Saturday, September 8, 2012

Mosaic of Life- Philadelphia Magic Gardens

Philadelphia Magic Gardens lower level
Imagine an empty alleyway transformed by garbage and knickknacks. Glass bottles protruding out of the walls, mirrors smashed into a million pieces, ceramic tiles strategically placed, and painted quotes all over. At the Philadelphia Magic Gardens there is so much to see and make sense of. It is only natural to question the origins of this mosaic garden in the middle of the city. Who made it? Why? How is it that you feel like you are in Barcelona when you are really in Philadelphia?

Genius or Madman?

Visionary is the word in regards to artistry that can be used to describe Isaiah Zagar, the artist and mastermind behind the Philadelphia Magic Gardens. For the past 10 years, 72 year old Zagar has taken junk, bottles, tiles, dishes, sculpture, mirrors, anything and everything and turned them into beautiful mosaics and murals adorning the Philadelphia Magic Gardens and surrounding South Street neighborhood. Even the ceiling of the Philadelphia Magic Gardens building has been transformed into a mosaic. Zagar’s work is distinct and provides many messages cultural, political, and sentimental. Zagar’s approach to his art and the community, however, is another story. Genius or Madman? Everyone has their own opinion.

Zagar's ode to 9/11
Zagar is an artist with a one track mind and mission. If he sees a wall or an empty plot of land and wants it, he will do whatever it takes to have it. There have been times in the past where Zagar has seized a blank slate like a graffiti artist and started working. It is also common that he commemorates people from the community into his mosaics and murals. Guy with tools and cap look familiar? He’s the local plumber. Imagine seeing yourself one day in a 50 foot mosaic mural. What a surprise that would be.
Mike Mattio - Zagar's Plumber
I stumbled upon the Philadelphia Magic Gardens on my last Philly trip. The center was closed and I was only able to peer in from the outside gates. I managed to snap some pictures and when I found out you could take a tour of the grounds, I vowed to come back and center my next day trip around the Philadelphia Magic Gardens.

Carlos Carpet
For $10 you get a private tour of the building and South Street neighborhood. The tour will take anywhere from one and a half hours to two if you go overtime. The walking tour covers quite a bit of ground so plan accordingly. Bring water with you, wear comfortable shoes, and bring a stroller if you have small children. The tour must be booked in advance. Philadelphia Magic Gardens is also open to the public for self guided viewing for a mere admission cost of $5.

South Street Neighborhood Mural
The Philadelphia Magic Gardens is a non-profit organization and definitely worth a look when in the Philadelphia area. Great for photography buffs, families, art enthusiasts, and anyone who loves something shiny and interesting. 

1020 South Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147

1 comment: