Who We Are
Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens (PMG) is an immersive mixed media art environment that is completely covered with mosaics. The creator, Isaiah Zagar, used handmade tiles, bottles, bicycle wheels, mirror, and international folk art to chronicle his life and influences. The space is made up of two indoor galleries and a bi-level outdoor sculpture garden.
As a nonprofit museum, PMG celebrates art in its many forms through community outreach, public programs, hands-on activities, exhibitions, and tours. We welcome everyone to explore the space and embrace the possibility of self-expression.
Zagar has devoted himself to beautifying the South Street neighborhood since the late 1960s, when he moved to the area with his wife, Julia. The couple helped spur the revitalization of the area by renovating derelict buildings and adding colorful mosaics on both private and public walls. The Zagars, teamed with other artists and activists, transformed the neighborhood into a prosperous artistic haven and successfully led protests against the addition of a new highway that would have eliminated South Street. This period of artistic rebirth was coined the “South Street Renaissance.” After the street was saved, Zagar continued creating mosaic murals, resulting in hundreds of public artworks over the next five decades.
In 1991, Zagar started working on the vacant lots located near his studio at 1020 South Street. He first mosaicked the buildings on either side of the property, then spent years sculpting multi-layer walls out of found objects. In 2004, the Boston-based owner of the lots discovered Zagar’s installation and decided to sell the land, calling for the work to be dismantled. Unwilling to witness the destruction of the now-beloved neighborhood art environment, the community rushed to support the artist. His creation, newly titled Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, quickly became incorporated as a nonprofit organization with the intention of preserving the artwork at the PMG site and throughout the South Street region. Zagar was then able to develop the site even further; excavating tunnels and grottos.
In 2008, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens opened to the public and visitors now have the opportunity to participate in tours, art activities, hands-on interpretive experiences, workshops, concerts, exhibitions, and much more.
Though Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens was originally created by Isaiah Zagar, PMG operates independently of Zagar as a 501(c)3 nonprofit art environment. Zagar does not own PMG or have a vote on its Board of Directors. Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens has its own staff and Board of Directors, and showcases and cultivates the work of various artists and talents from around the world while supporting values that include originality, community, and inspiring others.
Find more information and resources in our History of PMG PDF Resource Sheet