“Recapturing Memories” : a review by guest blogger Diana Tedone

We just opened our new installation by Meei Ling Ng. See it through the eyes of one of our artist  members… and special thanks, as always, to Alix Passage, photographer.

The exhibit starts before I reach the art gallery; I am intrigued by PVC tape shaped into bird footprints and “chick chick chick” written delicately with sidewalk chalk. When I arrive I am immediately welcomed by the co-founders of Mt Airy Art Garage (MAAG), Linda Slodki and Arleen Olshan, and then ushered in by exhibitor Meei-Ling Ng.  I am given a guided tour through the exhibit, and then left to wander around the space on my own, lost in my own thoughts.

Ng explains to me that she draws her inspiration from two sources: her childhood in rural Singapore and a park in Southwest Philadelphia that she calls “the jewel of the city.”  Being in the latter space felt like home to her because she was again surrounded by nature, the same earthy spaces that she loves and remembers from her childhood.  She brings her reminiscences into the gallery and molds scenes of nature to conform to the existing space in a way that is at the same time artificial and organic.  Paintings hang from the ceiling in a way that is ethereal, and yet the bold lines within many of the canvasses demand the viewer’s attention.  Other lines are fine, and the shading more subtle: the latter paintings convey a sense of gestalt.

The gestalt echoes the sense the artist is trying to convey with the exhibit itself, that the arrangement in the gallery is more than the sum of its natural and artificial parts.  There is something eerie and sensitive, delicate and whimsical about the space as a whole.  I am straddling several realties at once: past and present, natural and manmade; I am in the gallery and am also somewhere else at the same time.   I am stuck in between realities and don’t know why.  My mind hurtles backward to scenes of my own childhood in the woods, and jars me forward to the present, where I am standing in the middle of the room.

The feeling is intentional.  When I tell Ng what I am experiencing, she reassures me that my experience means that I am grasping what she intends.  At that time I am standing in the center of the room, directly in front of an arrangement composed of a small wooden bench, and a tree and bird sculpture that Ng calls “the center of energy.”  The space is intended as a gathering place and as a place to reflect.  The thick and yet delicate tree branches echo the sense of line from the paintings, works that are delicate and bold at the same time.

Further into the room is an arrangement of chickens and brightly colored plastic Easter eggs.  The chickens are made of cardboard boxes, and the artist makes no attempt to hide the boxes’ original artwork.  This is also intentional, Ng explains.  By retaining the original artwork, she again shows that we do not need to resist the tie between what is manmade and what is not, that an organic and sustainable lifestyle is indeed possible in a post-consumer society.  This assertion is echoed by a series of hanging gourds from the artist’s own garden, upon which a bird sculpture is perched.

My path continues to a space that could be a marsh with its tall reeds or can echo the seaside with its delicately placed seashells.  Nearby I see a log that could be a piece of driftwood or could equally be at home in the middle of a forest, upon which several whimsical bug creatures composed of used buttons sit.  This space again reminds me that nature and humanity can interact peacefully, and such interactions can be a lot of fun as well.

As I leave the space, the feeling of being in between different spaces stays with me.  I am thinking about nature and how I can be a part of it; of human society and how I can better integrate with it.  I am reflective, and yet I am walking down Mt. Airy Ave. trying to find my car.  I am a part of the world around me as well as being apart from it.

The exhibit invites the viewer to not only look at artwork, but also to be a part of it.  We are invited into a different world, a world of button creatures and pizza box chickens, in which the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts.  The exhibit is ethereal, yet grounded; it is carefree and introspective.   It echoes memories of a childhood long ago lost, and it creates memories of an adulthood that is fresh and optimistic.  It is for children, and it also feeds the child within us.  It is a space to laugh and gather with friends, and also to reflect and think alone.   The exhibit is definitely deserving of a first, and then a second look.  It may not be a permanent installation at MAAG, but it stays with me.  “Recapturing Memories” will continue to capture my imagination for years to come.

What is the mission? WE are the mission! Mt. Airy Art Garage Launches Artists’ Breakfast Club

When Paula asked us “What can I do to help?” we responded with “What’s your fantasy?” From that sprung the Breakfast Club. We weren’t sure where it was going, all we could think of was what we had read of the Paris Salons, those we had dreamed about but never experienced. We knew that we wanted to be among other artists, to share our stories, to talk about our challenges, to share our inspirations, to be inspired by each other’s work. That’s why we originally founded the Mt. Airy Art Garage…so we could come out of isolation and find other artists.

Thursday was a phenomenal start. 15 artists, count them 15. Self-taught, PAFA grads, Tyler grads, experienced art educators, social workers and art therapists, painters, sculptors, glass artists, digital artists, handcrafters, older, younger, as diverse as our membership. Our group included founders of the Stained Glass Project “Windows that open doors!” and founders of the Art Forms Gallery. Some are having exhibitions coming up at Drexel. Some are working with the Picasso Project. Some are part of the Knesset Israel Artists Collective. One artist lived in Alaska and traveled into native villages teaching pottery and clay. One went to Japan on a scholarship. So, the group was wonderful and diverse…and growing. 

But more important were some of the ideas that were shared. I want to share them with you:

  • “Art is satisfying. It channels my focus, my purpose, my creativity.”
  • “I see things in a completely different way. I see what’s there in a given moment in time.”
  • “I want this group not to be constricting or formal. I want to share in art history, share in our own work with each other, and go back to our studios enriched.”
  • “The topic doesn’t matter. It’s how we view the world.”
  • “This group is about the commonality of artists talking, appreciating, supporting, and motivating each other.”
  • “What is the mission? WE ARE THE MISSION!”

So, we welcome you to join us, on the third Thursday of each month at 9 am at 11 West Mt. Airy Ave. Bring a sample of your artwork. Next meeting will be on Nov. 17 (bring your own breakfast). Even better, bring your story, bring your heart, bring your imaginations.  Open to all artists.

An Invitation To Artists! We’re Launching The MAAG Breakfast Club Thurs. Oct. 13 @ 9:00 am!

Have you ever noticed that the people you most relate to are in the arts? Remember the artist cafes in Paris? Well, neither do we! But we heard they were cauldrons of creativity and support. So, fellow artists, let’s stir up the pot and get cookin’ with art, philosophy and general mischief. Meet your peers.

All present at the initial gathering will help determine the course of the group. Do we present techniques or ideas to each other, invite guest lecturers, do artists “crits” or simply shmooze? Each of you is encouraged to invite artists, both members of the Mt. Airy Art Garage or not, to join in the creation of Philadelphia’s newest ART SALON—The Mt. Airy Art Garage Breakfast Club.

Please bring some breakfast to share, whether coffee or other goodies. We will meet each month on Thursdays, from 9 –10:30 am at the Mt. Airy Art Garage, 11 West Mt. Airy Ave. Admission is free. See you there!

 

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.

Building Community in the Northwest

Celebrating Together To Make The Mt. Airy Art Garage A Reality After completing our second weekend of the Mt. Airy Art Garage, we are all being struck by an unexpected experience. It’s not about how many visitors crossed the portals of our doors. It’s not about artists’ sales, and it’s not about more Holiday marketing ads to bring you in. It’s about community. We have been deeply moved by the warm embraces of visitors thanking us for what we are doing. We become teary-eyed at unexpected (and ongoing) dropoffs of home-made food for everyone at our festivities. We are touched by the musicians who have stepped forward to volunteer their time, for the love of art, to add warmth to everyone’s spirits in a cold Garage. We laugh with our artists as they run through the aisles in glee having sold a painting of the highest caliber. Everything is offered with a smile, or an embrace, and open heart. The crossroads of cooperation. Weavers Way has embraced our vision with their support. Our brainstorm, our vision became theirs, employees and managers alike. They have provided us with space, with opportunity, with moral support. Businesses in Germantown, Mt. Airy, and Chestnut Hill have stepped forward with food donations to feed the soul, provide Holiday cheer, and add some chocolate to the mouths of babes—old and young alike. Some of the businesses who have opened their hearts to us include High Point Café, Little Night Kitchen, Bredenbecks, Baker Street Bread, Point of Destination Café, Mi Puebla, Platinum Grill, Urban Café, Metropolitan Bakery, and more. Our first weekend, Meg, owner of High Point Café, welcomed us into the neighborhood with wonderful signs, coffee, and scones for all. Neighbors come by with baked goods, home-made treats, and cider! Our Mt. Airy Art Garage musicians have come from all walks of life, all volunteering their time—professionals such as Richard Drueding, Terri Rambo, Barry Goldstein, Zak Stock, Jerry Allender and his trio, Slippery Slope, to name a few. And then we are thrilled to have new, emerging artists like Mark Robinson, Ian Zolitar, Sondra Rodriguez—and that’s for starters. Some have already played, others will come soon. Perhaps Barry put it the  best this past weekend when he said “This place is really cool, and I am here to play and be a part of it.” That’s what it’s all about—cooperation, making art happen, all for the love of doing it. So, wish us well for our final weekend. We will have the largest, most diverse offering of fine art and handcraft yet—with live music all day long! In 2010, we move on to the next phase of our vision and dreams—to create an Artist Cooperative at 542 W. Carpenter Lane. The Mt. Airy Art Garage is not a competition—we are an Art Collaboration in its purest form. We are artists, creating art for you, our neighbors, our community. We are a magnet for energy, support, laughter, song, and for sharing. So join us, celebrate our last weekend, this Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 19-20 from 10 am-6 pm at 542 West Carpenter Lane. We welcome you with open arms.

Neither Rain Nor Snow…

Stopped the Mt. Airy Art Garage From It’s Grand Opening Over 225 people stopped into the Mt. Airy Art Garage, a community-based artist cooperative, on Saturday, Dec. 5 at 542 W. Carpenter Lane. Although snowy and damp, families and friends met to enjoy and purchase unique, one-of-a-kind gifts for the holidays— custom leatherwork, jewelers, mixed media and fiber artists, sculptors, photographers, painters, winter “art garb” and a host of other fine art and handcrafts. High Point Café, the Night Kitchen, Baker Street, and Weavers Way donated mouthwatering cakes, coffee, and treats to nourish the palate and warm everyone up. Live music fed the soul—Slippery Slope led a full-scale, foot-stomping, swaying “hootenanny,” Richard Dreuding warmed spirits with beautiful acoustic guitar, while the violin playing of Elizabeth Shaak and Hollis Payor put smiles on everyone.

What’s next? Come check us out this Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 12 and 13 from 10 am – 6 pm at 542 West Carpenter Lane—more delicious food from our sponsors in the Northwest (Bredenbecks and Mi Puebla, for starters), music from Terri Rambo and others. And, best of all, each weekend will feature all new artists from the Northwest! Visit us, shop, and share in the Holiday spirit. Admission is free and open to the public. And mark your calendars for Dec. 19 and 20, same time, same place! Join in our Holiday vision—meet the artists, buy wonderful things, watch us blossom and grow. Come to the Art Market! Friend us on Facebook, or visit us at www.mtairyartgarage.org.

Mt. Airy Art Garage Launches Weekend Arts and Crafts Market at 542 W. Carpenter Lane

Northwest Artists Create Unique One-of-a-Kind Art While Building Vision With Northwest Community Mt. Airy Art Garage started out as a vision for cofounders Arleen Olshan and Linda Slodki:

  • To launch an ongoing weekend Fine Arts and Handcrafts Market where neighbors can bring their families and friends to eat, drink, buy special gifts, and support artists.
  • To create an art cooperative where art, studio space, and galleries would become a reality in 2010.
  • To highlight artists and bring neighbors into a new venue that is part of the developing Northwest Village of Germantown, Mt. Airy, and Chestnut Hill.

Last week this vision began moving toward becoming a reality. Twenty artists met at Weavers Way, representing custom leatherworkers, jewelers, mixed media and fiber artists, sculptors, photographers, painters, you name it—talent all from the Northwest! They rolled up their sleeves and are working hard to make this a reality. The Mt. Airy Art Garage already represents new faces, familiar faces, professional artists, emerging artists, older artists, younger artists. Linda Slodki added, “You may just find a rainbow of work, culture, and experience. We believe we are in the beginnings of a truly diverse and cooperative effort.” The Market will launch it opening in December. It will be open from 10 am-6 pm on Dec. 5-6, Dec. 12-13, Dec. 19-20. We invite artists to attend our meetings, and join us. Be a part of our vision. Become a volunteer. Help us to make this vision a reality.