Exploring Grief in Art at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

For their fourth Slow Art Day, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens invited guests to slow down and enjoy the immersive indoor and outdoor mixed media art environment created by artist Isaiah Zagar. The winding spaces are covered in mosaics created with Zagar’s handmade tiles and found objects, such as folk art, bottles, bike wheels, and mirrors.

Second level of the outside sculpture garden, featuring Isaiah Zagar’s Kohler tiles. Photo by Allison Boyle, Events & Marketing Manager.

Zagar’s art can also be seen on public walls throughout the south Philadelphia community, where he has been restoring and beautifying public spaces since the 1960s.

Mosiac building exterior by Isaiah Zagar on South St, Philadelphia. Photo by Ashley Moran, Slow Art Day Editor.

After slowing down to take in the details of the space, Samantha Eusebio, Museum Educator, led a discussion on a particular section of the outdoor sculpture garden that included several large handmade tiles that Zagar made during a residency he held at the Kohler company in Wisconsin from September to November, 2001.

Samantha Eusebio and Slow Art Day participants. Photo by Ashley Moran, Slow Art Day Editor.

Samantha first asked the group of 15 participants to share themes that they noticed emerging within the tiles. She then shared a video interview of Zagar talking about his experience at Kohler.

After the video, Samantha led a discussion about Zagar’s influences for the large tiles, which happened to be the events of 911 that occurred while he was in his residency at Kohler. Being raised in Brooklyn, NY, Zagar was heavily influenced by the tragedy, and his tiles include images of airplanes and buildings. Samantha continued the discussion with the group on different ways individuals deal with grief and trauma – through art, reading, exercise, or even just slowing down.

Slow Art Day participants looking slowly at Isaiah Zagar’s large Kohler tiles. Photo by Ashley Moran.
Large Tile Mosaics with Airplane Motifs by Isaiah Zagar. Photo by Ashley Moran.

Large Tile Mosaics with Airplane Motifs by Isaiah Zagar. Photo by Ashley Moran.

I had the pleasure of attending this Slow Art Day event, and it was eye opening. Even though I know that slowing down helps you see things that you are otherwise blind to, and even though I’m a longtime Slow Art Day volunteer who teaches many others about the power of slowing down to really see, I was still surprised by how much I saw that I had never seen before on multiple previous visits to The Magic Gardens. This is why Slow Art Day is an experiential program, and not primarily a theoretical one. You can understand the theory behind slow looking, but that doesn’t mean that you can see until you really slow down.

Ashley Moran, Slow Art Day Editor, immersing in the mosaicked space.

It truly is amazing what you can experience if you take the time to slow down.

We at Slow Art Day HQ look forward to visiting Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens while on our tour this summer of NYC and Philadelphia, and we can’t wait to see what they share for Slow Art Day 2023.

Ashley

Virtual Mosaic Murals with Philadephia’s Magic Gardens

For its 4th Slow Art Day, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens hosted its first virtual event with an interactive online map of mosaic murals by founding artist Isaiah Zagar. During the event, they shared photos on their Facebook page of three murals located in close proximity to each other in South Philadelphia. They urged attendees to either look at the photos online, or, if possible, walk over to them and view them in real space (Note: all murals are public and thereby easy to view without violating quarantine).

Isaiah Zagar, view of mural on 1313 S. 8th Street. Photo courtsey of Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens.
Isaiah Zagar, view of mural on 836 Sears Street. Photo courtsey of Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens.
Isaiah Zagar, view of mural on 1328 S. 8th Street. Photo courtsey of Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens.

Guided by prompts, participants were encouraged to send their thoughts about the murals to Allison Boyle, Events & Marketing Manager at Philly’s Magic Gardens, who was available online during the event to answer questions.

Alissa Giangiulio, one of the event participants, said that she could see some of the artist Isaiah Zagar himself in the mural on 1328 S. 8th Street (pictured above), and commented that:

“Art makes love go around, especially in a close knit city community!”

People participated during Slow Art Day and in the days that followed. Further, the Facebook post itself was viewed by over 4000 people and received 150 likes, comments, and shares. According to Allison, this was a stronger response than typical.

At Slow Art Day HQ we are firm admirers of Philly’s Magic Gardens, and love the ways that Zagar’s murals encourage people to stop and reflect in the streets (and on online).

When Slow Art Day started 10 years ago, we were happy to use the Internet primarily to promote Slow Art Day and send more people into real spaces. Despite having to shift more online this year due to Covid19, we have loved how museums and galleries like Philly’s Magic Gardens have pivoted to creating virtual experiences (or, in this case combination virtual and physical).

We look forward to Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens Slow Art Day participation in 2021.

-Johanna and Ashley

Philadelphia Slows Down to Reveal the Magic of Mosaic

For Slow Art Day 2019 Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens’ Garden Guide Rob led a group of 15 people in a slow-looking activity focusing on a portion of the beautiful mosaic that encompasses the entire folk art environment and gallery space on South Street in Philadelphia.

Portion of mosaic wall by Isaiah Zagar, Philadelphia Magic Gardens

After slowly taking in all the details of the portion Rob had chosen, the guests then shared what they saw including certain tiles and shapes that are typically overlooked. That was their first discovery of the day: slow looking can make the invisible visible (and cause participants to wonder at how much we humans do not see unless we slow down). Rob also pointed out and gave background on additional often-unseen elements.

Their second and, perhaps, biggest discovery of the day – the “aha” moment – came when the participants realized that through their slow looking in the mirror pieces they themselves had become part of the mosaic. 

We look forward to the Philadelphia Magic Gardens Slow Art Day 2020.

– Ashley

Philadelphia Museums’ Plea to Visitors: Slow Down!

The Philadelphia Enquirer / The Barnes Foundation

“Come to a gallery, sit with it for a while, absorb the works there. It’s like listening to a great piece of music. Looking at a really good work of art over and over again, you begin to see it differently.”

Excellent advice from William Perthes, senior instructor at The Barnes Foundation, in the Philadelphia Inquirer‘s great article on Slow Art Day at Philadelphia museums. In addition to the Barnes, The Fabric Workshop and Museum and Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens are also hosting events this Saturday!

Read the full article here.