Client: Philadelphia Public Art
Location: Philadelphia , PA, United States
Completion date: 2021
Creative Design and Project Manager
Public Art Services
For the new Philadelphia Public Safety Building, located in the historic Art Deco tower that was once the home of the Philadelphia Inquirer Newspaper, artist Donald Lipski created an enlarged badge studded with 1,400 actual badges representing all of the ranks. The sculpture can be viewed by visitors in the building’s lobby and pedestrians and motorists outside on Broad Street, the city’s main north-south thoroughfare. Lipski’s original design for the suspended sculpture was completed in 2019. In response to the events of 2020 Lipski set about transforming his initial design to reflect what the badge should ideally stand for.
In Lipski’s words, “I had presented the badge as a ‘shield’, a source of protection. But I was soon reminded that for large groups of Philadelphians the badge is instead a symbol of oppression and fear. I set about trying—by a symbolic re-design—to change that.”
The stated purpose of a Police Officer’s badge is, “…a symbolic emblem given by The People as a show of Public Trust. It represents Honor, Integrity, Truth and Justice. It’s a symbol of Service to the Community.”
Lipski began redesigning the work so this massive shield could serve as a reminder of the lofty ideals that the badge represents. With optimism for a more ideal future, Lipski transformed his original design into one that dramatically and clearly represents what we all agree the police should aspire to; something that all of Philadelphia’s communities can look at and feel respected, included, valued, and recognized.
The central image of the badge is the seal of the City. It is flanked by two mythical ideals, Peace and Plenty. Lipski’s final design gives Peace and Plenty the faces of two extraordinary, historically significant, Philadelphia women, Lucretia Mott and Francis Ellen Watkins-Harper. Lipski made several other changes to make the sculpture an anti-racist emblem that shows the artist’s optimism for a more ideal future. All of the changes have been accepted by Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, rank-and-file police officers, and the Philadelphia Arts Commission.
Philadelphia-based, master realist sculptor Christopher Collins has modeled the seal, basing it on the beautiful seal at the Municipal Services Building made in the 1960s by artist Dexter-Jones.