By Brianna Michelle Bosak and Elizabeth Diane Sim

Mount Airy: Art Garage Functions as Dream Factory for Local Community

Mount Airy: Art Garage Functions as Dream Factory for Local Community
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The Mt. Airy Art Garage (MAAG) is a community organization unlike Daisy Juarez has ever been involved in.

“We have visual arts, performing arts, literary arts, we even have a quilting club,” she said. “It’s a multifunctional garage.”

Juarez became a member last year after moving to Philadelphia. An artist herself, Juarez said she was looking to join an organization similar to the watercolor society she was part of in Illinois – a group where she could connect with fellow artists as well as with the community – luckily, she discovered the Art Garage.

Linda Slodki of Mt. Airy Art Garage

Linda Slodki greeted members at Wednesday’s Jazz Jam.

“We’re really all about community and creativity,” said Linda Slodki, president and cofounder of MAAG. “Our goal is to bring artists out of isolation.”

Slodki and her partner Arleen Olshan, a master leather crafter, recognized that a lot of artists were disconnected from one another within the local community. People felt stuck, said Slodki. Maybe it’s that they didn’t have enough information or the right resources to make a dream come to fruition, she said.

So, Slodki and Olshan founded MAAG.

MAAG is a member-supported nonprofit organization that serves as a community center for the arts. Based out of Mount Airy, the Art Garage primarily supports artists in its local community as well as in the nearby communities of Chestnut Hill and Germantown. It’s a dream space where like-minded people can support one another and try and accomplish their goals collaboratively, Slodki said.

With the help of Weavers Way Co-op, the duo started the organization a little over three years. Now, 160 members strong and still growing, the Art Garage has established itself as a venue that caters to artists in its local community – something that Richard “Tank” Keitt Jr. can attest to.

The first time Tank met with Slodki, he said that she pointed to the open garage and asked, “What would you like to do with this?”

A jazz musician, Tank told her his dream of bringing back jazz jams – an event where a core group of regulars play, and any musicians and vocalist who care to join in are welcome to. A few months later, Tank was organizing MAAG’s first Jazz Jam – an event that is now held the second Wednesday of every month.

Richard "Tank" Keitt Jr.

Richard “Tank” Keitt Jr. interacted with the crowd.

“They’ll sit down here and ask you your dream, and then you can ask them their dream,” said Tank. “If it involves a venue – you got the venue – it’s here, they’ll advertise, they’ll do whatever it takes.”

Along with Tank’s Jazz Jams, MAAG also hosts a variety of regular events, like Quiltapalooza, Breakfast Club and the Art Auction Gala. Artists also offer classes and workshops frequently throughout the year. Along with the large gallery in the front of the building – where these classes and events are held – the Art Garage also houses seven working artist studios along with workshop spaces for member artists to show and sell their art.

Most recently, MAAG has been working on the Rain Barrel Project. Last year, the Mt. Airy Business Improvement District (MABID) reached out to MAAG to help launch the project – an effort from the Water Department to combine art and sustainability. Painted by students, MAAG member artists, educators and family members, the collaboration turned out 15 barrels that now line Germantown Avenue. The barrels are used to water planters in an effort to show homeowners and business how to save money while protecting the Wissahickon Watershed.

But Slodki and Olshan wanted to continue the project from last year, launching their own “Phase 2” of the Rain Barrel Project this May. They felt last year’s project was only a beginning, but was missing was a concentrated effort to reach out to area schools and elderly populations. This year, working with participants from CW Henry, Homeline, PA School for the Deaf, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy and the Germantown HS Stained Glass Project, MAAG was able to create 10 more barrels for the Northwest community.

Saxophone player

A musician played his saxophone.

At this point, the majority of MAAG’s efforts are internal operations, but Slodki said they are looking to do other partnerships that will bring artists into the community.

“The really special thing about us is that we take that emerging artist just as importantly as we do the professional artist, said Slodki. “And we take the elder artist – who may not have a computer or a car – just as seriously as we take the younger artist who may have all of those things accessible to them,” said Slodki.

We’re about community here, said Slodki. This is a space where anybody is welcome to come together to dream and create.

The Mt. Airy Art Garage is located at 11 West Mt. Airy Ave. in Mount Airy. They are open from Thursday through Saturday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 12 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information, contact linda@mtairyartgarage.org or 267-240-2570.

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