Category Archives: Philadelphia Magic Garden

Quirky Dutch Summer #5 Mosaic / Mozaïek

Marit is an endless font of inspiration, you will not want to miss her Mosaic post full of ideas and more…

 we visited one of our favorite spots in Blacksburg, Virginia recently that has a wonderful mosaic constructed about 15 years ago by public school students, teachers and other volunteers on the side of a gas station…

imagine our shock and dismay to discover it was soon to be torn down and demolished…

we could not believe our eyes and felt so helpless…

 just what they need in Blacksburg more empty store fronts and office space in an ugly brownstone building…

by chance we got to meet the builder, Steve Hill, a former Blacksburg resident and member of Virginia Tech’s Class of 1970…

  we looked him in the eyes and he did not seem too concerned about the wrecking of the mural as he said it would have cost $10,000 or more to try and save the mosaic with no guarantees that it would not crumble…

the photo above is one we took back in 2009, the quote was obscured on this visit by construction debris…

it made me cry and all I could say as we left his office was “this is just so sad“…

 I printed a photo of part of the mosaic wall to use to create my mosaic journal pages…

cutting wavy pieces and using some of my flowers embedded in tissue paper as the focal image on each page…

I cut the shank off the back of a bee skep button to compliment the color in the Black Eyed Susan on the right page…

if you click on “Quirky Dutch Summer” near the top of my sidebar you will find Marit’s wonderful artist interview for this week along with a tutorial for making your own art journal from scratch…

“We are like the spider.
We weave our life and then move along in it.
We are like the dreamer who dreams and then lives in the dream.
This is true for the entire universe.” ~The Upanishads

p.s. some of THE most fantastic mosaics we have ever seen are in Philadelphia at The Magic Garden…we visited back in April of 2008 here and here

we look forward to another visit there some day

footnote: in trying to check who to give credit to for the quote on the mosaic wall I came upon this very interesting blog post…for the rest of the story and a great photo of the wall  you can visit here

“Inner vision is the prescription
Art is the physician
Art heals.

Work runs over me some days
My feet point to the sky
Sleep smothers me

If we’re not
we should be

If you were not already doing too much

You wouldn’t be doing this”

Isaiah Zagar

We had no idea upon visiting the South Street area of Philadelphia what an enormous treat we were in for. We expected to see some murals………wellllll……..

Words and pictures really cannot do it justice. It is something that must be seen and experienced.

The artist, Isaiah Zagar, is the true master who lives his art! He and his lovely wife, Julia, are both artists and urban pioneers who moved to a run down area of Philadelphia back in 1968.


We took almost 150 photographs and

still found it difficult to capture the brilliant texture, sparkle, interest, depth, charm and heart of it all.

Loving mixed media and always on the look out to rescue found objects, we felt SO ‘at home’ in Isaiah’s creations.

He uses lots of found objects in his artwork….broken tiles, mirrors, dishes, bottles, bicycle wheels, bits of this and that….Isaiah says he doesn’t know ‘why’ he makes the murals, just that he must!

My husband and I were blissfully wandering the South Street area on a glorious Spring day. We began at 4th Street, which is as far as our horse drawn carriage could take us.

Thanks to the kindness of a stranger, a lady taking in her recycling bin, we found out about THE MAGIC GARDEN.

She saw us snapping pictures left and right and just casually asked if we knew about it.

I’d like to give her a BIG hug. You’ll see why………….in my next post

“Each generation has its chance to modify a city to its needs and dreams. It’s called gentrification, but really it’s people re-thinking and re-dreaming a city.” ~Isaiah Zagar

Magic Garden

The South Street Garden, Zagar’s “opus” is located between 10th and 11th Streets at 1020 South Street. It takes up three lots.

It was begun in 1994 and is a work in progress.

Visiting on a Thursday, we almost had the gardens to ourselves. I would imagine it gets busier on weekends!

Gosh, people just have to see this!!! 🙂
It seems this photo of the staircase CAN be clicked on for a larger view, not sure how that came about????
So imagine, you are not only looking up, over and around, you are walking ON mosaics. The tiles and mirrors have all been buffed so no one gets hurt.


Birds like to nest in the nooks and crannies, we noticed a cat wandering as well

Having done canvases, Isaiah said they became too confining.

He experienced great relief in creating with no boundaries.

He just needs to embellish – my kinda guy! It

is also interesting to note that because he uses cement/mortar (often tinted beautiful colors) to stick things together, things can not be removed easily, so he has to be content with how it turns out.


garden10*click pics for a closer look*

Now visiting was awesome enough, but we had the distinct pleasure of meeting the artist, Mr Zagar himself. He autographed his book for us and drew two bottles, one with my initial “P” the other with my sweetie’s initial “J”, he joined them at the bottom and wrote “in cement”. I was too shy and blown away to have my picture taken with him, but I’m sure he would not have minded, such a delightful man! He was on his way to lunch.

I asked my husband afterwards if I made any sense at all talking to Isaiah….and how would he know…. he was equally blown away by the majesty of it all.

I was star struck!

I do remember saying while spreading my arms wide, that it all ‘speaks’ (maybe I said “screams”, I was excited) of freedom! He smiled and nodded.

His lovely wife, Julia, has run the Eyes Gallery at 402 South Street for more than 30 years importing wonderful goods from Latin America. They have an amazing and varied Frida collection of stuff to buy along with a few of my other passions mermaids, India, Day of the Dead and more!

Oftentimes when clay pieces would arrive broken or damaged, Isaiah would rescue them and use them in his creations. Oh, you don’t want to miss a shopping stop there!If you have the time, highlighted words can be clicked on for more information. There is just too much to tell!

So I guess it goes without saying,

if you are ever in Philadelphia or anywhere close by, you simply must go to see it all for yourself.

Isaiah has murals all over Philadelphia, LOTS of them. As he has said for many years:

“Philadelphia is the Center of the Art World/ Art is the Center of the Real World.” ~Isaiah Zagar

If you’d like a mini ‘visit’ with the artist, here’s your chance.