Recently, my dad moved from Boston to Philadelphia. While I was sad to say goodbye to Boston and his cozy condo in Cambridge, I’m also excited about a future of visits to his new home in Philly and for the exciting opportunities he has found there. While my Dad has actually been there since October, this Father’s Day was the first opportunity I had to pop over to see him. I’d been to Philadelphia once before, though really I was busy in the suburbs with a beautiful wedding, so I didn’t really get much Philly flavor.
I absolutely love my dad’s new house in downtown Philly, and I wish I had taken more photos. My father and I share a love of the sunshine, and he found the perfect spot as I don’t think I’ve ever seen an urban living arrangement with so much outdoor space — a back patio, two balconies and a roof deck! The whole house suits him and his style so perfectly — and best of all, there’s a room for me.
After a laid-back Father’s Day Sunday hosting brunch and then dinner for a rotating cast of friends, we split the next few days between playing tourists and working at my Dad’s office (wow, what a difference sitting in a desk versus hunching over a hostel bed makes!)
Our first stop was Philadelphia’s historic center, including Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. I was all for a little cultural immersion — until I saw the lines. It was the height of end-of-the-year field trip frenzy, and I started to convulse slightly when I saw the hordes of screaming school groups lining the corridors. So that didn’t last long. Always an excuse for a next time, right?
I was a lot more excited about our next stop, anyway. Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens are a “mosaicked visionary art environment, gallery, and community arts center,” the brainchild of fellow Pratt alum Isaiah Zagar. Friends who have visited PMG have raved about it, and my dad has brought every guest he’s had so far in Philly — I couldn’t wait to see it for myself.
I was not disappointed.
Dad hard at work as usual!
These “gardens” aren’t filled with flowers but rather tiles, bike wheels, colorful bottles and other items that some might call refer to as junk. My mind immediately drifted to two places I’d been in my travels, the Treetanic Bar in Honduras and Hang Nga House in Vietnam. What is it that possesses a person to obsessively dedicate years of their life to creating a work of art of this specific variety? Clearly, the fixation knows no borders.
The place really is a photographer’s playground. I visited in the middle of the day when light was harshest, which provided an interesting challenge.
By arriving at opening time on a weekday, we had the place more or less to ourselves. I read every single one of the posted press clippings, but I was still hungry for more. Next time I’m in Philly I’m hoping to hit one of the Mosiac Musings, free 15 minutes conversations with the staff that take place on Fridays at 2:00pm and 4:00pm and on Saturdays through Thursdays at 2:00pm. Some Thursdays, PMG is open late for date night tours including wine! Wouldn’t that be a great first date?
Philadelphia Magic Gardens is a beloved part of the community. In 2002, the owner of the once-vacant lot that PMG was developed on realized the value of his property and attempted to sell the land — which would have meant the destruction of the art space. The community rushed to Zagar’s defense and raised enough money to buy the property and incorporate it into a nonprofit arts organization and public space. I love stories where the people win over profit!
I loved seeing this quirky side of Philadelphia and can’t wait to return to see it again. Next time I hope to stay a little longer and see more of the city’s vibrant museum scene and arts culture. Philadelphia has a great vibe that I wasn’t expecting. I really like this city, and I’m glad — I’m sure I’ll be spending plenty of time here in the future.
Have you been to Philadelphia? Is there anything I should be sure not to miss next time I’m in town?