MARAC in Philadelphia: Art on the Streets of Philadelphia

by Krystal Appiah, Local Arrangements Committee

Love Sculpture in Philadephia

Philadelphia has long embraced public art, becoming the first city in the United States to establish a Percent for Art Program in 1959. Many visitors are familiar with Robert Indiana’s iconic “Love” sculpture (above) but, with one of the nation’s largest collections of public art, there is so much more to see!
A great way to find and learn about Philly’s public art is through the Association for Public Art’s interactive map.

“Triune” by Robert Engman

For an audio tour of many of the city’s sculptures, check out the program created by Museum Without Walls. This interactive map of audio downloads and audio slide shows (a photo slide show with narration) includes 35 stops of 51 sculptures along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and Kelly Drive. Coming from all walks of life, each narrator is connected to a sculpture by knowledge, experience or affiliation. There are several ways to access the audio: view the audio slide show on your smartphone, download the app, download the audio to a personal device, or call the audio tour phone number from the street.

A mural covers the façade of the Royal Theater, an African American entertainment venue which closed in 1970

Murals are another striking form of art that you’ll see around the city. Begun in 1984 as part of a wide anti-graffiti initiative, the Mural Arts Program has now produced over 3,600 murals. In addition to city beautification and community empowerment, education programs serving at-risk youth and rehabilitation centers are also a central component of the Mural Arts Program. Paid guided tours are offered, but you can also venture out on a self-guided walking tour of the Mural Mile, a selection of seventeen murals in Center City. Download a map and use your cell phone for an audio description of the Mural Mile artworks.

Detail of a mosaic by Isaiah Zagar

Isaiah Zagar’s colorful mosaics of tile, glass, mirrors, and found objects decorate walls throughout Philadelphia. This local artist’s largest artwork is located at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, which includes a tiled indoor space as well as an outdoor mosaic sculpture garden that spans half a block on South Street.

Inside Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

Although there is an admission fee to enter the sculpture garden, it is partially visible for free from the sidewalk.

As you explore the city, keep your eyes peeled for Philly’s captivating public art!


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