As the loss of its lease looms, Mt. Airy Art Garage announces next steps

MAAG co-founders Arleen Olshan and Linda Slodki at the organization's fifth anniversary in 2014. (Photo by Alaina Mabaso.)

In August 2015, after getting news that their annual lease unexpectedly offered no option for renewal, Mt. Airy Art Garage (MAAG) leaders didn’t know where they would go. They knew what they would do — continue to celebrate, champion, and showcase art, creativity, and community. The question was where.

That question has been answered.

Thinking in pop-up mode

Linda Slodki, president and cofounder, said the answer is MAAG in Action and #MAAGPopsUp. The transition from their current space to whatever comes next forced them to think out of the box, she said. “It made us think in pop-up mode, to think about partnership and pursue ones we may not have considered in the past,” she said. “It forces us to reach out more and that’s a good thing.”

MAAG, a nonprofit arts hub founded by “a dynamic group of professional artists,” will still be “an incubator for both professional and emerging artists in Germantown, Mt. Airy, and Chestnut Hill.” The organization will have an “anchor,” a 600-square foot handcraft gift shop on Germantown Avenue. The rest of MAAG will be on the move, popping up here and there. Classes and meetings will be held at the Philadelphia Immigrant Innovation Hub. And the annual Philadelphia Open Studio Tour and Holiday Art Market will be held in the Lutheran Theological Seminary, which made them ecstatic because it’s even larger than MAAG’s original space.

It’s been a challenging time, Slodki said, but the ones that came to help them decide how to move forward weren’t surprising: “the same community that helped make us who we are. The support that we’ve gotten and the care and interest — everybody wants us to keep on.”

Partnerships, pride, and We Are MAAG

The challenge of finding a new home or new way of operating also helped them to grow in a way they hadn’t been expecting. The change has encouraged more community partnerships, like their working with Mt. Airy USA. It also means more public art projects. In the fall, MAAG will do The Community of Pride Mural Project in two schools: Houston and Emlen. Artists in residence will discuss with kids what makes them proud. The conversations will lead to original artwork to be displayed in the schools.

In the meantime, until the actual move begins at the end of August, MAAG hosts a final show in their current space called “We Are MAAG,” a non-juried MAAG members-only exhibition. There will be a party for everyone who’s been involved with MAAG on August 6. The intention: “to bring all artists who have crossed our paths together and celebrate as we end one era and begin a new one.”

Then it’s on to new adventures with old goals: to harness creativity and share it in the community. “We’re looking forward in positivity,” Slodki said.