When we hear the name ‘magic garden’, it sounds like a magical world straight out of a child’s imagination full of magical objects where you have a wand in your hand, animals can talk, one can fly and you can eat as much ice-cream as you want. Well the real-world magic garden may not be anything like that. You heard it right, there is a magic garden in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It’s a whole other world full of media art and completely covered with mosaics. The magic garden is a testimony that art can change a whole lot of thing and art can be a movement.
The artist behind all these beautiful artworks is Isaiah Zagar. He used different materials such as glass, handmade tiles, mirror, bicycle wheels to create beautiful folk-art pieces. Zagar was born in Philadelphia and brought up in Brooklyn, New York. He finished his BA in Painting and Graphics at the Pratt Institute of Art in New York. He was in love with the work of Clarence Schmidt in Woodstock, New York.
The south street corridor of Philadelphia was planned for demolition in order to make way for an expressway. Artist Isaiah Zagar came into rescue. After moving to the area with his Julia, since the late 1960s Zagar dedicated himself to beautify the south street neighborhood. He began building mirror and mosaic murals along any wall and alleyway near the south street neighborhood. He along with his wife started the process of beautification by renovating run down areas and turning into a piece of art. They used colorful mosaics on both public and private walls. Other artists joined them in their movement and together they transformed a derelict neighborhood to a place full of art, color and beauty. Their protest was successful, and, in this way, an artistic approach saved south street from being demolished. Their artistic approach or this movement is known as “South Street Renaissance”. After that, Zagar continued his work and created hundreds of public artworks, mosaic murals over the five decades.
Around 1991, Zagar began working on the vacant lots located near the current magic garden location at South street. He started his work by mosaicking the buildings on either side of property and then sculpting multi-layer walls made using found objects. The weird thing was he did not even own that lot. In 2004 the actual owner, who lived in Boston, came to know about Zagar’s installation and decided to sell the land, which meant all the artworks had to be destroyed or dismantled. But the community came into rescue and support the artist. The installation place was given a new name “Philadelphia’s Magic Garden” and incorporated as a non-profit organization. In this way, they were able to save the artwork and the south street from destruction. Though the artworks were originally created by the artist Isaiah Zagar, today Magic Garden is a nonprofit art environment and runs by its own staff and Board of Directors. Magic garden not only displays Zagar’s artwork, but also supports the work of various artist and talents around the world. They support the value of art movement, originality of the artwork and influence on the community associated with. Zagar may have started from a point of view to save a street, neighborhood from being destruction. His movement joined by other artist not only changed the whole scenario, but also gave the community a bigger purpose.
In 2008, this Magic Garden was opened to the public. The garden is divided into two segments, indoor part consists of two indoor galleries and a bi-level outdoor sculpture garden. As an enthusiast of art, we both love to explore this type of places which is basically a signature of the artist. When we visited the place, honestly, I did not expect this much crowd. And this place was full of people. In fact, there were a lot of kids enjoying the place and most of them had a thousand questions about it. I felt really happy to see so many enthusiastic faces enjoying the artworks. The visitors of the Magic Garden can participate in tours, different art activities, workshops, exhibitions, and different hands on interpretive experiences.
If you love and enjoy art, this place is for you. It’s like a whole another world inside. I really loved how the artist incorporated different things in his sculpture and each and every piece of artwork is different and unique. It’s like you are walking in a world of painting made out of mosaics. This place is a evidence of creative aspects, urban revitalization and a bit of artistic madness. Overall, if you want to experience something really amazing full of ‘art’ vibe, you should visit Philadelphia’s Magic Garden.
At a glance/Fact
- Location: 1020 South St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
- Days & Hours: Wednesday -Monday (Tuesday closed), 11:00 am to 6:00 pm
- Ticket (General Admission): 15 usd per adult. To get the ticket online use the following link:
- Philadelphia's Magic Gardens (blackbaudhosting.com)
- To get the information of guided tour and different public events visit the Magic Garden website.