How a Community Project Turned This Run-down Neighborhood Into Philly’s Coolest Art Destination (Video)
Philadelphia is a city that is much, much more than it appears at first glance.
Although you may know it as the city of brotherly love, cheese steaks, and die-hard Eagles fans, one turn down a nondescript street can yield the most fantastic surprises.
Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens are a world apart from anything else in the South Street neighborhood. In the 1960s, artist Isaiah Zagar began festooning the streets of the neighborhood with eccentric tiled mosaics, incorporating found items like bits of broken mirror, the spokes of bicycle wheels, and brightly hued glass bottles. It was his attempt at revitalizing the run-down area through open-air art and installations in the derelict buildings.
Over the past 50 years, Zagar’s world has evolved to include more than 100 different mosaics. The heart of the project stretches about a half-block and is open to the public as a museum.
Visitors can wander through the Magic Gardens and get lost in the outdoor labyrinth of colorful objects including folk art pieces like china plates, kitchen tiles, and other surprises. The indoor galleries showcase more of Zagar’s work, alongside a rotating roster of visiting artists.
Some may know the Magic Gardens as a fantastic backdrop for photos, but the space is dedicated to much more than just looking good. The gardens are accessible for visitors who are blind or visually impaired, allowing them to engage in a unique way with outdoor art installations. It also hosts community nights with music and mindfulness and meditation classes. Try to visit the Magic Gardens during a night of programming to experience the full impact of Zagar’s community vision.