Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens: The Birthplace of South Street’s International Folk Mosaics

Diana Dopheide

About Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens commemorates the beauty of mosaics for the Philadelphia community to explore with pieces stemming from creator Isaiah Zagar’s exposure to international folk art with handcrafted tiles, bottles, bike wheels and mirrors.

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Philadelphia's Magic Gardens

History of Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

Since the 1960s, Zagar and his wife, Julia, have been the artists behind the mosaics on abandoned buildings on South Street in Philadelphia. Zagar, along with other artists, later continued their artwork on other buildings throughout South Philadelphia, and protested against proposed highway construction that would have demolished South Street. Once the construction plans were called off, Zagar and his crew of artists resumed their artwork, creating several hundred pieces over 50 years in what is now known as the “South Street Renaissance.”

By 1991, Zagar began producing art in the abandoned lots adjacent to his studio on 1020 South Street starting with the sides of the buildings, eventually progressing to sculpting multi-faceted walls composed of objects. By 2004, the lot owner elected to sell the property and demolish Zagar’s work.

As a result, the Philadelphia community aided Zagar's efforts to keep the property and his artwork in tact; subsequently Philadelphia's Magic Gardens was created with a mission of conserving the artwork on-site and throughout the rest of South Street. Four years later in 2008, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens was opened to the community to explore and interact with the mosaics.

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Philadelphia's Magic Gardens

Events

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens offers a variety of events. Upcoming events include the PECO Family Jams, Garden Party, Crafter Hours as well as online programs.

PECO Family Jams explores Mexican folk art. Attendees will be able to create their own designs with materials provided with admission on a first come first serve basis. This is a family-friendly event and occurs the second Sunday of each month from noon to 4 p.m. For more information and to register, visit their website.

At the Garden Party, while creating art, guests have the option to enjoy alcoholic beverages from Chadds Ford Winery, Hochstadter’s Slow & Low Whiskey and Yards Brewing Company, included with the admission price. The upcoming Garden Party is on Wednesday, September 1, 2021 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., and is the first of only two Garden Party programs happening this year. For more information, visit their website.

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Philadelphia's Magic Gardens

The upcoming Crafter Hours event will take place on Thursday, September 9th, 2021 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Guests are welcome to bring friends and family and their own food and beverages. Each guest will be given kits to make their own mosaic medallions and bottle caps. For more information and to register, visit their website.

For Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens' online programs, participants can choose to learn about the Gardens’ history, founding artist Zagar as well as international art pieces. These seminars can be done from anywhere. For an additional cost, attendees can purchase at-home kits. For more information, visit their website.

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Philadelphia's Magic Gardens

Tours

Morning Magic Tours

On Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings beginning at 10 a.m., Philadelphia's Magic Gardens offers 40 minute tours with the option to explore the rest of the Gardens on a self-guided tour for up to 20 minutes. For more information and to reserve a slot, visit their website.

Neighborhood Walking Tours

On Thursday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons beginning at noon, guests will tour the neighbourhood guided by a staff member for 75 minutes to explore the history and inspiration behind Zagar’s artwork across South Philadelphia. For more information and to reserve a slot, visit their website.

School Tours

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens offers tour packages for students from Pre-K to higher education to explore the gardens with hands-on activities and learning opportunities. Visit their website to learn more.

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Philadelphia's Magic Gardens

Touch Tours for Visually Impaired People

For people with visual impairments, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens offers an individualized tour with instructed touch and verbal explanations led by the staff. Visit their website to learn more.

Adult Discovery Tour and Activity

Exclusively for adults and higher education students, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens offers specialized tours that explore the Gardens’ history with the option to create mosaics and go on a scavenger hunt. Visit their website to learn more.

Self-Guided Groups

For those looking to explore the Gardens on their own, guests can go on a self-guided tour. Groups must reserve in advance. Visit their website to learn more.

Private Tours

Guests are also able to reserve private tours with Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays with a minimum of seven people per group. Advance registrations placed up to two weeks in advance are required. Learn more here.

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Philadelphia's Magic Gardens

Support

In order to preserve Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, the non-profit relies on donations from members of the community to help preserve the art. The contributions help support Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens with acquiring new materials and funding projects. To make a donation, visit their website here.

Membership

To become a member and gain free admission to events, visit their website.

Getting to the Gardens

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens is located at 1020 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147, between 10th and 11th Streets on South Street.

Public transportation provided by SEPTA is an option to get to Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. Check SEPTA’s website for the most up-to-date schedules and maps.

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens has partnered with Lyft to offer guests a free ride to the Gardens. When requesting a ride, enter the code MAGICGARDENS when prompted to ride for free.

Hours

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens is open Wednesday through Monday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Eve. The Gardens are open on New Year’s Day from noon to 6 p.m.

Parking

Metered and two-hour parking in the immediate vicinity is available along South and Bainbridge Streets, and along numbered streets. Free untimed parking is available on streets farther south.

Several parking garages are located nearby. The closest garage is at 11th and South Streets.

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Diana Dopheide is a communications graduate from Penn State University. She is an aspiring journalist who loves to write and takes great pleasure in being able to share interesting stories with the local community. Her features include outdoor activities, community and lifestyle news in Greater Philadelphia.

Philadelphia, PA
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