Open air art in Philadelphia Community

Philadelphia's Open-Air Art

When it comes to public art in Philadelphia, most people know to look for Robert Indiana's iconic LOVE statue, Claes Oldenburg's enormous clothespin, and the Rocky statue, which is really just a leftover movie prop more than a planned piece of public art. But the city is loaded with art in unlikely places.

With more than 600 sculptures, fountains, mosaics, and memorials, Philadelphia has a long history when it comes to public art. In fact, it's one of the first cities in the country to enact a Percent for Art program, which decrees that every construction project in the city (even remodeling) dedicate 1 percent of its budget to public art. Here are five spots worth seeking out.
Magic Gardens
E. Clark for GPTMC
Magic Gardens
Local artist Isaiah Zagar made a name for himself starting in the 1960s with his tile mosaics on South Street, forming what's known as Philadelphia's Magic Gardens. Spanning half a city block, the work incorporates found objects such as bottle caps, bottles, and bicycle spokes. The site, which has both an indoor and outdoor component, is now maintained by a nonprofit organization bearing its namesake. Tours are available.
Large murals make up "A Love Letter" between 45th and 63rd Streets. Community
"A Love Letter"
Those who are old enough to remember that ads used to be painted on the sides of buildings should hop on the SEPTA train and go west on Market Street between 45th and 63rd Streets. There, you'll spot "A Love Letter," a big, wet sloppy kiss to West Philly from West Philly. The brainchild of artist Stephen Powers (who grew up in Overbrook), the piece was completed with contributions from neighborhood children. It's the latest installation of the city's Mural Arts Project, which was formed about 25 years ago as a way to discourage graffiti. Some 2,800 works later, the project shows that this city is still a vibrant home for public art.

Frank  L. Rizzo Statue.
M. Edlow for GPTMC
Frank L. Rizzo Monument
Stop by and say hello to the Frank L. Rizzo Monument, who waves to passersby from his perch on the steps of the Municipal Services Building Plaza. Sculptor Zenos Frudakis completed the work in 1998, which honors the controversial former mayor and affectionately renders him, at 10 feet tall, in an appropriately larger-than-life fashion.

Split Button
R. Tarver for GPTMC
"Split Button"
In West Philadelphia, on the University of Pennsylvania campus, you'll find yet another piece by Claes Oldenburg: "Split Button." Located in front of the Van Pelt Library and completed with the help of his wife, Coosje van Bruggen, the button is another one of those common household objects writ large. It's also a bit of a joke, alluding to the alleged missing button on a nearby statue of Benjamin Franklin.

"The Comcast Experience" at the Comcast Center
M. Edlow for GPTMC
Comcast Center
Love it or hate it, the new Comcast Center in Center City has people talking. Designed by Robert A.M. Stern, the center features two eye-catching works of public art in the lobby. "The Comcast Experience" is a 2,000 square-foot television screen that provides panoramic views of various landmarks and sites that are 500 percent more lifelike than the average HDTV. The other installation, Jonathan Borofsky's "Humanity in Motion," can be found in the center's 140-foot-tall glass atrium entranceway. At first glance, the piece looks like people suspended in mid-air, moving from one location to another. After you're finished gawking, go downstairs to the Market at Comcast Center, which has an outpost of Di Bruno Bros. gourmet food store.