By most people’s standards, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University is old — founded in 1812, it’s the oldest natural sciences institution in the Western Hemisphere. But the Academy is a baby compared to the specimens it houses, some of which date back more than 350 million years.
Explorers Stephen Long and Ferdinand Hayden’s series of western wilderness expeditions formed the foundation of the Academy's 18-million-item collection, which it began displaying to the public in 1828. Over the subsequent 60 years, the Academy grew to three times its original size through donations, museum purchases, and daily doses of multivitamins. Now situated at 19th and Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the Academy houses more than 35 dioramas of plants and animals collected during global wildlife expeditions, a live animal center with ceiling-to-floor observation windows, and nearly a hundred mollusk specimens. A tropical garden hosts live butterflies from around the world, while Dinosaur Hall contains skeletal mounts of more than 30 Mesozoic species, including a 42-foot-long T. rex.
Sensory overload doesn’t begin to describe Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. A seemingly boundless compilation of colors, textures, and shapes, the labyrinthine mosaic creation spans 3,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space. The masterpiece originated in the brain of Isaiah Zagar, a Philadelphia native who grew up in New York. During his third year of art school, he stumbled upon Clarence Schmidt’s folk-art-inspired installations—assemblages of found objects and recycled materials—and the young artist’s view of the art world changed. “I didn't know that I was looking at art,” Zagar reflects in his mission statement. Self-admittedly, Zagar has been somewhat “copying” Schmidt’s dynamic, free-flowing style ever since.
The years after art school brought Zagar an onslaught of new opportunities. He spent time as an artist in China and India, joined the Peace Corps with his wife Julia, settled in Peru for three years, and even tried his hand at ceramics in Wisconsin. In the ‘60s, he and Julia returned to his birthplace—specifically, the waning South Street neighborhood. Isaiah quickly leapt into action, renovating dilapidated buildings and often adding mosaics to formerly barren walls. Eventually, Isaiah’s imagination outgrew their projects, and in 1994 he began constructing a new piece in a vacant lot near his studio—the project would become Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens.
Isaiah spent 14 precious years, which he should have applied to Y2K preparations, scooping out tunnels, erecting multitiered walls, and splashing the entire space in colorful tile. The finished product stretches across half a block of South Street; the outside enclosure shimmering with vibrant tiles, the inside housing folk art, colored glass bottles, and countless sparkling mirrors. Now a nonprofit organization, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens invites visitors to enjoy its visual candy with guided or self-guided tours.
Owner Nancy Nagle stocks a colorful rainbow of knitting supplies in her bright and eccentric gallery, which has become a go-to outlet for the local knitting community. To meet the demand, she constantly stuffs her shelves with new styles of material, ranging from traditional yarns to luxury fibers—banana, recycled silk, and Wookiee fur—to carry-along yarns with sequins, flags, and lash. Nagle’s passion for fiber arts has introduced her to a community of artists who dye and spin some of her more than 20 brands of yarn. She uses the shop as a gallery to display the work of these local artists—including Philadelphia native John Stango—as well as share her own bold collection of woven work such as hats, shawls, and sweaters.
City Paper's A.D. Amorosi describes the two-floor Nangellini as a "doubly colorful" space as "bright and open as a bay window in Sag Harbor." Amorosi admires the gallery's art collection, and between the vibrant space's "faux-tin ceiling" and "matronly rugs," Nancy leads open and privately scheduled classes on knitting, crochet, and lace work. Classes cover all the basic techniques required for newcomers to begin creating their own woven pieces, such as scarves and felt toupees.
Philadelphia calls Madame Saito the Queen of Sushi, and it's easy to see why. Armed with formal culinary training from Le Cordon Bleu and the Ritz Escoffier in Paris and experience from apprenticeships under premier Tokyo sushi chefs, she has committed the last 26 years to spreading her love for Japanese culture and contemporary fusion cuisine. Although she leaves time in her schedule to manage Tokio Sushi Bar—her sushi restaurant with French culinary influences—, The HeadHouse Cafe, and to conduct an annual sushi-making competition, Madame Saito counts education as one of her highest priorities. She regularly commits her quadrilingual tongue to demystifying the art of sushi during classes for aspiring chefs and casual students alike, teaching them how to hand roll maki and slice fish into perfectly uniform dodecahedrons.
Philadelphia is no longer safe. That’s because Fright Factory, a house of charnel horrors featured as one of America’s scariest Halloween attractions on the Travel Channel, is reopening the portal to its haunted attractions from September 27 to November 2. The sinister site traps unsuspecting guests within four distinct settings, including a lab filled with horrible genetic aberrations, a mausoleum fallen into moldering disrepair, a mutinous asylum, and a physical manifestation of fear itself.
The Chestnut Hill Gallery is a thriving art gallery and full-service custom framing center located in the heart of Chestnut Hill’s historic district. We are thrilled to represent over 60 local, national and international artists offering a diverse and rich collection of landscapes, urbanscapes, and still lives.