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More mosaic magic from Isaiah Zagar in store for South Philly warehouse

Right behind Neumann-Goretti High School in South Philadelphia sits a building that looks decidedly out-of-place in the neighborhood. This building is a warehouse whose exterior is dressed head to toe in mosaic tiles. This building could only belong to one man; the noted local mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar. Yet, the 10,000-square foot warehouse is a work in progress, as Zagar hopes to create an indoor version of the Philadelphia Magic Gardens, an artistic hub draws tourists and events alike to South St.

The warehouse, located at 10th and Watkins Sts., consists of two floors that provide ample space for Zagar to showcase visual and performing arts. Zagar says he is looking to weave a “sculptural labyrinth" on the first floor, which he aspires to be “completely embellished” by mosaic. This would be distinctly similar to Zagar’s most talked about installation, the Philadelphia Magic Gardens. On the second floor, Zagar hopes to create a theater space. This would engage guests in a performing arts experience in addition to the first floor visual arts experience.

The greatest hurdle for Zagar to overcome is a lack of money. One of the primary reasons why he decided to create a second space is to extend the audience served and physical space of the existing Magic Gardens, which he says has had greatly increased attendance within the past few years. Foundations such as the National Endowment for the Arts supplemented the creation of the Magic Gardens, but grant funds for artists are becoming more scarce and more competitive.

Thus, it should come as little surprise that he’s having some trouble finding money to work on the warehouse. The biggest fiscal need he currently sees is the purchase of heating and air conditioning for the theater he dreams of building.

Zagar estimates that it will be three years before he completely finishes his work on the warehouse. At that time, “I hope it becomes an annex of the garden,” says the artist. Zagar also hopes his new installation lifts the Philadelphia art scene higher on its pedestal, as he tires of seeing New York City dominate the art chatter. Zagar says, “Philly was my history.”

If you have any questions about the Watkins Street warehouse, Zagar will be on hand to answer at the Magic Gardens on Dec. 4, from 1-4 p.m.

Source: Isaiah Zagar, Philadelphia Magic Gardens
Author: Andy Sharpe
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