A desire to combine ecological awareness and art is behind the latest project from the Mt. Airy Art Garage (MAAG). For nearly three weeks, the non-profit artist cooperative teamed up local students and elderly residents to decorate 10 rain barrels to be put to use throughout Northwest Philadelphia.
The project’s participants included three seniors from Homelink, Inc., as well as 25 students from C.W. Henry School, the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy and the afterschool program at First United Methodist Church of Germantown.
“Each one is so unique. Each school brings their own identity into the mix,” said Linda Slodki, MAAG’s president and co-founder.
Five of the 10 barrels will be given to each participating school and the senior center to be utilized for their own storm water management needs. One of the rain barrels will be given to the Lovett Memorial Library. The remaining four barrels will be installed in various locations in Germantown, Slodki said.
This latest initiative from MAAG stems from a collaboration between Mt. Airy’s Business Improvement District (BID) and several of MAAG’s members. Last spring, BID obtained 20 free rain barrels from the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD). The barrels were then painted by MAAG artists and 15 have been installed along Germantown Avenue between Cresheim Valley Drive and Washington Lane. The remaining five barrels continue to await use.
Inspired by the positive feedback generated from BID’s rain barrel project, Slodki and treasurer and co-founder of MAAG Arleen Olshan, decided to explore ways to build upon its success. Slodki says MAAG wanted to do another rain barrel project, but this time around involve children and older residents in the creative process.
“It brings so much out in people to create and learn about art,” she said.
With a budget of $10,000, MAAG launched phase II of its rain barrel painting project in April.
The organization received $4,000 in grant money from the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority’s Fund for Art and Civic Engagement (FACE) and a grant from the Philadelphia Activities Fund (PAF), which was obtained with the help of Eighth District City Councilwoman, Cindy Bass.
The PAF grant enabled MAAG to purchase rain barrels from Wisconsin-based Stone Harbor Waterworks, Inc., Slodki said.
MAAG also received financial sponsorship from the following local businesses: Blick Art Materials, Martin Elfant Inc. and Philly Office Retail as well as Philly Office Retail subsidiaries, Smith Houston, Inc. and The Flying Horse Center. Slodki says MAAG is still hoping to receive two outstanding grant awards.
In addition to paying for the rain barrels and compensating the project’s art educators, Olshan and MAAG art director, Loraine Dunn, the budget covers the organization’s incurred expenses including writing grant proposals, marketing and mounting of the rain barrels’ exhibition, Slodki explained.
Olshan said MAAG is considering expanding on its rain barrel initiative with a third barrel painting project.