Travel Theme: Art: Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

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Ailsa’s travel theme this week at wheresmybackpack.com is pretty simple: Art.  Street art?  Painty art?  What kind of art?

I choose…ummm…repurposed art.

You can find Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens at 1020 South Street in Philly.  It’s the work of the brilliantly creative and resourceful Isaiah Zagar, who has been crafting mosaics onto buildings in his Philadelphia neighborhood out of tile…or vinyl albums…or glass bottles…or forks…or whatever has come his way, since the 1960s.  The Magic Gardens began in 1994 in a vacant lot next to Zagar’s home.  See for yourself what it’s become.

And finally, here’s a look at the artist himself.

Plan to spend fully a half a day, as there is just that much to feast one’s eyes upon.  Bring water.  If it’s even a little damp out, wear shoes with good grippy soles, because those tiles get awfully slippery.  I’m looking at you, flip-flop wearers.  Have lots and lots of room on your cameras.  And be ready to want to stick things to your walls and any surface that can support having things stuck to them, once you get home.

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9 responses »

  1. Fantastic! I love what he’s done with the place. Reminds me of the Watts towers which I had a chance to see some years ago–sort of a gothic cathedral of broken plates and glass bottles and whatnot. I love outsider art.

    • If I remember correctly, he just started sticking things on the wall next door, sort of without permission. By the time anyone spoke up he was becoming a public landmark and who wants to tear that down? Someone else just bought the neighboring building and lot and gave it to him.

  2. What a glorious burst of zany art, I absolutely love it, wish I’d known about this place when I visited Philly – still, it gives me a reason to return! :)

    • It is indeed glorious. My boyfriend knew about it, but I’d never heard of it until he said he wanted to check it out. And then we lost hours and hours to the place. I took, easily, a hundred pictures there; it was hard to whittle them down for your post! :)

    • Glad to hear they brightened a grey morning! I’m always inspired when I look at these pictures…I feel like my foray into mosaic work is not too far in my future… :)

  3. I love to see this explosion of beauty where others see trash. =)

    In Birmingham there’s a folk or outsider sculptor, Joe Minter, who transforms scrap metal and in Cullman, AL there’s a 4 acre “Jerusalem in Miniature” created by a monk at the St. Bernard Abbey (www.avemariagrotto.com). Neither can lay claim to the level of success of a Antoni Gaudi, but I know they must feel a real sense of purpose and accomplishment when they stand back and look around themselves. Nice post. Thank you -Nikki

    • I’ve heard of the scrap metal sculptor. I love the cultural oddities, and God as my witness, I WILL make it back to Nebraska to feast my eyes on Carhenge. And then maybe I’ll make my way up to South Dakota to see the Great Corn Palace. I can’t imagine the amount of dedication required to launch/complete these sorts of things, though I think it’s a testament to cultural appreciation that once they become phenomenons they tend to generate enough interest so others can help maintain them.

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