With a single step into Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens (PMG), I felt like I had departed Earth and arrived on another planet. While Mars has its rust-colored dust and Jupiter holds a cloudy, vaporous composition, PMG is covered with tiles, glass bottles, china, folk-art statues, bicycle parts, shards of mirrors and other recycled items. Scarcely an inch of surface is left untouched.
The 3,000-square-foot indoor and outdoor space is the tour de force of mosaic mural artist Isaiah Zagar. Starting in 1994, award-winning Zagar overhauled vacant lots, transforming them into powerful art experiences. He excavated grottoes and tunnels and then sculpted and mosaicked the walls, ceilings and floors. Fourteen years later, PMG was at last deemed complete and has since served as a community haven that encourages creativity and art education.
Although guided tours and public programs such as workshops and art exhibitions are available, walking around solo is just as fulfilling. With my eyes wide open and my mouth slightly agape, I slowly made my way around the PMG grounds, hoping to absorb at least a morsel of Zagar’s genius.