Philadelphia's Magic Gardens is, well, magic. It beckons you from the outside - mosaic work spills out onto the streets surrounding it, mirrored pieces catching the sun, urging you on.
By the time you reach the gates, it's like you're walking in of your own volition.
And when you get in, wherever you are, it's like standing inside of art. It's above you, it's below you, it's around you, it's in the bathroom with you.
There's so much to look at, you can stand in one spot for quite a while soaking it all in. I like art that you can identify some part of yourself in. You can do that literally and figuratively here.
The art comes on strong...it's outspoken, a little broken, a little gritty, a bit pieced together...basically it's reflective of the city of Philadelphia itself.
Which is easily explained, given the artist's origins and choice of home. The creator of the art, Isaiah Zagar, is a mosaic mural artist whose work can be found on more than 200 public walls throughout Philadelphia (neighborhood mural map here) and around the world. Born here and raised in Brooklyn, Zagar and his wife returned to Philly after college (Pratt Institute for Zagar) and a three year stint in the Peace Corps to settle in and create and inspire the art world.
He began creating what would become Philadelphia's Magic Gardens on the vacant lots near his South Street Studio in 1994. In 2002 the Boston-based owner of the lots discovered the installation and decided to sell the land, attempting to force the dismantling of the installation. The surrounding community swelled in support and the Magic Gardens became a nonprofit, preserving the art at the site and throughout the area. The moral of the story: don't fuck with Philly's art.
- Philadelphia's Magic Gardens is at 1020 South Street, on South between 10th & 9th
- Wednesday to Monday 11:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m., closed Tuesday
- Adults $10, Students w/ ID/Seniors 65+ $8, Children 6-12 $5, Children 5 + under free
- Line forms out front if there are too many people inside
- Directions and parking, click here
- The space also has events like Garden Sips on second Wednesdays in the summer, Twilight in the Gardens with music and tours on fourth Fridays April through October, Crafts with a Kick, Public Tours, Mosaic Workshops, temporary art Exhibitions, and more
And I think you should go and ramble around in there. The pictures don't do it justice.