Friday, December 30: On our way home from Philadelphia, we take the roundabout route through Lancaster, Pennsylvania, just to get off the boring interstate. It’s always fun to drive on American back roads, through farmland and small towns.
The Pennsylvania Amish of Lancaster County are America’s oldest Amish settlement. Here, the horse and buggy remains a primary form of transportation, and the Amish people work in agriculture, businesses and cottage industries.
The light is beautiful on this winter afternoon, painting the silos and barns with a golden color.
We see many homes with laundry flapping in the breeze.
The small town of Intercourse is a hub where many Amish and local people do business. It’s just east of Bird-in-Hand and north of Paradise. Here, shops sell Amish quilts, furniture and other handmade crafts. You can click on the link to read about how the town of Intercourse got its name.
Bird-in-Hand is another cute town in Lancaster, with cute shops congregating along the roadside. The history of Bird-in-Hand and its unusual name is here.
We come across some of the buggies that are so common here. This one is taking a rest.
We pass many on the road, but I have a hard time capturing them because they move at quite a clip. I do manage to snatch a photo of one.
The rest of our drive home isn’t quite so scenic. We do manage to get home safely after our fabulous trip to Philadelphia and to ring in the New Year the next evening, with me asleep before midnight. 🙂
In 1994, Isaiah Zagar started working on the vacant lots located near his studio at 1020 South Street, according to the museum’s pamphlet. He first constructed a massive fence to protect the area then spent years sculpting multi-layer walls out of found objects.
In 2002, 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 allow the now-beloved neighborhood art environment to be destroyed, the community rushed to support the artist. After a two-year legal battle, his creation, newly titled Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, became a non-profit organization intended to preserve the artwork, says the pamphlet.
Embedded in the walls of the outdoor installation are bottles, bicycle wheels, pottery shards, and folk sculptures.
We find a lot of names, phrases and sayings embedded in chains across the walled-canvas.
Some of the Magic Gardens’ values include inspiring others, creating community, championing originality, and embracing the creative process unbound by conventional norms.
The Gardens also interprets Isaiah Zagar’s art with a lighthearted, celebratory attitude. They believe in working hard while still maintaining levity and humor, according to the website.
I love the multi-armed painter who might bear a slight resemblance to Zagar.
Here, the artist is cradled by a three-headed woman.
PHILADELPHIA is spelled out along one passageway.
Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens is like a wilder version of Gaudi’s Park Güell in Barcelona, though it has no actual gardens. I highly recommend visiting here for a quirky afternoon.
After we finish our visit, it’s time for us to head back to Virginia. We decide to take a convoluted route home, passing through the Amish countryside of Lancaster County.
Friday, December 30: After walking the southern half of the Mural Arts Walk, we head to Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. As we walk down South Street, we pass a number of the artist’s murals on buildings and in alleys.
We find another mural with some religious verses adjacent to a small parking lot.
Zagar mural near Magic Gardens
detail of Zagar mural
detail of Zagar mural
Someone’s house is even decked out in mosaics.
The museum, spanning half a block on South Street, includes an immersive outdoor art installation and indoor galleries. As it’s the middle of winter, we first walk around the indoor galleries.
The artist, Isaiah Zagar, is an award-winning mosaic mural artist whose work can be found in over 200 public walls throughout Philadelphia and around the world, according to a museum pamphlet.
Zagar was born in Philadelphia and raised in Brooklyn; he received a B.F.A. in Painting and Graphics at the Pratt Institute of Art in New York City. The artist and his wife Julia settled in Philadelphia after serving 3 years in Peru with the Peace Corps. Zagar’s work is influenced by his travels as well as his interactions with international folk and visionary artists, says the pamphlet.
Zagar created the space at Magic Gardens using nontraditional materials such as folk art statues, found objects, bicycle wheels, colorful glass bottles, hand-made tiles, and thousands of glittering mirrors.
Visual anecdotes and personal narratives refer to Zagar’s life, family and community, as well as to the wider world, such as influential art history figures and other visionary artists and environments.
This place is a photographer’s paradise. Every surface is covered with mosaics and found objects, including the ceilings, stairs and bathrooms.
We walk outdoors into a small enclosed patio, but then are led right back into the indoor galleries.
We could spend hours and hours here marveling at all the details.
We brace ourselves to go the outdoor art installation. Luckily the area is enclosed and it doesn’t feel that cold outside. I hear it’s super crowded in summer, so I think it’s best we came at this time of year. The outdoor installation will follow in another post. 🙂
Friday, December 30: This morning, we have two goals before we need to return home to Virginia: 1) walk the south Philadelphia mural walk and 2) visit the Magic Gardens. We don’t have time today to do the north mural walk; that will have to wait for another visit.
Mural Arts Philadelphia was established in 1984 as a Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network, encouraging graffiti writers to redirect their efforts into constructive public arts projects. According to the website, the “collective mural-making process proves to be a powerful tool for generating dialogue, building relationships, empowering communities, and sparking economic revitalization.”
The work of the project serves a “larger movement that values equity, fairness and progress across all of society.”
“Women in Progress,” by artists Cesar Viveros and Larissa Preston, depicts the progress made in women’s rights.
Kenny Scharf is known for “using images of cartoons from his childhood, as well as inventing sometimes wild designs inspired by graffiti and club culture” (Philly Mag).
HOW and NOSM are twin brother graffiti artists born in Spain, who grew up in Germany and currently reside in New York, according to the Mural Arts website.
In a mural by Gaia, Philadelphia architect and urban planner Edmund Bacon gazes down at those traveling the streets of the city that he helped so much to shape. The use of light colors such as white and grey help the portrait to stand out for blocks.
I’m not sure what this one is, but it doesn’t seem to be on the official Mural Walk. Today, some earth movers are doing some heavy-duty digging in the adjacent parking lot.
“Building the City” by Michael Webb shows the builders and planners of the city.
Some of Philadelphia’s urban art is not listed as part of the Mural Arts program, such as this one shown below. With over 3,000 murals, the city is known as the world’s largest outdoor art gallery.
I don’t know that the building shown below has actual murals or simply panels hanging on it. There is one mural listed at this location on our mural mile walk map, but this doesn’t look much like the other murals we’ve seen.
My favorite of all the murals we see today is “Garden of Delight” by artist David Guinn. The artist returned to the neighborhood where he grew up to create this lush mural overlooking a community garden. “Two trees in the center lean into each other, symbolic of an embrace. The garden spills out from the space between them. This is to symbolize the spirit of community gardens and the people who work together to nurture these gardens,” according to Mural Arts Philadelphia.
“Pride and Progress” by Ann Northrup shows today’s unconventional families. According to Mural Arts Philadelphia, “the artwork occupies the entire west wall of the William Way Center, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender community center in Philadelphia. The 55’x165′ mural depicts a gay pride festival in the midst of nearby landmarks, including the Drake Hotel.”
“Taste of Summer” by Ann Northrup is set in an idealized landscape – a combination of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and “Perugia, Italy. The people are outdoors on a terrace eating, drinking, arguing, flirting, climbing trees, and sleeping. There is an element of indulgent comedy, within a garden of earthly delights.”
The mural is on the side of Vetri Ristorante, owned by James Beard award-winning Chef Marc Vetri.
In “Spring,” David Guinn “designed the mural to connect the trees on either side of the wall, on Pine Street and in the backyard of the house, as if there were a park in front of the wall rather than a parking lot. The artist wanted to paint the trees crisply and in detail but at the same time have a soft and organic feel. He was inspired by the idea of making soft forms out of discreet, hard-edged blocks of color.” (Mural Arts Philadelphia)
David McShane’s “Mural at Dirty Franks,” a local watering hole, is painted with pictures of people named, or partially named, Frank.
“Theater of Life” by Meg Saligman is about the many roles we play in our lives that make up who we are.
“Gimme Shelter” by David Guinn was sponsored by the City of Philadelphia, Morris Animal Refuge, and individual donors.
One of the most iconic of the city’s murals, “Philadelphia Muses” explores today’s diverse artistic disciplines. “It features newly imagined, contemporary muses of the arts taking part in a gigantic game of artistic vision,” according to artist Meg Saligman.
We end our walk on South Street at the fascinating Magic Gardens, Isaiah Zagar’s unique mosaic art environment. I’ll write about this magical place in another post. 🙂