Theses (Historic Preservation)

Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version



Outsider artists are artists driven by the compulsion to create immense spaces separate and distinct from the politics of everyday life and the ordinary and mundane aspects of the built environment. For over half a century, artist Isaiah Zagar has committed his life to city beautification; creating over 220 mosaic murals in Philadelphia. One can argue that Isaiah Zagar has transformed Philadelphia into a folk art environment through his public and private mosaic murals that have long been ingrained in the city’s urban fabric. While this research does not address the entire scope of his work, it aims to provide the basis for addressing preservation issues in the context of outsider art, and Philadelphia. Zagar’s mosaic murals remain at risk to a lack of regular maintenance caused by ambiguities in ownership, and protection from demolition. This thesis will examine the preservation of Isaiah Zagar’s public mosaic murals, his connection to outsider art, and the complex relationship between public art and private property while focusing on the mosaics entitled 4,000 Poets. This particular grouping of mosaics are located in the Bella Vista/ Southwark neighborhood on Schell Street between the Eyes Gallery and Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens; the site that fostered the South Street Renaissance in the 1960s.


art brut, unconventional materials, untrained artists, unorthodox, visionary



Date Posted:20 February 2023