How might October Gallery join forces with local businesses to bring the community together around a signature event? That was the topic of discussion Thursday morning inside the 7165 Lounge on Germantown Avenue. October Gallery founder, Mercer Redcross and landlord, David Fellner met with neighboring business owners and the newly formed Business Association of Mt. Airy (BAM) in a community outreach meeting to talk about the upcoming Artz and Groove festival.
The event will be held June 16 and 17 in the large parking lot behind the Sedgwick Theatre and inside the 7165 Lounge in Mt. Airy. Plans for October Gallery’s Artz and Groove festival are still evolving and through that process another name change may be in the works.
Ken Weinstein, Chair of the Mt. Airy Business Improvement District and owner of the Trolley Car Diner, praised Redcross for his efforts to improve communication. Weinstein said he now has a better sense of what plans are for the summer event, which he feels can be a success for the entire neighborhood. “I love the energy that you bring,” he enthused. As a means to promote the festival as a community-wide event, Weinstein suggested a new moniker: The Mt. Airy Artz and Groove. Redcross agreed that it was a good idea and said he will likely adopt the name.
Thursday’s meeting was the third such gathering where Redcross presented the new summer event and responded to questions and suggestions. The meetings have been held in response to concerns that arose when October Gallery closed down Germantown Avenue last autumn during its Art Expo. Many business owners then complained they did were caught off guard by road closure. Redcross and neighborhood organizations have expressed a strong intention to work together this year to address potential problems and forge a mutually beneficial alliance.
Suggestions on how best to collaborate were plentiful and included encouraging merchants to put out their own wares and live music in front of store fronts to tie into the festival in the same manner as they would during Mt. Airy’s Final-ly Friday happenings. Elizabeth Moselle, Director of the Business Association of Mt. Airy and Mt. Airy USA’s Director of Commercial Corridor Revitalization voiced a desire to see October Gallery become involved in this month’s coming Final-ly Friday by sponsoring a music act in front of the 7165 Lounge. “It’s about being a benefit to everybody,” noted Moselle.
Festivals in Chestnut Hill offer “a great finished product” declared Chanea Davis, owner of BellaNOR Boutique, who shared that she would love to see events with the same level of organization and reciprocity happen in Mt. Airy.
Chris Simpson, owner of Wine Thief restaurant stated afterwards that he was glad to have an open discussion before the event this year and is pleased with Redcross’ efforts to work more closely with the Mt. Airy community. Simpson said he believes the long term prospects for the Artz and Groove festival could be very profitable for Mt. Airy, because October Gallery’s network can benefit both the neighborhood and merchants by attracting visitors from other areas.
As it stands now, Artz and Groove will feature between 30 and 50 vendors outside in the parking lot behind the east 7100 block of Germantown Avenue from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. Germantown Avenue will not be closed for this event. Visual artists and crafters will comprise the majority of vendors. The outdoor festival will include live performances on the lot’s loading dock and admission will be free. Redcross stated that he hopes to book Sharon Katz and Peacetrain as one of the live acts.
Most of the live music entertainment will occur at night inside the 7165 Lounge and will be ticketed shows. Concerts will be a mix of Jazz, R&B, Blues and Gospel genres. “Gamble and Huff music,” Redcross elaborated. Urban Adult Contemporary radio station WDAS will be live on site. Redcross said he intends to have eight to 10 internally employed security guards for the festival. Parking and portable toilets will be available on the lot.
Vendor space costs a total of $500 for space on both days. Redcross affirmed that he would consider allowing an up and coming or young artist to have vendor space discounted or free. Revenue sharing and art trade were also mentioned as ways to work out a mutually beneficial agreement for spots. It was agreed by all present that deeper discussion needs to happen about the possibility for food vendors, particularly food trucks to be participants. Redcross disclosed that at last year’s Art Expo there was only one food vendor so as not to compete with local food businesses on Germantown Avenue. This year, he would like restaurants and local food vendors to feel welcome and eager to take part.
Redcross stated that his strategy is to host the Artz and Groove festival as a warm-up event for October Gallery’s annual International Art Expo which he plans to bring back to Mt. Airy on October 12, 13 & 14. Redcross explained that hosting a similar but smaller scale event in the summer will give October Gallery a chance to work through any changes that may need to be made for a larger fête in the Fall.
Redcross said he also met with the Mt. Airy Art Garage on Tuesday to talk about ways to share artists and space as a means to promote each other’s art offerings in the future and create a flow between the two venues. Arlene Olshan, co-founder of MAAG said things are still in a discussion stage with no formal decision yet made. “Certainly we want to do something to partner,” Olshan commented, “but what that would mean, we’re not sure.”
Redcross stated that October Gallery will begin distributing literature about the event to Mt. Airy neighbors next week. Floor plans will also be available next week, which Redcross said he’ll forward to Mt. Airy USA and other neighborhood associations for continued feedback and suggestions. The ultimate goal remains for “people in this community to see us working together because that is the asset,” he remarked.