Pub­lic art is to Philadelphia to­day like grunge mu­sic was to Seat­tle in the early ‘90s—It’s ev­ery­where. While travers­ing this city, col­or­ful things un­doubt­edly catch the eye. Here’s where to start.

Where Philadelphia - - FRONT PAGE - BY SARAH BURKE


The work of sculp­tor Martin Puryear is not new to Philly. His “Pavil­ion in the Trees”—lit­er­ally, a pavil­ion in a grove of trees in Fair­mount Park— is a fa­vorite place for lo­cals to en­joy na­ture. But Puryear’s lat­est mas­ter­piece, named “Big Bling,” is a 40-foot-tall, mul­ti­tier wood struc­ture with adorn­ing gold-leafed shackle that stands on view along Kelly Drive, be­tween Foun­tain Green Drive and the Con­nect­ing Rail­way and Gi­rard Av­enue Bridges, for six months be­gin­ning in June. The com­mis­sioned work is Puryear’s largest and was first in­stalled in NYC’s Madi­son Square Park.


Three gen­er­a­tions of this tal­ented fam­ily are rep­re­sented across Philadelphia. Gawk at the bronze Swann Me­mo­rial Foun­tain by Alexan­der Stir­ling Calder cre­ated in memo­riam of the founder of the Philadelphia Foun­tain So­ci­ety. Then check out the 37-foot-tall statue of Wil­liam Penn by Alexan­der Milne Calder—you can’t miss it for its perch atop City Hall. A visit to Philadelphia Mu­seum of Art means a look at Alexan­der “Sandy” Calder’s “Ghost,” haunt­ing Grand Stair Hall.


Mu­ral Arts Philadelphia is the na­tion’s largest pub­lic art pro­gram and it’s the rea­son that there are thou­sands of painted works adorn­ing the streets and pub­lic spa­ces of this city. A walk­ing tour down Mu­ral Mile pro­vides two hours of col­or­ful sight­see­ing past pieces like “Per­sonal Melody” com­pleted by twin graf­fiti artists How and Nosm, and “The Fa­ther of Mod­ern Philadelphia,” by Gaia, de­pict­ing ur­ban plan­ner Ed­mond Ba­con.


There are a mul­ti­tude of stat­ues hon­or­ing his­tor­i­cal fig­ures in Philly and a small con­cen­tra­tion of them can be found just out­side the Philadelphia Mu­seum of Art. The gath­er­ing of Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War he­roes in­cludes Gen­eral Casimir Pu­laski, Gen­eral Friedrich von Steuben, Mar­quis de Lafayette, Gen­eral Nathanael Greene and Gen­eral Richard Mont­gomery. Of course, there is one man whose face en­hances a dozen­plus places in town: Found­ing fa­ther Ben­jamin Franklin.


Many of Philly’s pub­lic art pieces have a pleas­ing aes­thetic— even if the mind asks ‘what is that?’ One such wonder is “Sym­bio­sis” by Roxy Paine at Iro­quois Park. Blur­ring the line be­tween nat­u­ral and ar­ti­fi­cial, the branch­ing struc­ture al­ludes to col­li­sions in na­ture and the pre­car­i­ous re­la­tion­ships these en­coun­ters cre­ate. Mark di Su­vero’s “Iro­quois” at Eakins Oval is a fieryred mas­tery of steel. Then, of course, there is Robert In­di­ana’s iconic “LOVE” sculp­ture, which has been rep­re­sent­ing the very essence of founder Wil­liam Penn’s “phileo” (love) “adelphos” (brother) at John F. Kennedy Plaza since 1976. (“LOVE” has been moved for restora­tion un­til Septem­ber).


From lions and ele­phants out­side the zoo to Al­bert Laessle’s billy goat in Rit­ten­house Square (aptly ti­tled “Billy”), Philly cel­e­brates the an­i­mal king­dom. Even the Macy’s down­town boasts the large, bronze “Ea­gle” by Au­gust Gaul. Jac­ques Lip­chitz’s “Prometheus Stran­gling the Vul­ture” wres­tles out­side the Philadelphia Mu­seum of Art, while 30 brushed stain­less steel fish, part of Mag­dalena Abakanow­icz’s “Open Air Aquar­ium,” school at Penn’s Land­ing.


Head to South Street, where Isa­iah Zager’s Magic Gar­dens en­trances view­ers with a col­or­ful col­lage cre­ated of ce­ram­ics, bot­tles, bi­cy­cle pieces and other trin­kets. It is ur­ban re­nais­sance at its finest.

Mu­ral Arts “Big Bling” Magic Gar­dens

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