Suicide Prevention Mural Unveiling
September 10, 2020 @ 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
On World Suicide Prevention Day (Sept. 10) a vibrant, hopeful, and interactive mural will be unveiled in West Philadelphia by Malcolm X Park at 434 S. 52nd St. The artwork will depict Herbie, the Love Bug—a universal symbol of dogged persistence in spite of great adversity— barreling out of a dark tunnel toward a hopeful future with the motivational phrase, “KEEP GOING,” above him.
The mural was designed and painted by @Hagopian Arts, an independent, female-owned and -operated public art initiative based out of West Philadelphia. Founded in 2015 by Kala Hagopian, Hagopian Arts murals often feature stunning realism, bright patterns, and luminous imagery inspired by nature. After building a substantial portfolio of murals, Hagopian Arts began the Eco Mural Project in West Philly in 2018.
In the summer of 2019, Kala Hagopian (founder and lead artist) and Olivia Losee-Unger (lead assistant) teamed up with suicide awareness advocate Gabriel Nathan, who spearheaded the project and raised the necessary funds. Over the past year, they have collaborated to bring the vision of a spectacular mural that brings suicide awareness to fruition.
Nathan, who owns his own Herbie replica emblazoned with the National Prevention number on its rear window, has made suicide awareness and prevention his life’s mission. “We are losing over 47,000 Americans every year to suicide,” he says, “and we need to make it okay to talk about it, or it just going to continue getting worse.” Nathan regularly posts suicide awareness content with his Herbie on his Instagram, @lovebugtrumpshate, and got the idea for a mural when one of his followers suggested it. “It’s basically the same approach as what I do daily with the car: put it in front of people and, if they need to see it, it’s there for them.”
The mural has a unique interactive feature: a high visibility QR code on the mural will take individuals directly to either the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or the Crisis Text Line’s website, where they can access help immediately. “Putting help in people’s hands is an integral part of the mural,” says Nathan, “lots of people are struggling and still don’t know where they can turn, and that’s a shame.”
The mural was crowd-funded on Kickstarter, with thousands of dollars raised by suicide loss survivors, attempt survivors, and friends and supporters of Hagopian Arts and Nathan’s work. Some large donations came from NAMI-Bucks County, Brooke Glen Behavioral Hospital in Fort Washington, Dr. Frank Campbell, the Chair of the National Suicidology Training Center in New Orleans, and the Ivywood Fund.
The unveiling ceremony will take place at 434 S. 52nd at 5 pm. Sept. 10, World Suicide Prevention Day. Gabriel Nathan and his Herbie replica will be present for photos, along with the artists of Hagopian Arts, donors, mental health and suicide awareness advocates, and representatives of Spak Realty Group, who owns the property, and Park Pizza. Masks are required and social distancing protocols will be followed.