Philadelphia's Magic Gardens

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Part of Zagar's Magic Garden.

Philadelphia's Magic Gardens is a non-profit organization, folk art environment, and gallery space on South Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. To date, it is the largest work created by mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar. The Magic Gardens spans three city lots, and includes indoor galleries and a large outdoor labyrinth. The mosaics are made up of everything from kitchen tiles to bike wheels, Latin-American art to china plates.[1] The space is open for public view, from 11:00-5:00 Sunday-Thursday and 11:00-6:00 Friday-Saturday from November through March, and 11:00-6:00 Sunday-Thursday and 11:00-8:00 Friday-Saturday from April through October.[2]

History[edit]

Isaiah and his wife Julia moved to South Street over forty years ago, when the area was being slated for demolition by the city in order to create highway 676, which would link I-76 and I-95. Due to this proposed construction, the area was desolate and dangerous. The Zagars were one of the first people to come to this area and begin to turn its image around. They opened the Eyes Gallery on 402 South Street in 1968, which was the first property that Isaiah would mosaic. Here they still showcase and sell the art of Latin-American artists.[3]

After the Eyes Gallery, the Zagars went on to purchase and rent out several other buildings, and Isaiah would go on to create several other mosaiced spaces and public murals. He bought the building that currently houses Philadelphia's Magic Gardens in 1994. He fenced off the two vacant lots next door in order to keep out garbage and vermin, and over the next fourteen years began creating the Magic Gardens. In 2002 the landowner of the two vacant lots wanted to sell the land due to rising property values on South Street. Together with members of the community, Isaiah was able to purchase the lots. With this purchase "Philadelphia's Magic Gardens" was born, and is currently dedicated to preserving Isaiah's works and teaching the public about mosaic and folk art.[4]

Present day[edit]

Philadelphia's Magic Gardens was considered complete in 2008, fourteen years after Isaiah began work on the location. It is a total of 3,000 square feet (280 m2) of mosaiced space. The interior gallery space hosts artists from all over and exhibits artwork that has ties to Isaiah in some way - whether ceramics, mosaics, or "outside" art. Philadelphia's Magic Gardens also has educational programming, performances, tours, and mosaic workshops, all of which are open to the public. Isaiah continues to create mosaic murals on the streets of Philadelphia, many of which can be seen in or around the South Street area. [5]

Detail of Philadelphia's Magic Gardens

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Coordinates: 39°56′34″N 75°09′34″W / 39.942831°N 75.159324°W / 39.942831; -75.159324