Isaiah Zagar: He's a Magic (Gardens) Man

Zagar by one of his walls in a photo from his Web site by Gabe Kirchheimer.

Isaiah Zagar is not just a storied member of the Philadelphia Dumpster Divers - he's a one-man Philly institution. To call him one-of-a-kind is like calling Harry Kalas a sportscaster.

Zagar's colorful and kooky mosaics are quickly identifiable on walls throughout the city (though it must be said there are also a lot of highest-form-of-flattery walls by others as well), and especially in the area around South Street. In the midst of gray rectangular buildings these colorful jump-cut designs and reflective surfaces make for walls that unquestionably add welcome zip and zest to the urban landscape.

But it's one thing to see a wall in the midst of a cityscape, and another to be in the midst of these walls. So if you haven't been through the amazing immersive artwork that is Zagar's Magic Gardens at 1020 South Street, your prime opportunity comes tomorrow when Zagar will be on hand for a celebration of the gardens and the release tonight of In a Dream, the movie made by his son Jeremiah (Ritz at the Bourse locally - more national release info here). Food, music and fun are promised, as well as hour-long walking tours through the South Street area to see some of Zagar's famed creations.

Whether or not you see the movie or make it down to South Street tomorrow, you can get a taste of what it's all about in this audio clip from yesterday, when Zagar and I skipped out on the Dumpster Diver meeting two blocks away to wander through the Gardens as he mused on various aspects and influences. This is a small snippet from that conversation; check back here for the full tour in a later Dumpster Diver Dispatch.

Continue Reading