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.
Philadelphia’s history fills the pages of textbooks across the world. William Penn, Benjamin Franklin, and the Liberty Bell fill the indexes. But these texts do little to educate people on and preserve the physical history of Philadelphia, specifically its buildings.
Enter the nonprofit Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia. Its volunteer team of tour guides leads architectural walking tours past downtown Philadelphia’s landmarks, buildings, and cityscapes, and its staff coordinates an array of events each month, which have previously included graveyard tours, concerts, and archaeological digs. Proceeds from these activities, along with various grants, are then used to preserve the Philadelphia region’s historical buildings, subsequently preserving its historical communities and the story of the city's influential past.
The nonprofit Philadelphia Photo Arts Center is dedicated to exhibiting contemporary photography, offering a wide range of engaging opportunities for anyone interested in photography and the arts through educational programs, events, and exhibitions. A team of fine-art photographers, curators, and other arts professionals initiates the snapshot curious in affordable five-week classes and workshops that are suitable for photogs of all abilities. The teen program nurtures artistic impulses during afterschool hours, handing students loaner supplies and foraying into the city during field trips.
The cello-shaped Verizon Hall serenades eyes with mahogany accents under the 150-foot barrel-vaulted glass ceiling of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. With seats for 2,500 audience members, the hall immerses both spectators and musicians in the clarity generated by its premium acoustics, which absorb vibrations from the subway tunnel below with 225 rubber isolation pads and allow for precise tuning with retractable curtains and sound-reflecting panels. Seasoned jazz artist Branford Marsalis confirmed Verizon Hall's sound acumen when he told NPR it is "the best concert hall on the East Coast."
The colossal dodgeball event is expected to pin at least 400 against 400 in all-out rubber-ball mayhem to raise money for Life Unchained, a social nonprofit organization that provides seed money to local start-up nonprofits and dream projects. Registration will begin at 10 a.m., followed by the first fated volley at 12:30 p.m. The action will last until the final player standing on either team gets hit with a dodgeball or an insatiable craving for pancakes. After the ball-slinging massacre ends, participants can revel in food and drink specials at the AT&T Pavilion after party and compare bruises forming in the shape of badges of honor. Each participant will receive a free T-shirt and ticket to the Philadelphia Wings lacrosse game later that night; guests are encouraged to tailgate until the Wings take flight at 7 p.m. The last survivor on the losing dodgeball team will secure a coveted luxury weekend stay at the Loews Hotel, and 10 players from the winning team will be selected via raffle to win $100 in prizes.
Taste of Fall treats Philadelphia denizens to a crisp autumn afternoon of cooking demonstrations by local chefs, wine and beer flowing freely for the tasting, and scrumptious samples from more than 15 local restaurant and farm vendors. Nibble on a gyro from Zorba's Taverna, test how many Iced by Betsy cupcakes you can fit in your mouth at once, or amiably haggle over the harvests of local farmers. A kids’ tent will pulsate with activities such as face painting, as well as yoga to appease antsy pre-teens and post-babies. The "Man Cave," meanwhile, will set the scene for budding bromances by broadcasting the Eagles vs. Redskins game. A live performance of classic covers by Back2Life will contribute to the convivial atmosphere. And to add an element of surprise that doesn't involve firing blowdarts into the crowd at random, Taste of Fall will give ticketholders a chance to win a number of spectacular raffle items. You and your family might head home with a hefty gift basket from Saks Fifth Avenue, a cooking class at Viking, or a one-night stay at Rittenhouse Bed & Breakfast with dinner at Baia and a bottle of wine.