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Isaiah Zagar, The Magic Garden + over 100 mosaic murals on buildings

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  • Location:

    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA (Map)

  • Status:

    Extant

  • Artist:
  • Built:

    begun late 1960s

  • Materials:

    bottles, ceramic, found objects, glass, tile, wood

Visiting Information

The Magic Garden is open to the public and all the mosaic-covered buildings are viewable from the street. $7/adults, $5/students, military and senior citizens, $3/kids 6-12, FREE under 6

About the Artist/Site

Isaiah Zagar was a nineteen-year-old art student when he met Clarence Schmidt, creator of the House of Mirrors in Woodstock, NY. The meeting changed his life, expanding his notion of the kind of art he could make and where he could make it. In the late 1960s, after three years in the Peace Corps in Peru, he settled in the South Street section of Philadelphia, then a run-down area with cheap rent. He has spent the past thirty years there following the path that meeting opened up.

Zagar’s art has two main expressions. One is the Magic Garden, an exuberant art environment and gallery space built on two vacant lots adjacent to his studio. Constructed on multiple levels with open-air corridors, entryways, staircases and rooms, it teems with color and a dizzying assemblage of found objects. Elaborate tile work jostles with discarded bottles, old bicycle rims and small ceramic or wooden statuettes that he collected during his time in South America. The walls include texts as well as images and, in one section, pay homage to artists such as Sabato Rodia and Ferdinand Cheval. The site is used for musical concerts, dance recitals and other public events.

The second expression of Zagar’s art can be seen on over 100 buildings in the Philadelphia area that display his multi-story glass and ceramic mosaic murals. Zagar’s artwork is included in the permanent collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, and the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C.

The Magic Garden is open to the public free of charge, and all the mosaic-covered buildings are viewable from the street. Zagar has a website (www.phillymagicgardens.org) and offers monthly workshops for those interested in learning more about working with mosaics.

~Mark Karpel

SPACES Archives Holdings

1 folder: images, postcards, pamphlets, correspondence

Map and site information

1020 South St
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Latitude/Longitude: 39.942829 / -75.159323

Visiting Information

The Magic Garden is open to the public and all the mosaic-covered buildings are viewable from the street. $7/adults, $5/students, military and senior citizens, $3/kids 6-12, FREE under 6

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