A Glimpse Into Our Artists’ Work…

Below, you’ll find a piece written by one of our fabulous supporters, Chris McGuigan. Not only did she compose this wonderful reflection for Word Palette, but she also captured a few impromptu videos, last Sunday, during POST. Feel free to check them out at your leisure, using the attached links. Overall, they’re a great glimpse into the artists that make MAAG what it is today.

Mount Airy Art Garage and the Artists Within: Philadelphia Open Studio Tours October 1st and 2nd, 2011

On this Sunday afternoon in October the misty rain provided a thinly veiled curtain to the world beyond the inviting red open garage doors and once through those doors the stories unfolded.

Mount Airy Art Garage  is a soul fusion that is visual, instinctual, audible and richly textured.  This “It” is not just a building as it were – Mount Airy Art Garage is a lively, inspirational an nurturing community of people with the belief that each of us holds an artist within our soul, therefore, MAAG is a community to humanity and it’s artistic spirit!

Something irresistable draws you to a place where maybe, just maybe, you are crossing a threshold that will change your perspective or your life.

Looking around at first glance, what hits you is activity, bursts of color, buzzing social interaction and smiling faces. The energy and creativity abounds in sculpture, paintings, pottery, jewelry, screen prints, music, written and spoken word. It is not only what is present, but what is possible and it is not only a space that holds objects, but nurtures the spirit.

My intent was to interview some of the artists and attempt to capture in my words the energy of their words, but as each began to speak of thier work I watched as thier expressions would light up with enthusiasm.  I decided to capture the spontaneity using a small hand held video camera and to have the artists express what they do in thier own words.

Some are emerging artists, some professionals, but all possess – as artists do – that innate force that calls and they have no choice but to answer.

Whatever life journey they have been on, whatever careers they may have or have had from insurance agents, teachers, mechanics, physicians or the professional lifelong devoted artist –  that creative call cannot be quieted. And how fortunate that The Mount Airy Art Garage exists to embrace this creativity!

Mount Airy Art Garage has a clear direction to provide studio space for emerging and professional artists, a permanent gallery space and to educate and teach. It is a community center for the Arts in the Northwest region of Philadelphia encompassing Mount Airy, Chestnut Hill and Germantown.

MAAG began as a concept, a dream that co-founders Linda Slodki and Arleen Olshan envisioned and shared along with so many other artists, board members and supporters. It is evident that this dream has seeped into the life blood of these visionaries and began to take shape into what has now become a reality.

Mt. Airy Art Garage Interviews with Lyles, McGill, and Harris

Mt. Airy Art Garage Interviews with Curran, Schultz, and Hertzler

Mt. Airy Art Garage Interviews with Schary, Jenny, Scott, Drew, and Windle

A Re-Cap & A Reach-Out

Over the last three weeks, we’ve been busy. Real busy. But, to us, the chaos of productivity means three things: Community, Connections, and Art. Since our inception, nearly two years ago, MAAG has always stood behind these principles and, as we expand, we’re reminded even more of their importance. 

First and foremost, our doors are officially open! If you missed it, we kicked off our Grand Opening at our Hard Hat Ball with Sharon Katz & The Peace Train. Not only did Sharon Katz rock the house, but she also surprised the several hundred attendees with guest musician, Monette Sudler, who impressed the crowd with her incredible vocals and bass. Needless to say, by the end of the evening, most were up and dancing, celebrating on our freshly-patched concrete floors. 

As renditions of “Peace Train” and “Proud Mary” echoed through our 5,000 square foot space, the energy proved simply infectious. As we looked around to take it all in, we just couldn’t believe our eyes. Here was our home, not yet fully complete in its renovations, but still bursting with life and creativity. With art on the walls and art in the minds of all our supporters, it was impossible not to see our dreams materializing (For a few more photos, click here or here for a brief re-cap by Mt. Airy Patch and WHYY Newsworks). This was the moment we had been waiting so long for, and, for that, we sincerely thank everyone who made the night possible. Remember, without YOU there is no US!

The next day, we were privileged enough to garner a table at the Mt. Airy Village Fair. Here, our artists created full body portraits for those interested, and they even took a moment or two to freehand a few impromptu tracings of our board members. As we chatted, along Carpenter Lane, with various members of our community, the need for Art and change in our neighborhood was only reinforced. Mt. Airy has always been one of those creative, artistically-sustainable communities, and, frankly, we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but here.

Last weekend, on both Saturday and Sunday, we hosted POST (Philadelphia Open Studio Tours), one of the premier open studio tour events in the country. MAAG was even a destination point to catch the trolley that was ushering POST attendees up and down the Germantown Avenue corridor. With over 18  emerging and professional artists displaying their work in our ample space, there was literally something for everyone. A variety of mediums was represented including clay, painting, sculpture, jewelry, photography, woodwork, leather goods, handcrafts, and more. With over 300+ attendees across the two-day span, MAAG was both excited and proud to be part of such an amazing and successful event. To all those who came out to support the local arts, thank you! You’re support and generosity is what allows us to keep our doors open!

Currently, we’re prepping for our first art installation exhibit “Recapturing Memories.” This exhibit, which will open on Friday, October 21st from 6-8pm, will feature the work of Meei-Ling Ng, an artist already known for her bird and nature paintings. However, Ng will bring the same command of her two-dimensional work to a three-dimensional, interactive installation, using mostly recycled and raw material. The exhibit will run from October 21st to November 18th with gallery hours from 12-6pm, Thursday through Sunday. Be sure to come and check it out; even bring a friend or two!

All that being said, we still need your help! As we expand, further focused on our three guiding principles of Community, Connections, and Art, so does our workload! So, we’re looking for a few good volunteers willing to help with marketing, grant writing, blogging, and web design and developing. If interested, send us a message here and we’ll be happy to get back to you at our earliest convenience.

Most importantly, thank you for all the initial support and success. We’re proud to be your community center for the visual and performing Arts, and we want to ensure that position for many years to come! Yet, we need your continued support and spirit to move us forward. So, whaddya’ say: Come share in the vision and dream with us.

All Hands on Deck for Our Clean-Up!

On Monday morning, while many were snoozing away or prepping for their Labor Day barbeques, friends and members of the Mt. Airy Art Garage were hard at work sprucing up the place for our Grand Opening on September 17th.

In case you haven’t heard, in less than two weeks, MAAG will officially open its doors. Although construction is not fully complete, we thought it was time to swing open those babies and let the public in. To kick off this long-awaited date, we’re throwing a Hard Hat Ball with special guests, Sharon Katz & The Peace Train.

However, before we can celebrate, some serious cleaning had to take place. After all, our home at 11 West Mt. Airy Avenue has been under construction for the entire summer, and to say that a bit of dust had gathered in the 5,000 square foot locale would be an understatement.

Nevertheless, two dozen volunteers came ready and willing to tackle such a mess. By the time I arrived at 10:30AM, a half hour before the proposed start-time of the clean-up, volunteers were already sweeping and vacuuming out the garage. As I entered, I was greeted by a symphony of “hello’s” – each voice booming with cheerful anticipation for the day. Even the sleepiest of individuals, including myself, couldn’t resist the communal charm of the situation (We even had our own BBQ going outback, full of local veggies).

As the day stretched on, this camaraderie could still be felt. A task that had once seemed overwhelming was now within our sight. The furniture cleaned and relocated; the windows sparkling; the floors free of debris; the temporary doors reinforced. All of this was accomplished due to the gracious efforts of two dozen people. If anything, the day served as a great reminder to what people can accomplish when they work together.

Most importantly, though, these efforts put us one step closer to opening our doors and becoming a resource center where artists can create, exhibit, teach, and sell their work. And, for that, we’re extremely grateful (Special thanks go out to our guest photographer, Sang Cun)!

If you missed the clean-up, don’t fret! There’s always another opportunity to help out your local Art Garage. One way to support MAAG would be to celebrate our Grand Opening with us at our Hard Hat Ball on Saturday, September 17th! Come see our progress and enjoy some fantastic music. Doors open at 7:30PM with a $25 general admission. However, if you’re just itching for more, a special gala reception with Sharon Katz begins at 6:30PM with a $40 admission. Buy your tickets now, via Paypal, here.

So, mark your calendars and put on your dancing shoes for an evening you surely won’t forget. We said it before and we’ll say it again: The only thing we want you to do (and it won’t be hard) is have a good time!

 

Design Charette Dreaming Part 2…Our Storefront!

This past Friday, while many were already enjoying their fourth of July vacations, a group of innovative thinkers met to further MAAG’s vision in a storefront design charette. 

What’s that you say? You’re jealous? You’d have given up your beach blankets, summer novels, and fire crackers in exchange for a glimpse into such a collaborative process? No worries. Here at MAAG, we keep our supporters updated. So trust me, after this blog, it’ll practically be like you were there.

First, picture this: Our garage in the midst of its first week of construction. On the ground  are large black pipes, which will eventually be utilized for plumbing. With no working-electric on site, a makeshift conference table sits in the natural light by the opening of the Garage doors. On it are the relics of nearly any charette: fresh food, cold drinks, and architectural prints. In the distance, the sounds of Mt. Airy’s First Friday can be heard. Closer though are the voices of artists, contractors, architects, sculptors, woodworkers, and organic farmers – all combining to ensure that MAAG’s storefront be one that will “wow” any passerby.

Led by Morrie Zimmerman, our architect and bicyclist extraordinaire, the charette tackled several issues concerning the facade of our building. As you know, our home (located at 11 W. Mt. Airy Avenue) proves to be somewhat of a blank canvas.  Yes, the bricks and mortar are fabulous. Yet how do we aesthetically distinguish ourselves from the rest of the Mt. Airy Business district while still taking the nearby residential community into account? How do we enhance MAAG’s storefront and make it an undeniable addition to an already beautiful locale?
These were some of the questions which nourished the dialogue that evening. The answer, you ask? A hybrid facade that combines both functionality, nature, and art. To achieve this multi-faceted aesthetic, a grid system, which will act as an interchangeable canvas of sorts, will be attached to the wall. Not only art on the inside, but art on the outside. After all, MAAG’s rafters are already bursting at the seams with the talent of our supporters, and our doors haven’t even officially opened yet!

But that’s not all! Not only will the facade feature a sleek architectural design accented by art installations, but it will also sustain a living wall. For those of you unfamiliar with the term “living wall,” it is, in the most basic sense, a vertical garden. Perfect for urban spaces, the living wall will intertwine amongst the art installations and offer visitors a literal breath of fresh air. Here, climbing plants such as grapes, pears, and hops could be grown. Who knows – maybe MAAG will even brew its own beer one of these days. Nothing is out of reach!

Simply infectious, the energy of the charette motivated us to move forward and tackle issues such as lighting, exterior finishes, and of course, what is capable on our budget. Now, here is where YOU come in. To make all of this possible, we need your continued generosity and support. We’ve raised enough money to complete Phase I which primarily focuses upon the foundational aspects of our Garage, such as plumbing and electrical. However, Phase II and III are still in the works. If at all possible, please donate to our Building Fund and help us achieve our joint vision of a dynamic space where all artists can gather to create, exhibit, teach, and sell their work.

 

Together, the possibilities are endless!

 

 

Ready, Set, Build!

MAAG Construction Begins For Phase 1

We’ve begun the buildout! With enough money raised for Phase 1, we’re watching our dreams become more of a reality every day. Who would have thought we’d be so delighted to see plumbing spring up through the floor while electric cables and outlets snake through concrete and climb the walls? Who would have expected neighbors stopping by to wish us well? Who would believe our vision to create an organic garden in the back and a “living wall” in the front? Who would imagine even more talented Northwest artists, architects, and builders coming together to create a visionary storefront? That’s right…art on the outside walls as well as on the inside. And who would have ever believed we would successfully raise the initial $40K (all from donations) we needed to begin?  Well, that answer is simple. We believe…as do our 74 MAAG members (and growing) and our northwest neighbors, businesses, and friends.

So, what’s next aside from closing up the floors and creating the emergency exit out back? It’s raising money for Phase 2 . That means walls and bathrooms.

We need your support now more than ever before.  Please consider making a donation to MAAG so we can open our artists studios. It’s not over. In fact, we’ve only just begun…

Movin’ and Shakin’ with MAAG

Hi All! Melissa here with an update on some of the progress that’s been happening at our beloved Mt. Airy Art Garage (MAAG).

 

Two Thursdays ago, thanks to the abundant generosity of our supporters, MAAG received three truckloads of donations!
That’s right, count ‘em: Three! With ample hands and hearts devoted to the task, the move went extremely well and we’re proud to report that no movers were hurt in the process (only one torn pair of pants and a bruised ego from an embarrassing stumble). As we traveled, collecting goods from the top of the Hill to the heart of Mt. Airy, a cooperative atmosphere could be felt. After all, community is what forms the very foundation of MAAG.

Special thanks go out to Maureen Pitcher, MAAG Member and owner of Art on the Avenue Framing, who donated a mat-cutting table and Pam Learned, former owner of Hill on the Avenue, who gifted us software and an entire garage of office furniture. Without the charitable contributions of these two women, and individuals like them, MAAG would not be what it is today.

Even Mother Nature, herself, couldn’t resist the communal creativity of the Northwest, as she provided a cool breeze and reasonable temperatures that peaked no higher than 80 degrees. To say the least, we were grateful for such a lovely day.

After the filing cabinets, drafting tables, and shelving units made their way into the Garage, I stood in the doorway and envisioned what the space would soon be. With my eyes closed, I could hear the chatter of voices in the room, the sound of lead on paper, laughter billowing out of the spaces.

Folks, this move only puts us one step closer to establishing a cooperative center for the Arts, right here, in the Northwest, where it belongs. It puts us one step closer to a place where we can all gather to learn and dream and collaborate. For now, we’re excited and focused on starting Phase I of our construction. Still, we need your gracious and continued support! Please remember, without YOU, there is no US!

And, on a less serious note, enjoy this cartoon rendering of the move. It’s the first in a series of cartoons that will highlight all those behind-the-scene supporters at MAAG.

Coming of Age With WHYY…Who Knew It Could Be So Sweet?

Coming of Age shoot

I must admit, I was a tad cautious about letting everyone know we had done a segment with WHYY for Coming of Age. We had just completed an interview with the NY Times which I trumpeted to all “Hey… be on the lookout.” Alas! The article ran in the Times, but we were cut. So, lesson learned. I held my breath and didn’t say much of anything until we could actually provide the “real deal”  link.

As promised the audio aired yesterday on 90.9 FM. But when we saw the combined audio with stills (which really looked like video at times) we were truly honored and thrilled. First, I think the WHYY team is a real crackerjack team. Talented combo. Kudos  for doing a really amazing piece. You should become members of MAAG!

More important…they captured the essence of what MAAG is and what we stand for. We are a community based, artist driven, cooperative resource center. We look to provide opportunities for member artists to create, sell, exhibit and teach. We celebrate the abundance and diversity of Northwest artists and art lovers. We focus primarily, but not exclusively, on Germantown, Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill.  We embrace all who cross our doors. We are multigenerational, multicultural, lgbt lovin’ artists who serve all ages, both young and old. We seek to promote creativity and self expression in our community.

But most of all, we’re determined to make this happen. We are, after all, dreamers. And Arleen and I are following our dreams together.

So check out the interview…

http://www.whyy.org/widerhorizons/slodkiolshan/index.html

PS We should be starting construction of Phase 1 soon. Stay tuned. You’ll be the first to know.

New Blogger In The House!

Time out to welcome Melissa Hamilton, newest member of MAAG, cartoonist extraordinaire! She wanted to share some of her thoughts on this past “Art Under the Stars.” Check her out, she’s good. I think we’ll be seeing alot more of her on this blog and our marketing pieces.

So just go ahead and enjoy…

As my first “official” Mt. Airy Art Garage (MAAG) event, “Art Under the Stars” reached beyond my wildest expectations. Having attended other art-oriented events in the past, the cynic in me had envisioned snobbish chit-chat over bourgeois cheeses and sour grapes.

This was not the case, though, on Saturday night. Instead, I found myself instantaneously enveloped by the warmth of the crowd, enamored not only by the breathtaking venue, but by the congeniality of its attendees. As I stood, with my partner, on the front porch, we exchanged a glance – one that seemed to say, “Finally, this is home.”

Once inside, the art captured both my eye and mind. Whether I was gazing into the soulful face of an acrylic owl or doting over eclectic jewelry, I proved captivated. Several times, throughout the evening, I even wondered, “How can trash become such beautiful treasure?” Undoubtedly, each piece on display provoked similar philosophical questions and did what all good art does: Speaks.

Again, the art solidified that feeling of familiarity that my partner and I had experienced earlier on the porch. Of course, every piece, unique and fabulous in its own right, stood strong and independent. Yet, together, each individual creation combined to fabricate a patchwork of diversity – one that spoke volumes about the communal creativity of the Northwest.

As the night progressed, I found myself bidding several times on more than just a few pieces of art. Not only did I satiate my wallet, but also my appetite as I indulged in the sumptuous spread provided (If you haven’t tried Groben’s catfish nuggets, your taste buds just haven’t lived yet!).

Outdoors, the charming backyard created a wonderfully casual atmosphere, where local musicians and magicians both entertained and inspired. Here, conversation with surrounding attendees came effortlessly. Nothing was forced or faked – only the genuine existed. No one glared at me with ageist contempt or belittled my inexperience. If anything, the crowd served as yet another reminder as to why I call Mt. Airy “home.”

Undeniably, the main focus of the event was, indeed, its art. However, it’s nearly impossible to ignore what I believe was the additional goal of the evening. Beneath the hand-painted chairs, sought-after monotypes, and explosive yarn bombs, a sense of community was evident. Here, in the acceptance and collaboration of others, was the heart of the Northwest. Here was community, proud and unabridged, one that both surrounded and extended beyond the art world. This is what I had been searching for: A sustainable place where both art and interpersonal relationships were highly valued.

To a young, emerging artist, such as myself, “Art Under the Stars” meant opportunity. The opportunity to learn, to grow, and, most importantly, to connect. Needless to say, Mt. Airy Art Garage is a much needed and welcome addition to the Northwest, one that I will happily support.

It was a hell of a show…”Art Under The Stars”

 

You work so hard preparing for these events. And, at the same time, you realize how lucky you are to have some amazing people do amazing things. Because they believe. So, all our energies were focused on this event—and yes, MAAG artists and our community made it happen again.

First and foremost—did you have a good time? We know you did. We heard you “This was a great time!” or “There’s nothing better than artwork coming to you while you’re in a garden” or “It was great seeing neighbors and having a wonderful evening.” Tell me you didn’t dig the bands? How about the magician? C’mon, we dug Dave Smith swallowing fire and getting our guests to try to juggle (I heard Sue Z awed and amazed). By the way, who ate all the deli? The Herschels Deli platters dematerialized! As did the Grobens catfish nuggets! I know, next year, more cake.

For those who missed out, did you know you were going to see a live art installation? Melissa Maddoni Haims rocked the house with her yarn bombs. I think the first bidding war started with her work!

Truly, the talk of the evening was KD Mernin’s Red Dress. Almost a knock down dragout fight for that one. I saw bidders standing really close waiting for the final call. One bidder wanted to keep her bid sheet as a memento.

I have to say this year’s work was of the best quality I have seen yet. MAAG is growing, our member base is growing both in emerging and professional artists. Steve Berg, Nichols Berg Gallery, was the MAAG judge. He exposed artists to new opportunities, loved what he saw and gave helpful feedback. We couldn’t have done it without his support, generosity and technical assistance.

So, I do think that ALL our participating artists got value out of this show. And then, to round off what makes us really tick, our community came out to support us. We had neighbors play for us in the bands, provide food donations and gift certificates and support. The neighbors brought their friends, we saw old faces and new, young and old, we saw the diversity that makes us the Northwest, who we are at heart. And the artists threw a party—a beautiful night fit for all. Captured, as always, by Alix Passage. You truly are our MAAG photographer.

What you say, what about the money we raised for MAAG? We did well. It looks like double last year, maybe even $10,000. This will get us positioned and almost ready to start building out so we can open our doors!

So we’re moving forward, and getting more excited by the minute. We can feel it, we can taste it. When we open our doors—you’ll really know, this is just the beginning for the Mt. Airy Art Garage. You’ll be a believer too.

So Long Dear Friend—For Now

Sol, it’s strange, the way things happen. April 15 we finally got our long-awaited building permits. You can believe that was one of the hardest things we’ve done yet—the time, the cost, the partnerships, the zoning variances. And the very next day, you, Sol Levy, passed away on April 16. It’s as if you waited around to make sure we were all right.

That’s how it always was with you. You were Solomon Levy, Vice President and leader of MAAG. You met up with us at the very beginning…when MAAG was purely an idea. We were starting to create new partnerships…birthing an art market in the snowstorms of ’09… Weavers Way lending us our first helping hand. That was us, a group of professional artists and dreamers with a vision—you by our side, photographic equipment slung over your shoulders, ready to meet whatever came our way. Judy told us you said “It’s crazy, but I really think they can pull this off.” We haven’t forgotten. When doors were closed to us, you opened them. When we got stressed, you told us nothing worthwhile was ever easy. And you gave us support and sage advice. You were our mentor.

We knew you weren’t well, and tried to believe in our heart of hearts, you’d get better. You went through a lot and struggled for months. You said you didn’t want to read emails…you wanted to be AT the meeting. You followed all MAAG news with hunger and delight—I saw that smile on your face and the light in your eyes. You blew us away when you showed up at the Saturday night party during Funky February weekend. In you came, I remembered your dapper hat, with Judy by your side. We knew it wasn’t easy for you, but it was worth every second. And then we showered you in embraces.

Sol, we found out about your death yesterday. It really tore us up. But, that day, on April 16, we all agreed, you’re not getting away from us that quickly! No way.  We’re going to see this through together…all the way.

When the Mt Airy Art Garage construction is complete, our art gallery will be named the Solomon Levy Gallery of Art.

 

We love you Sol.

In memory of Sol Levy, the family requests that a donation be made to the Mt. Airy Art Garage, P.O. Box 18838, Philadelphia, PA 19119 or via this website.