Street's Summer Passport follows our writers across the globe as they discover the beautiful, the obscure and the just plain WTF wonders of the world. This week, we kick things off in the City of Brotherly Love.


Summer in the city means a chance to check out Philadelphia’s vibrant art scene– and not just the gallery you walk past on your way into Fisher Fine Arts. This week, Street explored the Tiffany Mosaic– a 15-by-49 foot, hand-blown glass mural. The mosaic, titled, “The Dream Garden”, shows a beautifully ornate landscape filled with an abundance of flora and backed by true purple mountain majesties.

While the mural sits in the Curtis Center, across from Washington Square, “Dream Garden” was almost bought by a casino tycoon, after it went on sale in 1988. Fortunately, public outcry halted the sale. The mosaic is now owned by the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, thanks to the help of other cultural Philadelphia institutions, including our very own University of Pennsylvania. (I’m grateful that I can only imagine what this piece would look like in the Wynn Las Vegas. The ding of slot machines, the smell of cigarette smoke and the eyesore of cargo shorts gathering around the mural...no thank you.)

There is no doubt that every detail was meticulously thought out. Each light is set perfectly, bouncing off the different 260 colors of 100,000 favrile glass pieces that make up the mural. Pictures barely capture the mural’s almost ethereal glow. (If only a makeup company could sell a highlighter that could make me glow like this.) Even the surrounding details bolster the dreamlike nature of the mural. The waterfall in the right foreground comes alive as the sound of water trickles in the fountain pool at the base of the mural. The light in the room coming from the large glass doors and windows that face the mural changes the atmosphere of the room as the day goes on.

To see it, enter the Curtis Center from the 6th Street side. (The best part about it is that it’s free!) Hours for the Curtis Center are Monday – Friday, 8am-6pm, and Saturday from 10am-1pm. The main lobby of the building is also beautiful with a large, modern fountain, but it is currently under construction. If you know of the mural’s existence or even if you even stumble upon the mural by accident, it’s amazing to admire up close.

So, whether you stop by to look at it for a few moments or even a few hours on the benches (it’s thankfully air-conditioned inside), the mural never fails to instill a sense of wonder in the viewer. And when you walk out of the building, you’ll feel like you’re waking up from a dream.


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