When the Royal Flush tanker truck pulls up in front of the Mt. Airy Art Garage, co-founders Arleen Olshan and Linda Slodki spring into action. Olshan heads for two portable toilet stalls that sit just inside the front door. She moves a tall fabric screen that camouflages them so the Royal Flush driver can maneuver a gray-green hose into the stalls. Slodki hurries to open up a door at the back of the building and switches on all of the fans that hang from the wooden beamed cathedral ceiling.
The tanker hose, patched in a few places with what looks like duct tape, gives a little shudder as the suction begins. “This is not for the queasy”, Slodki commented as we retreated to the fresh air of the open door.
The unpleasantness of the septic pump-out is over quickly. In a few minutes the portable toilets are once again clean and odor free. But Olshan and Slodki need to replace the Royal Flush system with permanent toilets soon. In February they hope to raise nearly $30,000 needed to install bathrooms and a kitchenette in the former industrial space.
The first phase of construction at the MAAG building dealt with major repairs to infrastructure, carved out an exhibit area and gave the organization an open space to host shows, gatherings and art markets. The Royal Flush potties were brought in until money could be raised for the next phase of construction – the permanaent bathrooms.
“The first phase was the most expensive”, said Olshan. “The second phase is about creature comforts”.
Without bathrooms the City will not grant a full occupancy permit. Without a full occupancy permit MAAG cannot install permanent galleries, construct artist studios that will generate income for operating expenses, or rent out the expansive space to other organizations. They also cannot begin implementing the many planned workshops, community events and youth art education programs central to the organization’s mission.
“We want to have classes, have shows, have music and literary events”, said Olshan. We want it so we can invite people in and the doors will be open”.
A number of events, dubbed Funky February, are MAAG’s effort at raising the needed funds. This Sunday, from 4pm to 8pm, they are sponsoring a Valentine’s dance party to celebrate National Freedom to Marry Day. Tickets are $10, with DJ Lucky 7 at the turntables and a heart shaped cake donated by Little Jimmie’s Bakery Cafe.
Other events include an art market open to all artists, a cocktail party fundraiser by invitation and an artist cafe which will provide artists and art related organizations with networking opportunities.
With so many plans on hold without the toilets, Slodki and Olshan say they are intent on raising the money by month’s end. Their dream is to start bathroom installation by mid March.
We’re putting all of our energy into raising this money by the end of February”, said Slodki. “We’re going to do it.” With a smile she added, “And on February 28, we collapse!”