Spirit of Place: 50th Anniversary Retrospective Exhibition

Spirit of Place: 50th Anniversary Retrospective Exhibition

Opening Night: Friday, September 14th

We are excited to announce that Eye’s Gallery will be hosting a retrospective exhibition to celebrate our 50th year on South Street!  “Spirit of Place,” will open on Friday, September 14th from 5 – 8 PM and will feature live entertainment, refreshments, and giveaways. The exhibition will be on view through October 14th. Follow Eye’s Gallery on Facebook and Instagram (@eyes_gallery) to receive updates leading up to the show.

In 1968, after serving in the Peace Corps as craft developers to the Aymara and Inca people of the Andes Mountains, Julia and Isaiah Zagar moved into a sparsely populated area of Philadelphia known as Lower South Street and renovated a vacant building to live in and work from. In the late 60s, rents in this neighborhood were very affordable and a group of artists, actors, and crafts people associated with the newly opened Theater of the Living Arts had already taken up residence in the area. The Zagars lived on the second floor, and began exhibiting and selling the folk art they had fallen in love with in Peru. As their business grew and flourished, they expanded their cultural repertoire to include other Latin American countries, most notably Guatemala and Mexico, both of which also became a focus for the shop. The space also served as a studio for Isaiah, and they exhibited his work along with local artists and fine craftspeople from Latin America. Around this time, Isaiah’s art process shifted from painting to making mosaics, and he began to incorporate broken items of ceramic folk art into his compositions. His work can still be seen growing across the ceilings, walls and floors of Eye’s Gallery, as much of the original wall décor has been retained.

“The vision that shapes our gallery is one in which a division between art and crafts does not exist in any meaningful way,” Julia Zagar has said, and this still holds true today. “We believe that work made with honesty, skill, and love make it uniquely valuable. We present the simplest toy and the most intricate weaving side by side with equal pleasure. The so-called common objects of yesterday have become the collector’s items of today, as their intrinsic values of form, texture, color, and ‘spirit of place’ shine through.”


Over the years Julia and Isaiah would witness multiple metamorphoses of South Street, all the while remaining committed to community connection and spreading their love for the arts. Isaiah’s mosaics would flavor the walls and buildings of South Street, and Julia’s vision kept expanding in an effort to preserve, protect, and present traditional and handmade artwork and art forms from all over the world. Likewise, they watched the evolution of their gallery and shop, as the changing topographies of the architecture transitioned the space into a sculptural environment and a most unique retail setting. As Julia noted in 1982, “We have always thought of the Eye’s Gallery as an artistic creation. Like painters with their canvases, we have added and subtracted strokes, stepped back to survey and then worked on it some more. You who have known us during the years have watched the changes that keep Eye’s an exciting and special place to visit.”