Isaiah Zagar, who’s often seen lugging cans of paint near his South Street shire or stirring tubs of concrete mix like witches’ brew, turns 80 on Monday.

And the folks at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, Zagar’s fanciful creation of tiles, mosaics, glass, bike wheels, mugs, plates, ceramics, mirrors, and countless found and “broken” objects, are planning a small celebration.

“He’s turning 80,” said Emily Smith, executive director of the nonprofit that tends the gardens in the 1000 block of South Street and that presents public programming and exhibitions in its gallery space. “Eighty is a pretty big one. It’s exciting — so many people aren’t so fortunate to have such a long and productive time.”

Tourists visit Philadelphia's Magic Gardens, the ongoing creation of Isaiah Zagar on South Street.
MARGO REED / Staff Photographer
Tourists visit Philadelphia's Magic Gardens, the ongoing creation of Isaiah Zagar on South Street.

Smith said, “We wanted to do a really big party, but Isaiah said keep it low-key and not so crazy.”

For Zagar’s 80th, the Magic Gardens has invited fans to sign a large birthday card (available now through Monday) and to attend a party at the Magic Gardens from noon to 1 p.m. Monday.

There will be a big cake and a Mummer, Michael Carwile, captain of Golden Sunrise. Carwile will not emerge from the cake, but he will be decked out in his 75-pound New Year’s costume.

Of course, Zagar will attend.

There will also be a raffle for an original Zagar mosaic. Smith said that in May, an exhibition of Zagar’s paintings will go up in the Magic Gardens gallery — “a look back on a lot of the other work he’s done over the years,” she said.

In addition to the mirrored mosaics that cover building walls in his South Street neighborhood, Zagar is famous for his work that covers the entire facade of the Painted Bride Art Center on Vine Street in Old City.

That mosaic became the focus of community concern in 2017, when the Bride announced it planned to sell the building, raising the specter of demolition. Community groups and the Philadelphia Magic Gardens sought to stave off the sale without success. The building remains standing, with no word on its immediate future.

The setting sun reflects off Isaiah Zagar’s mosaics on the Painted Bride building on Vine Street. The city's venerable alternative arts space has announced it is selling its Old City building to pursue a future based on projects, not space.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
The setting sun reflects off Isaiah Zagar’s mosaics on the Painted Bride building on Vine Street. The city's venerable alternative arts space has announced it is selling its Old City building to pursue a future based on projects, not space.