A Letter from Emily Smith, director at Philadelphia's Magic Gardens
I'm assuming most of you know by now that we lost our bid to historically designate the Painted Bride. There was over three hours of very passionate testimony from both sides and the vote was dramatic: a 5-5 vote then 5-4 for the re-vote. It was a long and shocking afternoon, extra thanks to those of you that attended the meeting. It was intense. I needed a few days of space before reaching back out to all of you. Here's a link to the WHYY coverage: https://whyy.org/segments/painted-bride-denied-historic-status-removing-roadblock-to-iconic-buildings-sale/
What is frustrating about the outcome is that almost everyone in the room (even the Bride) seemed to agree with the historic criteria and that the building is an icon. Though hardship should have been dismissed for a second meeting, the final call was based on the Bride's argument that designation would stifle their ability to move forward unencumbered.
It was a disappointing day and if the building is demolished, I do believe in just a few years the city will be deeply regretting this decision.
When I woke up on Saturday, I felt so proud of us. I know there was nothing we could have done differently: we were thoughtful, articulate, organized, and full of integrity. Fighting for art and for strange spaces will always be an uphill battle. Every single person on this email took time from their busy schedules to voice their opinion. Our communities will never understand what these places mean to us unless we continue to push back. Even facing loss, it is so important to try.
So thank you. Reading your letters of support, getting fired up during phone conversations, the handshakes of respect after we lost- those were invaluable moments. I hope that you will continue to talk about the building and tell this story. Maybe next time it can be different for someone else.
In terms of next steps, there are not many options. We will not be appealing or suing, it doesn't make sense in this situation. I think it is time to focus our efforts on encouraging the Bride to find a sympathetic buyer. I'd love any suggestions you may have in terms of rallying the community to petition the Bride in this way.
Warm hugs from the Gardens,
Read previous blog posts on SPACES about the Painted Bride: