Pennsylvania has brought the world a lot of great artists. Painter Andrew Wyeth, pop art genius Andy Warhol, writer Gertrude Stein, musician Questlove, and tons more have all called the Keystone State home, and if you're looking to get inspired the way they were, PA provides plenty of ways. From folk art icons like Philly's Magic Gardens to experiences like the Crayola Factory Tour to well-respected institutions like the Andy Warhol Museum, no matter your style, exploring Pennsylvania's arts scene is incredibly inspiring, and super fun.
Philadelphia's South Street has a reputation for being funky and artsy-- it's one of the city's most popular neighborhoods, even with tourists, but it owes a lot of its charm and character to the work of one forward-thinking artist: Isaiah Zagar. Zagar, who is a renowned muralist and mosaic artist, started bringing his unique brand of art to South Street in 1968, when he and his wife Julia moved in and opened up a gallery. He also started to decorate the once-dilapidated buildings with bright murals. It wasn't until 1994, however, that he purchased the lot that would become his largest contribution to the area-- Philadelphia's Magic Gardens. In 2002, the community even came together to help him purchase the two lots next door to complete his masterpiece.
It was declared officially finished in 2008. It encompasses 3,000 square feet of brightly tiled labyrinth. If you look closely when you visit, you can see themes emerge and familiar places and events come together-- everything from Las Pozas to Dia de los Muertos to 9/11. Even though the neighborhood has changed quite a bit since Zagar moved in, the Gardens continues his mission to beautify the area and keep it quirky by also serving as a hub for artists in Philadelphia-- it hosts events, workshops, performances and more. Or you could just visit and get lost exploring the incredibly detailed wonderland!
The Philadelphia Museum of Art contains over 227,000 objects of cultural, historic and artistic significance. As you stroll the quiet halls of the galleries, you can observe sculptures, paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, armor, and tons more from various countries and eras. There are also several annex buildings that contain even more displays, and the $20 admission fee gets you access to all of them for two consecutive days. Be on the lookout for pieces by famous figures like Picasso, Dali, Hieronymus Bosch, Van Gogh, and more. If you're short on time, you can (at the very least) jog up the stairs like the titular character in the Academy Award-winning film "Rocky"... make sure to pose for a picture with the statue of Rocky while you're at it!
If you're inspired to start creating a masterpiece of your own, then head to The Crayola Experience. Not only can you try out some of Crayola's craziest art supplies for yourself, but you can make your own marker, melt your own crayon, spin up some drip art, and check out the world's largest crayon. The Crayola Experience definitely has a lot of exhibits and features geared towards kids, but adults will have plenty of fun crafting and creating on their own as well. Just make sure to leave plenty of time for a visit here if you're with little ones... there are four floors of fun!
The capital city’s only dedicated art museum is the Susquehanna Art Museum, and it's doing a ton of work to bring culture and artistic appreciation to the region. Featuring a great line-up of permanent collections along with some stellar rotating exhibits on topics like modern African American art and pieces by immigrants who have crossed the US/Mexico border, it does a lot more than just display pretty pictures. They do a great job of getting visitors thinking and engaging with the art, concepts, and the community.
Frank Lloyd Wright was one of the most prolific and historically significant architects in American history, blurring the lines between art and function when designing buildings. Fallingwater is his most famous home, but not too far from that icon is another gorgeous house of his, tucked away among the hills and forests: Kentuck Knob. It's one of the last homes he completed himself, and he only visited the site once, during its construction, but it remains a stunning example of the nature-inspired design that made Wright so famous.
One of the most famous artists from Pennsylvania is the incomparable Andy Warhol. His hometown of Pittsburgh houses the Andy Warhol Museum, which features 7 floors of his drawings, prints, paintings, sculpture, film and video, along with artifacts and ephemera from his life. After you browse the eccentric collection of art, hop into the photo booth to commemorate your trip with a Warhol-print-inspired snapshot.
End it all with a trip to the Mattress Factory, a contemporary art haven that's described as part installation art museum and part total mind trip. As you wander the halls and galleries here, there's no telling what kind of exhibit you'll stumble across... but you'll want to have your camera ready. Definitely don't miss the Infinity Dots Mirrored Room and the outdoor garden!
Whether you want to keep it classic and immerse yourself in the works of the greats, or you're more intrigued by the modern and the strange, there's tons of inspiration to be found across Pennsylvania! Once you're done experiencing all of the state’s artistic attractions, you'll be ready to get out there and create something of your own.
Life. Liberty. The pursuit of happiness. In Pennsylvania, these are not only American ideals; they are the very keystones of our way of life. Find your own piece of happiness, whether it’s in our iconic historic sites, our natural beauty, our bustling cities or our charming small towns.