Looking for a fun family outing? Or date? Love animals? Want eye-catching photos for your Instagram account?
Take an animal sculpture photo safari. Here’s a list of where to find sculptures by Eric Berg, who is best known for his beloved larger-than-life animal sculptures. Dozens of his sculptures can be found throughout the region.
Berg, who passed away in May 2020, was born in Pottstown then moved with his family to Allentown. He attended The Hill School then studied economics at the University of Pennsylvania. But, the lifelong animal lover realized he liked sculpting animals better than economics and decided to pursue his passion. He went on to earn a master's in fine arts from Penn. Berg's first commission was a warthog for the Philadelphia Zoo and he went on to create more than 40 works. Berg’s sculptures can be found in parks, museums, galleries, schools, zoos and in private collections throughout the nation. The artist strived to foster appreciation and respect for animals and, reportedly, loved when a bird landed on one of his pieces.
Philbert - a 225-pound bronze pig in the seating area at Reading Terminal Market. For good luck, rub his snout, and to spread goodwill, feed him coins, which will be donated to charity.
Pair of Bronze Gates on the Gardner's Cottage in Rittenhouse Square - Gates of carved vines adorned with birds, squirrels, a snail, a lizard, a praying mantis, a frog and a dog - all animals that live and play in the park.
Grizzly Bear and Turtle Family - on the West End of Fitler Square near 23rd and Pine Street.
Figuresphere II - At Schuylkill River Park, between 25th & 26th streets, north of Delancey. One of Berg’s less-common abstract sculptures.
Gate and Railing - Portico Place on 901 Spruce Street, on the north side of the street between 9th & 10th. Another abstract sculpture.
Tortoise - On the 3rd floor of the Academy of Natural Sciences, in the hall near the Outside In, a hand-on nature center. Outside In is currently closed due to the pandemic but the tortoise, which sits in the hallway nearby, is accessible.
For future reference: Tree of Life - A three-dimensional sculpture at Society Hill Synagogue at 418 Spruce Street. It was commissioned by the synagogue about 8 years ago and installed on a wall opposite the sanctuary. It has roots, branches and leaves that can be dedicated and inscribed for simchas (joyous occasions) such as graduations, weddings, births and b’nai mitzahs. NOTE: Currently off-limits due to pandemic.
Turtle - On the playground at the Palumbo Recreation Center at 723 S. 10th (at Fitzwater). The playground is gated, but free and open to the public.
Mario the Magnificent -- The Drexel Dragon at 33rd and Market streets is 10 feet high, 14 feet long and weighs 4,100 pounds. From the creature's head to its feet, it has13 million scales that get gradually smaller. The dragon is named for Mario V. Mascioli, who was active in the school’s board of trustees and alumni organization and who never missed a men’s basketball game in 20 years. This sculpture is just a few blocks away from Berg’s studio in Powelton Village and he often passed it on his way there. The dragon is a popular meeting place and one of the most Instagrammable spots on the Drexel campus.
Puma - At The Caring Center, 3101 Spring Garden Street. If you pull into the parking lot you can get a glimpse of the puma through the gate and snap a photo.
Panda - Tucked into a lush seating area between two Children's Hospital of Philadelphia buildings on Osler Circle, which runs from Civic Center Boulevard to Curie Boulevard.
Warthog, Massa the Gorilla, Toad - Berg visited the Philadelphia Zoo as a child and when he became a sculptor his ultimate dream was to have a piece there. He reached that goal three times over.
Since warthogs couldn't be imported into the United States for fear of infecting domestic swine, Berg's life-size sculpture represents the animal in the African Plains exhibit. He modeled it after photos of a warthog at the London Zoo. Berg loved the idea of children climbing on his sculptures and curved the horns to protect them.
In 1980, the Zoo asked Berg for a sculpture to commemorate the 50th birthday of Massa, a silverback gorilla. To prepare, Berg sat and studied Massa through the glass. The gorilla often sat and stared back, until he ultimately turned his back on the artist. The statue, which took 9 months to complete, weighs 450 pounds and captures Massa's stately and dignified manner. It can be found behind the PECO Primate Reserve. The artist kept a smaller version in his home on the 1900 block of Delancey Place.
Berg's Toad was modeled after a toad the artist caught in a woodpile at his summer studio in New York state and placed in a terrarium to observe. The sculpture can be observed (& climbed upon) in the Children's Garden.
For future reference: Tortoise & Rabbit Gates -- Rabbits frolic on the gates Berg created to surround the historic Woodside Park Dentzel Carousel at the Please Touch Museum. The museum is also home to a tortoise, which was originally commissioned for the museum when it was on N.21st Street in Center City. Note: The museum is temporarily closed.
Lassie - In the courtyard at the Doylestown Public Library. Lassie was written by Eric Knight, who lived on Springhill Farm in Springfield. It started as a story based on his wife’s collie, Toots. The story was so popular that it was expanded to a book, then into a movie starring Elizabeth Taylor and eventually into a series of movies and TV shows. In 1995, the Michener Art Museum was awarded a grant to create the sculpture, which is on loan to the library.
Both The Agnes Irwin School in Rosemont and Friends' Central School in Wynnewood, are home to animal sculptures by Eric Berg. Friends' Central School has a turtle that is a popular fixture on the elementary school playground. It is dedicated to a former student. The Agnes Irwin School has a great grey owl, the school's mascot. At the start of every school year, seniors tie a ribbon with their class color on the bird. Both of the campuses are closed to outsiders during the pandemic, and even afterward the best way to see the sculptures would be with a friend associated with the school or with advanced permission.
Big Horn Ram & Figure LXII -- There are two of Berg’s pieces at his alma mater, The Hill School. An abstract sculpture, called Figure LXII, is outside the art building, at 760 Beech Street. It is accessible from the parking lot near the hockey rink. The ram is on campus and only accessible with advanced permission.
Rabbit, Toad and Sea Lion - these bronze sculptures are in the Children’s Sculpture Zoo that’s part of the Haddonfield Sculpture Tour, a walking tour including about a dozen sculptures mostly on King's Highway in charming downtown Haddonfield.
Sea Turtle - Can be found at Adventure Aquarium in the Ocean Realm exhibit, where it has the company of a host of real-life sharks in a massive seawater tank.
For future reference: Sea Lion - In the welcome foyer at the Ronald McDonald House in Camden. The Sea Lion is beside the fish tank, welcoming families, especially children, to the Ronald McDonald House. Note: While it is open to families in need, the Ronald McDonald House is currently closed to the general public due to the pandemic.
Tip: Compile all of your photos into a photo book to preserve your memory of your Animal Photo Safari.
Special thanks to:
All of the locations listed above, plus
The Institute for Scientific Information
Bonnie Eisenfeld/CCRA: https://centercityresidents.wildapricot.org/resources/Documents/Final_CCQ Fall.pdf
Unicorns In the Garden: Sculpture at America's First Zoo by Shelly Rosenberg, Ed.D.
by Irene Levy Baker, author, 100 Things To Do In Philadelphia and Unique Eats & Eateries of Philadelphia. Both books are full of tips. Visit www.100ThingsToDoInPhiladelphia.com for more tips. Looking for safe places to social distance? Vaccinated? Need gifts? Go to the website for signed copies of books. For free shipping, use promo code TheCityPulse.
Click here for more blog postings by Irene Levy Baker including romantic outdoor sculptures to visit for Valentine's Day, New dates for the Philadelphia Flower Show and how to help restaurants survive.