A Sanctuary of Ideas // Philadelphia's Magic Gardens
I recently visited Philadelphia for the first time and I was pleasantly surprised by how much inspiration I took away from the weekend. Simply walking through the streets I noticed a spectacular range of color - from lush greens and earthy brick tones to the dazzling mosaics and unexpected pieces of street art hidden around every corner, I was constantly stopping to snap a photo.
Among this impressive range of color was of course Philadelphia's Magic Gardens. This visionary art environment created by Isaiah Zagar left me entirely fascinated.
On the vacant lots near his studio, Zagar spent years constructing multi-layer mosaic walls out of found objects. What began in the late 1960's as an attempt to beautiful the South Street neighborhood, these "gardens" grew into a space that not only helped revitalize the area then, but still actively inspire and encourage community engagement.
From bicycle wheels, glass bottles, china plates, kitchen tiles, and fragments of mirrors... Everywhere you look there's something new to see, and something new to discover that you may not have noticed at first glance. Walking among these walls, you get the sense that they're truly telling a story. Conversations in color and form, every surface right down to the floor is a mapping process of Zagar's thoughts, ideas, and experiences. Through letters strung together tile by tile, anecdotes and personal narratives refer to fragments of Zagar's life. And all of the sudden you feel as if you may be walking through the grottos and stairwells of his mind.
This intricate display of visual information creates an impressive space that allows you to be completely immersed within an artwork. It truly speaks to the accessibility of art, for something as ordinary as a bicycle tire can be transformed with a new perspective. I'm happy to know that places like this exist - I think it's important for people to be shown that art doesn't always have to be a painting on a wall. It can be a feeling, a place, an experience.