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.
Opened on Independence Day, 2003, the National Constitution Center is more than a museum: it's an educational headquarters, a historical archive, and a town hall that functions on a national scale. Besides housing exhibits and historic artifacts, the museum is home to a national forum?it's hosted Democratic primary debates, town hall meetings on the campaign trail, and pivotal presidential speeches.
Breakaway Bikes grew out of a friendship between Glenn Krotick, a spinning instructor, and Joe Wentzell, a graduate of Temple University’s exercise-science master’s program. The earliest incarnation of the shop revolved around Joe’s science-based training program, which today exists in the form of RPM classes. Here, participants pedal their own bikes as a human coach and a CompuTrainer team up to help them target different training zones based on power and heart rate, ideal for those training to outrun a herd of buffalo. While fine-tuning their RPM concept, the dynamic duo delved into the racing scene. Joe, a former Division I defensive tackle, lost more than 100 pounds as he went from novice cycler to Cat 2 elite racer. Glenn applied his biking skills to triathlons, becoming the Mid-Atlantic Masters Champ for international distance in 2007. As they honed their athletic skills, they began to offer performance-enhancing services such as biometric evaluations and custom bike fittings, many of which use Retul technologies and Fit Kit methods. Throughout the years, Joe and Glenn’s inventory of bikes and accessories has grown as well. Today, their shop brims with bikes by manufacturers such as Trek, Scott, Cervélo, and Felt, plus cycling apparel, helmets, tires, and a host of accessories, from child seats to taillights. In the showroom, attentive staffers match shoppers with bikes that match their body type, riding style, and spinning bow-tie collection. Visitors can also score out-of-production parts for vintage bikes in the repair shop, where friendly technicians tend to bearings, brakes, and chains.
Plants and flames should usually be kept apart, but when John Bartram settled on a 102-acre plot of land in 1728, he was lit with a "Botanick fire" that inspired him to create a comprehensive catalogue of local plant life. Bartram's Garden carries on his enthusiasm for making a “compleat Discovery of the Native Growth in America," collecting an array of native plants, including the oldest Ginkgo biloba in North America and the Franklinia alatamaha, which John discovered in Georgia and saved from extinction. Bartram's Garden has been a site of historic significance since 3,000 B.C., when Native Americans left behind numerous artifacts, including flakes from stone tools and fire-cracked rock. After Bartram settled on the land, it became a meeting place with his friends, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, with whom he founded the American Philosophical Society and the country's first beach-volleyball league. As King George III's royal botanist, Bartram was charged with shipping crates of precious seeds back to Britain. He helped color Britain’s gardens with new magnolias, rhododendrons, and sugar maples, none of which had been seen outside of America, and published the first nursery catalog in the United States in 1783. Today, the garden stretches more than 45 acres of parkland, wildlife habitats, tidal wetlands, and a reclaimed meadow. Visitors can wander the grounds and gaze at Bartram's austere stone cottage, or look around at the same trees and plants that Bartram discovered centuries ago. Past the manicured nursery and orchard, a recently completed mile-long trail extends to the Schuylkill riverfront and east coast greenway.
The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) celebrates art from America's entire history. Its galleries take visitors on a chronological trip through the country's ever-changing aesthetic landscape, with special attention paid to sculptures, paintings, and paper works. Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts also trains the next generation of artists, with full-time degree programs at the bachelor and masters levels.
When Samuel Vaughan Merrick and William H. Keating brought The Franklin Institute to life in 1824, it was to honor the life and achievements of Renaissance man Benjamin Franklin. In the decades since, the Institute has hosted further forward thinkers such as Nikola Tesla, who demonstrated wireless telegraphy in 1893, and helped advance science and technology, hosting the first public demo of an all-electronic TV system in 1934.