Philadelphia Mosaic Artwork - Isaiah Zagar Magic Gardens

Work of Isaiah Zagar. Magic Garden's on South Street in Philadelphia, PA
Work of Isaiah Zagar. Magic Garden's on South Street in Philadelphia, PA

Introduction

I have been to the Magic Gardens in Philadelphia numerous times over the years. The Magic Gardens is a very prolific mosaic work of art it. It quite possibly the most colorful, dense, diverse works of mosaic art in the city of Philadelphia.


Even if you are not passionate about art, it is hard not to be impressed with work of art. I have posted pictures below and hope to adequately explain my experience.

If you live in the Philadelphia area and enjoy mosaic art you likely have heard of Isaiah Zagar.  Isaiah Zagar has been creating mosaic mural artwork in Philadelphia for decades.

I first took notice of Zagar's work years ago in the nineties when visiting a friend of mine who lived around the 1400 block of South Street.   I noticed along South Street a number of exterior building walls adorned with wonderful mosaic patterns. Some of these mosaic designs climb two, , three and more stories high. My friend told me that these were created by Isaiah Zagar.  I was hooked

A couple times a year I visit Zagar's Magic Gardens.  It is a fast, cheap and easy place to see a genuine piece of Philadelphia art culture.

According to their website, work began on the Magic Gardens in 1994.

I am not a mosaic artist, but I do like to write a blog from time to time so I figured I would attempt a brief article of this wonderful experience.

Work of Isaiah Zagar. Magic Garden's on South Street in Philadelphia, PA.  Ceiling view inside the basement
Work of Isaiah Zagar. Magic Garden's on South Street in Philadelphia, PA. Ceiling view inside the basement

Getting There


The Magic Gardens is easy to get to and is found between 10th and 11th right on South Street.  When you see it, you'll know you have found it. Believe me.  There's nothing like it.

Work of Isaiah Zagar. Magic Garden's on South Street in Philadelphia, PA.  Outside stairway
Work of Isaiah Zagar. Magic Garden's on South Street in Philadelphia, PA. Outside stairway

The Look

There is nothing like the look of this place and, I must say, my pictures do it no justice.  I am not a professional photographer so I did the best I could with my pictures.  The quality of the pictures is OK but I think they make the place look at little cluttered (which it isn't)  at times. This is likely due to my lack of human subjects (for privacy purposes) adding perspective.

The look of this place in person is fantastic. There is a seemingly infinite amount art packed into every single inch of the Magic Gardens' space. There is a huge spectrum of media Zagar uses, broken glass, broken mirror, tile, bottles, old knick knacks, recycled goods, old toys, various things you may find around the home or in a dumpster (in a good way), you name it, it is there and presented in a pleasing way.  Every surface of the Magical Gardens is utilized. Floors, interior walls, ceilings, alleyways, exterior walls, stairs, you name the surface, it is used.

The Garden is an indoor and outdoor experience. 

The indoor part of the exhibit is two stories (basement and first floor.)  It is packed with mosaic art and some paintings,scultures and drawings.  There is also an admissions desk and some space dedicated to selling Zagar related goods (books, DVD's etc)

The outdoor section is the real treat.  A maze of stairs, tunnels, walls made of seeming pure mosaic

Work of Isaiah Zagar. Magic Garden's on South Street in Philadelphia, PA Outside stairway
Work of Isaiah Zagar. Magic Garden's on South Street in Philadelphia, PA Outside stairway

The Feel

It feels good to visit the Magical Gardens.  You can't help become absorbed in the art.  This place simply embraces you.  You are completely surrounded by art..


The layout is perfect and the art becomes more intense as you walk through the museum.   You'll likely start with the first floor of the building (where you pay admission)  where you will immediately begin to see the mosaic designs adorning the walls. Be sure to read some of the history of the Gardens while on the first floor. There is literature toward the front of the first floor as well as some history and articles posted on the walls.  Also keep a look out for Isaiah Zagar himself who can occasionally be seen working one the first floor in the back.

When you go into the basement, the exhibit becomes more intense.  The basement walls, floor and ceiling are covered in a nearly continuous stream of mosaic art.  It feels like a  cavern or mine of mosaic art. You are completely surrounded by top, bottom and sides.   The art seems to have no beginning and no end. It is as though it is a natural part of the building.

The true crescendo is the outside part of the exhibit.  Save this part for last.  It was once a vacant lot. Not very big, but impressive.  It is a truly living, breathing, sea of folk art, abstract, mosaic genius.  The entire outside exhibit consists of his art.  When I say "entire" , I truly mean everything. It is wonderful.  Tunnels, stairs, floor, walls, passages, a virtual maze created entirely of mosaic.  Beautiful colors, bold statements, smooth and jagged shapes.  You have to see it.

Work of Isaiah Zagar. Magic Garden's on South Street in Philadelphia, PA
Work of Isaiah Zagar. Magic Garden's on South Street in Philadelphia, PA

How Much Time Will the Magic Gardens Experience Take ?

Another great aspect of the Magic Gardens is the amount of time it takes to experience. You could spend 2 minutes there if you did a quick walk through. You could spend two hours there if you really took the time to ponder all of its nuances and ask the staff questions.

Figure the amount of time you will need is somewhere in between. My typical visit lasts about twenty to thirty minutes and I almost always bring someone who has never been there before.. Anyone I have ever brought to the Gardens have found the place impressive

Work of Isaiah Zagar. Magic Garden's on South Street in Philadelphia, PA
Work of Isaiah Zagar. Magic Garden's on South Street in Philadelphia, PA

Who Will Like it

If you like mosaic art, you will certainly like this. Don't expect anatomically correct, renaissance-type art. Think folksy, abstract and very, very prolific amounts of work in a relatively small space.

Even if you don't like art, the trip is visually impressive and does not have to take up much time and money. Teens and adults can enjoy this experience no problem.

Young kids (say toddlers) will like the exhibit if you don't spend too much time. They do ask that children not run around and that there be no horseplay so if you are thinking you can just let your kids run throughout the outdoor garden labyrinth ..... please don't. It horseplay and unattended children is discouraged.

Kids will appreciate the wonderful colors and sheer size, but I suspect they'll be bored if you take too much time.

Also.... side note on kids..... there is some limited nudity and adult messages drawn on the artwork (as part of the exhibit.) While it is sparsely done, it can be graphic, take this into consideration when taking youngsters. I don't see anything harmful or pornographic but depending on your level of comfort you may think differently.

Work of Isaiah Zagar. Magic Garden's on South Street in Philadelphia, PA
Work of Isaiah Zagar. Magic Garden's on South Street in Philadelphia, PA

The Staff


I had to give credit to the staff.  Very friendly, very helpful and genuinely seem to want to be there.

Work of Isaiah Zagar. Magic Garden's on South Street in Philadelphia, PA
Work of Isaiah Zagar. Magic Garden's on South Street in Philadelphia, PA

To Sum Up

You'll like it.  Go see it.

Enjoy Art Films? How About Controversial Art and Artists?

I watched three really interesting art documentaries. Each one of these films were wildly different in style, tone and pace. Each are documentaries and they cover some really fascinating subjects. One film is about an enigmatic artists who roams streets worldwide creating graffiti art. The second film is about a man (set in present day) who spends an incredible amount of time on one, single drawing. The third is about controversial art topic going on in Philadelphia, PA.

If you want to learn more, click the following link to read my post.... Click Here to Learn More About these films

More by this Author


Comments

No comments yet.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working