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Philadelphia’s Photo-Worthy Public Art

August 19, 2020

Philadelphia has a legacy of making art accessible. With the first art museum and school in the U.S. and more public art than any other American city, the spirit of Philadelphia can be found in the art that follows you down the street into parks, open spaces, museums, and galleries.

Below are just a few pieces of public art that you should consider fixing your lens on while you explore Philadelphia. TIP: Share your photos on Instagram and tag #discoverPHL for a chance to be featured on our official account!

LOVE Sculpture

Artist: Robert Indiana

Location: 16th Street and JFK Boulevard

In honor of the U.S. Bicentennial in 1976, famed artist Robert Indiana was asked to lend his aluminum-molded LOVE sculpture to Philadelphia. It was placed in JFK Plaza, with a clear view all the way down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The plaza has since been known as LOVE Park and is arguably the most selfie-friendly spot in Philadelphia.

AMOR Sculpture

Artist: Robert Indiana

Location: 18th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway

In 2015, to honor Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families, the Philadelphia Museum of Art partnered with the Association of Public Art to bring Robert Indiana’s AMOR sculpture to Philadelphia, placing it at the top of the museum’s famous eastern steps. The sculpture is an alternate take on Indiana’s iconic LOVE sculpture, featuring the word “Amor,” which means “Love” in Pope Francis’ native Spanish. The sculpture was moved to its current location at Sister Cities Park in 2016, just a few blocks west from the LOVE sculpture.

A Quest for Parity: The Octavius V. Catto Memorial

Artist: Branly Cadet

Location: Southern apron of City Hall

One of the most influential African American leaders in Philadelphia during the 19th century, Octavius Catto contributed to forever amending the United States Constitution with his work toward the ratification of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments. His memorial, found on the southern apron of City Hall near Broad Street, shows Catto as if he were moving from a streetcar (represented by five granite blocks, each highlighting a different part of his legacy) towards a ballot box. The baseball player, educator, and civil rights activist was shot and killed on his way to vote on October 10, 1871 outside of his home in South Philadelphia.

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

Artist: Isaiah Zagar

Location: 1020 South Street

Isaiah Zagar has been creating mosaics with cut mirror, tiles and “found objects” in Philadelphia since the 1960s. The epicenter of his art today is what he calls his “labrynthine mosaic museum,” spanning three city lots. Begun as a way to revitalize his neighborhood with public art installations his work—and similar works by admirers—can now be found on hundreds of surfaces in the city.

Photo by K. Huff for PHLCVB.

Richard Allen

Artist: Fern Cunningham-Terry

Location: 6th and Lombard streets

Located outside Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church—the oldest property in the U.S. continuously owned by African Americans—this statue honors its founder, Richard Allen. Angered by racial segregation at church services, Allen, a freed slave and preacher, opened the church in 1794. He later founded the first black denomination in the country, later founded the first black denomination in the country, African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1816.

We The Youth

Artist: Keith Haring

Location: 22nd and Ellsworth streets

This mural by the Pennsylvania-born, iconic pop artist Keith Haring was created in 1987 for the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution. (The title is a play on “We the People”). It is the only Keith Haring collaborative public mural remaining intact and on its original site, and was recently restored by Mural Arts Philadelphia.

Rocky

Artist: A. Thomas Schomberg

Location: Philadelphia Museum of Art steps

No trip to Philadelphia is complete without a visit to the Rocky steps and the Rocky statue at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The sculpture was created as a prop for a scene in the film Rocky III, and Sylvester Stallone gave it to Philadelphia in 1982, as he felt that the fictional fighter Rocky Balboa was symbolic of the city, where anyone from anywhere can succeed with grit and hard work. For more Rocky related sites in Philadelphia, click here.

Swann Memorial Fountain

Artist: Alexander Stirling Calder

Location: Logan Square

Located in the center of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Logan Square, the “Fountain of Three Rivers” Art Deco sculpture was created in 1924 and features Native American subjects that represent the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers and Wissahickon Creek. Calder’s father, Alexander Milne Calder, is known for the immense bronze statue of Philadelphia founder William Penn, placed on the top of City Hall in 1894—the largest in the world atop a public building.

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