“How do you make a magic carpet a reality?” Candy Coated shows us at The Oval


[Jennifer is transported to The Oval, where a magical visual transformation shows the effect of public art on happiness. — the Artblog editors]

Philadelphia artist Candy Coated (formerly Candy Depew) has, for the second year in a row, transformed a site on the Parkway into an immersive art environment. Last summer, she created Candy Coated Wonderland at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. And now, through August 17, Candy Coated brings her signature imagery of diamonds, hearts, leaves, paisleys, and butterflies to the eight-acre public park known as The Oval.

Summer wonderland

Magic Carpet at The Oval, through August 17, Photo by Constance Mensh, courtesy of the Association for Public Art
Magic Carpet at The Oval, through August 17. Photo by Constance Mensh, courtesy of the Association for Public Art.

Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, in partnership with the Fairmount Park Conservancy, have re-branded Eakins Oval as The Oval, a summertime “park on the parkway” complete with food trucks, a serene beer garden, and events such as swing dancing and film screenings. The Association for Public Art commissioned Candy Coated to transform this rejuvenated public space into Magic Carpet, a fully immersive and delightful art environment.

Candy Coated (formerly Candy Depew) in her studio, Philadelphia
Candy Coated (formerly Candy Depew) in her Philadelphia studio. Photo by Amber Kirylak.
Diamonds explode out of Magic Carpet, this 3-D illusion art was designed by Candy Coated and realized by Joe Hill of Wasabi 3D
Diamonds explode out of Magic Carpet. This 3D illusion art was designed by Candy Coated and realized by Joe Hill of Wasabi 3D.

Here, shiny diamonds explode illusionistically out of painted hearts; diamond-shaped sand boxes are filled with hot-pink sand; outsized chess and checker sets await play; cool water rains down from bright green water misters. As so often happens with Candy Coated’s installations, there’s a sense of transportation to a place where “happiness and delight,” as the artist said, are fundamental.

Community gathering space

Photo by Constance Mensh
Photo by Constance Mensh.

At the official opening of Magic Carpet and The Oval on July 16, Candy Coated highlighted metaphorical implications of carpets in general, and this carpet specifically: They are gathering places, items laid on the ground to “soften a surface”; places which mark a “community within a community,” used both outdoors and in domestic settings, in every culture.

She said her Magic Carpet exemplifies how “art can be a part of life, every day,” and noted how The Oval and her installation may be catalysts to “create something beautiful together.” The actual carpet portion of Magic Carpet is realized with paint (both hand-painted and stenciled), and slip- and fade-proof vinyl cutouts. On top of this large, brightly colored tapestry are the food trucks, the tables and sun umbrellas, the sandboxes and games.

Candy Coated with visitors in the hot pink, diamond-shaped sandbox
Candy Coated with visitors in the hot-pink, diamond-shaped sandbox.

Given the crowds gathered at The Oval on opening night, it seems that “something beautiful” is already being created, and there’s a sense of seamless collaboration between the organizations and civic offices involved in this project. Visitors move on and in this art installation, initiating its games and features as they wish. Some of the many benefits of public art, and indeed successful public park spaces, are evident here–civic vitality and appreciating the public sphere as something shared, active, and enriching.

Penny Balkin Bach, executive director of the Association for Public Art, mentioned several recent projects as additional evidence of this impact, such as Open Air by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer and Tango at Swan Fountain, both from 2012. Bach described Magic Carpet as sharing many principles with Open Air, in fact. Both projects are interactive, creating opportunity for community that wouldn’t otherwise be apparent; ultimately, these public art projects, “activate space, and people make that happen,” Bach said.

Magic Carpet at The Oval, early in progress with Philadelphia Museum of Art in background, Photo by Constance Mensh, courtesy o
Magic Carpet at The Oval, early in progress with Philadelphia Museum of Art in background, Photo by Constance Mensh, courtesy of the Association for Public Art.

In Museum Without Walls, the Association for Public Art’s audio guide of public sculpture, we hear Candy Coated’s wish for visitors: that once we step onto this magic carpet, we may be transported anywhere we would like to go. This carpet may indeed connect with other places and moments in history. The proximity of The Oval and Magic Carpet to the Philadelphia Museum of Art somehow evokes connections between Candy’s carpet and all the luxurious and rare medieval carpets in the museum’s collection. This colorful, contemporary installation may also be in conversation with Philadelphia’s rich textile history, dating back to the city’s first industrial carpet weavers of the late 18th century.

Mostly, though, Magic Carpet is a delightful summertime respite that advances our ideas about what’s possible in the public sphere today.

Candy Coated will be leading two public art-making workshops at The Oval, where visitors can experience firsthand what it’s like “to create something beautiful together.” A screen-printing workshop will be held on July 31; a parasol-painting workshop takes place on August 10. Register for these free events at: associationforpublicart.org/magic-carpet.


association for public art, candy coated, magic carpet, philadelphia, philadelphia museum of art, public art, the oval



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