Mt. Airy Art Garage dedicates new gallery

For some attendees of Friday night’s official opening of the Mt. Airy Art Garage’s (MAAG) Solomon Levy Gallery, it may have seemed like an exciting finish to two and half years of dedicated work from the MAAG board and volunteers.

But for Donna Globus, a MAAG founding Board member, book artist, print-maker and construction manager, the evening is a kick-off for some of MAAG’s most intense fundraising to date.

Having raised about $70,000 so far to complete the first two phases of the project, which took over the large, neglected space near the corner of Germantown and Mt. Airy Avenues, the Board is now launching an aggressive plan to fund the building’s third and final phase, hoping to raise another $18,000 by July 15th.

The Friday opening and dedication of MAAG’s permanent gallery featured the work of photographer Solomon Levy, in a collection of boldly colored images from around the world titled “Travels Through Life”. Levy passed away about a year ago.

MAAG President and co-founder Linda Slodki remembered the founding Board member and Vice President for his instrumental role in discovering the space and promoting its future.

“He was a very dear and wonderful man who believed in us,” she said in a short speech to attendees. “No matter how much I say, it’s not enough.”

Photographs on display, all of which are for sale, range from a deep orange-red Rothko-esque sunset in Cape Cod to a clump of dune grass in New Mexico, the shadows of its blades pointing across the pale, wind-sculpted surface and the telltale footprints of some tiny creature who briefly sheltered there stitched across the sand. The exhibit continues through May 20th.

Slodki enjoyed showing off another newly-installed feature that attracted almost as much attention as the art – two finished ADA-compliant bathrooms, the culmination of the second phase of construction and a massive point of pride for all involved.

“Everybody works hard here,” said MAAG member and East Falls resident Andrew Walker, a sculptor who received a recent commission from the Kimmel Center. Unlike many other confederations of artists, “this group works wonderfully together.” Walker was among the MAAG volunteers who painted the new space.

“We can’t thank all of you enough for the millions of ways you’ve shown your support,” Slodki said in her address to the party, emphasizing the help of many local businesses and the good old-fashioned elbow grease of the community, especially when the initial dollar estimates for rehabbing the space seemed overwhelming.

This summer, MAAG will host its first classes in subjects as diverse as leather-working, oil-painting, writing and digital photography.

Globus explained the updates of the third and last phase of construction, which will include the partitioning of several open-sided studios to be leased as workspace for local artisans, bringing both creative energy and a new revenue-stream.

Phase 3 will also involve the space’s last major fix: the replacement of its old barn-style wooden doors with a sleek, recessed glass entry-way.

“This will be so people on Mt. Airy Avenue can look into this space, see the energy and be a part of it,” Globus said.

Work on the new doorway will be made possible by a storefront improvement grant from the City of Philadelphia, administered through Mt. Airy USA, in which the City will reimburse MAAG for one half the cost of the new doorway’s construction.

Globus admits that the fundraising schedule for Phase 3 will be intense: they hope to raise the first $6,000 by May 15th, the next $6,000 by June 15th, and the rest by July 15th. Cash donations or new memberships are both excellent ways for community members to support the last push for full completion of the space.

Slodki recounted that, given the original state of the building and the cost of the project, many people thought the space’s current transformation would never happen.

“Let those of us who say it can’t be done get out of the way of those who are doing it,” she said.

Upcoming MAAG events include a cabaret evening on Friday, May 11th at 7:30, featuring Michael Richard Kelly and the Tamer Tewfik Trio. Tickets are $40 and are on sale now through the MAAG website.

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