“Creative class” at home in Mt. Airy

When Linda Slodki and Arleen Olshan co-founded the Mt. Airy Art Garage (MAAG) collective one-year-ago, they knew they’d need a sizable space to realize the group’s goals. In fact, their vision – to have a place where artists from Northwest Philadelphia could create, display and sell their work – almost demanded it.

Until recently, though, the pair weren’t having much luck finding the right property. The handful of places they looked at – in Mt Airy, Germantown and Chestnut Hill – were nice, but didn’t offer the opportunity to run all of MAAG’s activities under one roof.

“The way things were going,” said Slodki, “we thought we were going to end up with a small initial space and satellite sublets around the Northwest.”

That is, until they received an email suggesting they look into a vacant garage on W. Mt. Airy Avenue in Mt Airy, just off of Germantown Avenue.

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“We walked in and we died,” recalled Slodki after seeing the 5,000 square-foot brick building for the first time. “Everything was so perfect.”

MAAG later leased the space at the start of September.

The move places MAAG, now a nonprofit, in the heart of Mt Airy’s Business District and close to other art venues like Mt. Airy Contemporary Artists Space and the Allens Lane Art Center.

But Olshan said MAAG is not trying to compete with existing art initiatives in the neighborhood, but complement them.

“The more places you can go to the more variety that’s out there and it’s going to draw more people,” said Olshan.

Slodki added that MAAG is bringing a concept that, while not unique to Philadelphia, is new to the Northwest.

“Nowhere in this community is there is a place where artists can rent studios, do their work directly on the premises, and then show their artwork on those premises and have a gallery space of members artists.”

The space will also standout because it will be a place for the community to connect with local artists in a friendly, welcoming environment, said Meei Ling Ng, one of MAAG’s nine-member Board of Governors and 30-member artists.

“We don’t want to just show art and rent space,” said Ng. “We want a community space where people can come in, hang out and look at artwork. We want to be a resource.”

Slodki says the group will rely on donations, membership fees and grants to keep the garage doors open.

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