On Friday, July 29, 2022, an electrical fire started in the HVAC system of Jim’s Steaks, our friends and neighbors since 1976. The fire raged for 5 hours, and the heroic, strategic efforts of the Philadelphia Fire Department prevented the fire from penetrating the gallery walls. We cannot express our relief and gratitude when we were allowed to walk through the space the next day to see that the vast majority of the building, artwork, and Zagar mosaics were intact. The firefighters were so thoughtful they even carefully moved folk art away from windows before breaking through the glass!
While structural damage to the beloved 110-year-old building is not a worst-case scenario, the smoke and water damage is devastating. The inventory, most of which are one-of-a-kind artworks, has been affected. We are unsure at this point what can be salvaged. There is also 3 feet of water in the basement; all windows have been lost; the ceiling will need to be reconstructed, among other issues. We will be unable to open the building for the foreseeable future.
Julia Zagar, the owner and neighborhood matriarch, is 82 years old. She is overwhelmed and heartbroken. She opened Eyes Gallery in 1968, and it is not only an iconic destination for folk art, jewelry, and beautiful objects but a place to congregate and find joy. The spirit and laughter found in the Eyes building is reflected in the equally important historic artwork created by world-renowned mosaicist Isaiah Zagar, Julia’s husband. The Eyes Gallery was Isaiah & Julia’s first home in Philadelphia- it is the first art environment finished by Isaiah and is a critical site for us to protect.
Every single penny from this GoFundMe will go directly to Julia and the staff to support recovery efforts. This will include months-long cleaning, staff support, inventory replenishing, and critical infrastructure repairs. Julia has spent the last 54 years loving this store, loving South Street, loving us, loving artists, loving collaboration, loving community- now it is time for us to love her back!!! LET’S TAKE CARE OF EYES!