Julia Zagar and her husband, the famous mosaic artist Isaiah, established Eye’s Gallery in its current location on South Street in 1968.
Sparked by the Zagar’s love for Latin American folk art, Eye’s Gallery has expanded into three floors of unique handpicked from around the world. Isaiah and Julia, artists and urban pioneers, moved into a sparsely populated area of Philadelphia known then as Lower South Street, after serving in the Peace Corps as craft developers to the Ayamara and Inca people of the Andes mountains in Peru.
Julia and Isaiah helped the native communities organize their crafts for foreign market. They taught them to measure how much the products and the workers’ labor were worth, and how to meet the standard, western clothing quality and size scale requirements.
The Peace Corps gave a small amount of money to Julia and Isaiah monthly for their basic necessities. The couple spent half of this money purchasing handmade items from the locals and sold them to other Peace Corps workers or the few tourists who passed through the mountain village, 14,000 feet above sea level.
They invested the profit in acquiring more materials for the villagers. The Zagar’s business grew quickly and soon they had 60 employees producing beautiful folk art and knits to meet the demand. Upon returning to the US in 1968, Julia and Isaiah started from scratch.
They settled down in Philadelphia, and renovated a vacant building on South Street to live in and work from. That building came to be the Eye’s Gallery. Artistically, Isaiah shifted from painting to making mosaics and his work can be seen not only all around South Street and Philadelphia but on the ceilings, walls and floors of Eye’s Gallery, as well.