About Isaiah Zagar

Biography

Photo by Nikki Miller

Photo by Nikki Miller

Isaiah Zagar is an award-winning mosaic mural artist whose work can be found on over 200 public walls throughout the city of Philadelphia and around the world. Born in Philadelphia and raised in Brooklyn, Zagar received his B.F.A. in Painting and Graphics at the Pratt Institute of Art in New York City. When he was 19 years old, Zagar discovered the folk art installations of Clarence Schmidt in Woodstock, New York. Influenced by Schmidt, Picasso, Jean Debuffet, Curt Schwitters, Antonio Gaudi, Simon Rodia and Joseph Ferdinand Cheval, he was inspired to include the concepts of untrained artists as manifestations of fine art.

Zagar’s artwork is heavily influenced by his travels and the personal connections he has made with international folk and visionary artists. Isaiah and his wife Julia completed three years of Peace Corps service in Peru in the mid-1960s, working with folk artists in the Puno region near Lake Titicaca. Soon after, they settled in Philadelphia and began their lifelong work of creating public art and fostering creativity in all its varied forms.

In addition to his three-year Peace Corps service in Peru, Isaiah has completed artist residencies in Tianjin, China and Rajisthan, India. He also participated in a residency at the Kohler Ceramic Factory in Wisconsin.

Zagar’s work is included in the permanent collections of numerous art institutions, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, and the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., and has been featured in solo exhibitions throughout the Philadelphia area. Zagar has received grants for his artistic excellence from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pew Charitable Trust for his work in Interdisciplinary Arts.

Isaiah Zagar has gained recognition in various films and publications, most notably in the 2008 documentary, In A Dream, created by his son, Jeremiah Zagar. He has spoken at several prominent conferences and artists’ lectures both domestically and internationally. Through 40+ years of creating artwork on a grand, public scale, Zagar has helped shape Philadelphia into a thriving creative community.