by Sue Ann Rybak
If you are not careful, you might just miss the huge grand opening sign announcing Mt. Airy Art Garage’s new pop-up gift shop and art gallery at 6622 Germantown Ave. in Mt. Airy.
Arlene Olshan, co-founder of Mt. Airy Arts Garage (MAAG), a nonprofit arts and culture hub, said thanks to a partnership with Mt. Airy USA, a community development organization, MAAG has a temporarily home until its new permanent location is completed.
Mt. Airy USA is currently developing a mixed-use space at 6651 Germantown Ave. that will become the new permanent location for the neighborhood arts and culture organization. MAAG was forced to close this summer after its landlord Greg Bushu, who owns several properties in Mt. Airy including FitLife gym, refused to renew its lease.
Linda Slodki, MAAG president and co-founder, said they are thrilled to have a “permanent place where local residents can immerse themselves in the arts and we can continue making public art.”
Brad Copeland, executive director of Mt. Airy USA, said his organization was excited to work with MAAG to find ways to continue to support and celebrate the arts in Mt. Airy.
“We’re excited to work with MAAG because a healthy art community is central to any thriving neighborhood,” he said. “Germantown Avenue is a vibrant corridor, and arts and culture are vital to its future.”
He said thanks to the collaboration between Mt. Airy USA and MAAG, they were able to create a community space where local artists and residents can gather to create, collaborate, socialize and celebrate the arts.
“When it opens, MAAG’s new space, which will be located at 6651 Germantown Ave., will breathe new life into a previously abandoned building,” Copeland said. “It will be gratifying to see such an established and talented organization activate an otherwise vacant space with a unique adaptive reuse on an active and growing part of the Avenue.
“In the meantime, it’s important for MAAG’s temporary space to be on Germantown Avenue, where they’ll benefit from high visibility and exposure to a new part of the neighborhood.”
He added that in the interim, MAAG will hold classes and membership meetings at the Philadelphia Immigrant Innovation Hub, 6700 Germantown Ave. Recently, the organization held its Philadelphia Open Studio Tour (POST) at the Lutheran Theological Seminary, 7301 Germantown Ave.
Olshan said the community has been very receptive and welcoming. Slodki added that people have been knocking on their doors to welcome them.
“It was only through the kindness of Mt. Airy USA that we were able to have this handcrafted gift shop,” Slodki added. “It was not something we projected happening when we were figuring out our next steps moving forward. When it was offered to us, it was an opportunity we could not turn down. And our members couldn’t be happier. They are jumping up and down that we are not on cement.”
The gift shop and gallery features a variety of local artists work, including handmade crafts, jewelry, pottery, leather work, photography, quilts and other works of art.
Olshan said her group currently is looking for artists who want to sell their work at MAAG’s annual Holiday Art Market, which will be held on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 3 and 4 and Dec. 17 and 18 from noon to 6 p.m. in the gymnasium of the Lutheran Theological Seminary, 7301 Germantown Ave.
“Our challenge now is to let people know we are here,” she said.
For more information about MAAG go to mtairyartgarage.org.