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, or any successor agency, of the condition and status of the artwork and evaluation of the artwork in relation to the above grounds for removal. The proposal shall include a determination of whether the Artwork should be relocated, stored, loaned or deaccessioned.
  2. The Public Art Division shall notify in writing the artist, if living, or one or more members of the family of the artist, if known and readily contacted, of the reason for removal and shall provide the artist or family member(s) with 30 days to respond to the proposal.
  3. In the case of a proposal to remove a work of art due to public protest, a public hearing will be held prior to further action on the proposal.
  4. After the period of notice, and after any adjustment made to the proposal based on input received, the Public Art Division shall present the proposal to the Department of Parks and Recreation, in the case of artwork in the custody of that Department, or to the Department of Public Property, in the case of artwork in the custody of that Department, for the respective department’s approval.
  5. Upon approval by the relevant department, the Public Art Division shall present the proposal to the City’s Art Commission for approval.
  6. If the approved proposal is to deaccession the work of art, the Public Art Division shall, in conjunction with the Procurement Department and pursuant to subsections 6-500(d) and 8- 203 of the Home Rule Charter, provide the necessary public notice of the intent to dispose of the artwork by sale or otherwise and receive bids in connection with such proposed disposal.
  7. If the approved proposal includes disposal by means other than sale or trade, and the decision is made that such alternative disposal is in the best interests of the City, the Public Art Division shall provide notice to the artist and offer the artist a reasonable opportunity to recover the artwork pursuant to any agreement with the artist or pursuant to reasonable terms determined by the Public Art Director.

Kenney said his staff is drafting a request to begin the process and he predicts several hearings will be held before a final decision is made. The mayor believes this is the first time that the Art Commission has been asked to consider removing a piece.

“This is not something that I want to ordain or want to make an independent judgment on,” Kenney said. “Not everybody will be happy, but everybody will be heard.”

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