The City of Philadelphia and the Mural Arts Program will honor the former LGBT Affairs director Gloria Casarez with a mural later this year. Several people in the LGBTQA community, including PCHR executive director Rue Landau, William Way LGBT Community Center executive director Chris Bartlett and Casarez’s personal friends Louis Ortiz and Beth Larin, are working out the details this spring. A site has not been selected yet, but a few locations in the Gayborhood and Bella Vista are under consideration.
Mayor Nutter announced the mural plans April 22 during the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations’ PCHR Awards. The unscripted announcement was a surprise to friends and family members, most of whom had not known about the mural proposal.
Landau told PGN that the idea has been in the works since the beginning of the year. “We had considered trying to dedicate the mural in July, coinciding with the 50th-anniversary celebration,” she said, “but the time frame was just too short.”
Plans now are for the mural to be completed in time to dedicate it in October, coinciding with LGBT History Month, National Coming Out Day the one-year anniversary of Casarez’s passing, and with the annual raising of the rainbow flag at City Hall, a celebration that was championed by Casarez.
Casarez’s wife, Tricia Dressel, said the idea is “awesome” and that she looks forward to the start of the project this summer.
“I am so grateful to Mayor Nutter, Everett Gillison and Jane Golden for making this project happen,” Dressel said. “It’s our hope that this mural will serve as a place for friends and colleagues to celebrate Gloria’s life and legacy, and also a point of inspiration for community members and especially young people.”
Dressel said the artist selected for the mural, Michelle Angela Ortiz, was one of Casarez’s favorites and that Gloria took photos of Ortiz’s mural on Sixth Street. only weeks before she died. That mural, “Aqui y Alla,” is located at 1515 S. Sixth St.
Over $30,000 has been raised for the mural so far. How much is ultimately needed won’t be known until the site is determined. Landau said about the project: “This is exciting. This is a wonderful way to blend LGBT and civil rights in one place. It will be a great legacy.”