Philly building collapse victim Anne Bryan remembered as gifted artist

 Family and friends are joined by city officials at Sunday night's memorial for building-collapse victim Anne Bryan. (Elizabeth Fiedler/WHYY)

Family and friends are joined by city officials at Sunday night's memorial for building-collapse victim Anne Bryan. (Elizabeth Fiedler/WHYY)

Relatives and friends of Anne Bryan gathered Sunday for a memorial service at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.  The 24-year-old art student was one of six people killed Wednesday in the Center City building collapse.

Anne Bryan was a kind, inquisitive and brave person, her friends and teachers say.  The PAFA student was killed when a four-story building under demolition fell onto a Salvation Army thrift store, where Bryan was shopping with her best friend, Mary Simpson, who also died. Speaking in front of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts building on Broad Street before the service, Painting Department Chair Al Gury called Anne a funny, intelligent, vivacious, outgoing person who loved painting.

“She, this weekend from what I understand, had planned to go out landscape painting with classmates,” he said. “And she just loved painting and loved drawing and this is why she came to PAFA – she felt she’d found her place, her niche, and was so excited to be here.” Gury said the tragedy seems to him to be the result of a lack of oversight. 

“Such things in a city can be prevented,” he said.  “Of course I have no knowledge of how these things work but it just seems like that this kind of thing could have, should have been prevented for all those victims, for all those people involved.”  

Gury and others said they were simply shocked by what happened. 

Peter Van Dyck, an assistant professor at PAFA, said Bryan was a promising artist:

  “I did teach her for the entire year this past year in two classes.  She was a wonderful student: very serious, a little bit skeptical in a good way and just had a really unique quality of character.”

Student Sara Pottenger said the packed memorial service held in the rotunda of PAFA was a fitting tribute to Anne. 

“She loved poetry, she loved the arts and everything,” Pottenger said, “and they really showcased that tonight in just the music and the words spoken about her.” 

David R. Brigham, president and CEO of PAFA, gave opening remarks, followed by remembrances of Bryan by family and friends.  The service ended with the Prayer of St. Francis.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter attended.  Managing Director Rich Negrin, chief of staff Everett Gillison and Carlton Williams, head of the Department of Licenses and Inspections, all represented the city as well.

In connection with the building collapse, a heavy equipment operator who was working on the building next to the thrift shop is being charged with six counts of involuntary manslaughter, and other charges.   In response to the fatal incident, the city is inspecting hundreds of demolition sites and  Nutter has proposed new demolition standards. 

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