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MAAG Statement on Black Lives Matter

All of us at the Mt. Airy Art Garage have been horrified and grief-stricken by the events of the past month, which have touched every aspect of our lives.
We join the community — and indeed the world — in mourning the loss of lives of Black people at the hands of the police, and in anger at the systemic racism, violent abuses of power and lack of equal justice — and human decency — that have brought us to this place in time. Systemic issues affecting people of color have been brought into sharper focus by the killing of George Floyd, which opened the eyes of many who may have missed them in the past.

The urgent need for change is clear, and calls for reform are mounting and growing louder from all racial and ethnic groups. MAAG supports Black Lives Matter and other groups who are demanding change.

There’s a reason we’re the Mt. Airy Art Garage, and chose this neighborhood as our base. Mt. Airy welcomes people of every race, ethnic group, religion, physical challenges, sexual identity and gender, and all ages. We wanted our organization to reflect the core values of this community: diversity, inclusion, fairness and dynamic creativity.

Is MAAG perfect? No, but we try. Our Board is currently 25% Black. We are striving to do better and ensure that our leadership reflects the diversity of our neighborhood. We are always learning, and there’s a lot more to learn.

Black lives do matter to us; we’ve spent the last 10 years working to engage with, and reflect, our community.

“My Son Matters” and “By the Content of My Character”, a solo double exhibit by Denise Allen, an African-American mother, featured 35 portraits of Black mothers with their sons, among other works.

2017’s exhibit, “Having Our Say”, (in partnership with the Philadelphia Theater Company and the Suzanne Roberts Theater), looked at African-American civil rights, pride and female empowerment in the South.

In the Fall of 2018, a multi-media MAAG show called “Divided Nation” explored the political and social climate, racial inequality, voting rights, freedom of speech and immigrant rights.
We have been actively involved with the predominantly Black Henry H. Houston and Eleanor C. Emlen Elementary Schools through our Community of Pride (C.O.P.) Mural and Literacy Program, which encourages children to think about what makes them feel proud, and express those feelings through art. Each year, the project focuses on the work of a prominent Black artist. The students have been inspired by the art of Faith Ringgold, Henry Ossawa Tanner, and Romare Bearden.

While two thirds of MAAG’s C.O.P. teacher-artists are white, all of our guest teacher-artists have been Black. C.O.P. is on hold due to the closing of the schools because of Covid-19, but we’re optimistic about resuming in the Fall, and we hope to recruit more Black MAAG teacher-artists.

Going forward, MAAG is committed to lifting more Black voices in the community with more initiatives. These include a return to solo and group shows as we move into our new space and an online gallery that will feature Black artists in the coming weeks and months.

MAAG is actively seeking new Board members, to better reflect our community’s diversity. We welcome inquiries about Board service, or about additional volunteer activities. (Email to arleen@mtairyartgarage.org)

Art can promote positive social change, and should be available to everyone from the wide spectrum of our population. Art is a path to communication and connection. Art focuses energy on creative solutions that can lead to a more just and equitable world.

We’re dedicated to making sure “Black Lives Matter” isn’t just a slogan, but that Black lives truly do matter in everyday life. All lives can’t matter until Black lives do, too.

MAAG celebrates diversity, and the role that art plays in personal, social and institutional transformation. We remain committed to bringing art to the entire community.

MAAG Board of Directors

Arleen Olshan, President
Patricia Smith, Vice President
Mary Ann Domanska, Secretary
Elayne Bender
Rick Hock
Nicki Toizer
Larry West