Philadelphia's Magic Gardens: The Dreamwork of Isaiah Zagar

Emily Smith

  • Philadelphia's Magic Gardens: The Dreamwork of Isaiah Zagar
  • Philadelphia's Magic Gardens: The Dreamwork of Isaiah Zagar
  • Philadelphia's Magic Gardens: The Dreamwork of Isaiah Zagar
  • Philadelphia's Magic Gardens: The Dreamwork of Isaiah Zagar

$ 50.00

Pages 128
Size 11 x 8 ½ inches
ISBN 978-1-68098-023-3
Tags Art, Philadelphia, Photography, Travel
Preview Book View Excerpt
  • Philadelphia's Magic Gardens: The Dreamwork of Isaiah Zagar

“Zagar has successfully blurred the boundaries of 'fine' and 'folk' art, merging painting, sculpture, ceramics, and architecture into one exuberant, wonderfully accessible enterprise of contemporary art.”
Kathleen A. Foster
The Robert L. McNeil, Jr., Senior Curator of American Art
and Director, Center for American Art. Philadelphia Museum of Art

“The personality of cities, and what makes them uniquely memorable, is always the human touch expressed by the hearts and minds of caring individuals, not merely the bottom line generic constructions generated by developers. Gaudí is to Barcelona what Isaiah Zagar is in good measure to Philadelphia.”
Rebecca Alban Hoffberger
Founder and Director, American Visionary Art Museum


Mosaicist Isaiah Zagar toiled for over a decade on Philadelphia's Magic Gardens, an all-encompassing art installation in the heart of Philadelphia’s historic South Street district. The mosaics cover half a block, bursting out of confinement to splash walls, ceilings, and excavated floors with glass, tiles, mirrors, folk art, and found objects. 

Begun in 1991 in a vacant lot, Zagar’s artwork, much like rest of Philadelphia’s public art, was an attempt to beautify the otherwise derelict city landscape. Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens eventually became a rallying point for the community, a dazzling symbol of unity among the citizens of South Street that championed preservation and artistic expression.

Zagar himself, an award-winning mosaic artist, is well known for his mosaics across the world. Visitors to Philadelphia can find his art covering over 200 walls across the city. Heavily influenced by his travels around Peru, China, India, and a host of other countries, Zagar’s art combines colors and textures in a fusion of ideas that demand admiration from passersby.

Never before has the beauty of Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens been collected in a single photobook. Expertly photographed, this volumes features over 100 full-color images of the site as well as a detailed description by the Executive Director. 

As a nonprofit, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens places great value in its mission to inspire the community with boundless creativity. This book makes it possible for those outside the region to share the inspiration.


About the Author: Emily Smith is the Executive Director of Philadelphia’s Magic Garden and a graduate of the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Aside from her work in the Gardens, Smith is a dedicated painter who has displayed her art in multiple exhibitions such as Messy Women and the In Visible Skin Project.

About the Photographer: David Soffa is a photographer and artist who attended Bard College for his BA and Yale University for his Masters in Fine Arts. Currently located in Philadelphia, Soffa has amassed a rich photographic portfolio of both urban and natural life.

About the Artist: Isaiah Zagar is an award-winning mosaic mural artist whose work can be found on public walls throughout the city of Philadelphia and around the world. Born in Philadelphia and raised in Brooklyn, Zagar received his BFA in Painting & Graphics at the Pratt Institute of Art in New York City.

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