by Sue Ann Rybak
Linda Slodki, co-founder and executive director of Mt. Airy Arts Garage (MAAG), a nonprofit that works to support and connect multi-disciplined artists in order to build a thriving, safer community, will be leaving her position as executive director at the end of June.
Arleen Olshan, co-founder of the Mt. Airy Art Garage, will be the new executive director. Slodki, a performing artist, said MAAG is the brainchild of Olshan. It began as a community meeting to discuss Olshan’s vision of a collaborative center for artists, who could come together to share their techniques and develop their art for both emerging and professional artists.
Recently, MAAG partnered with the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs and Philadelphia Family Pride to host the first Philly Family Pride and Picnic Festival on June 23. Slodki, 66, of Mt. Airy, said in spite of the rain it was a stellar event.
She added that MAAG has grown from a collaborative center for artists, a place where artists can support other artists, exhibit and sell their work, give classes and create opportunities where they can grow together as a group into a nonprofit those work is “deeply embedded in the community.”
“The last 10 years have been truly amazing,” she said. “From those cold winter holiday art markets at Weavers Way, to the exhibitions at City Hall, to our International Women’s Day celebrations, our exhibitions, artists’ studios and art conversations, classes, all of it. I am grateful to have been a community center for the arts where artists connect, thrive, and support each other. To build an organization with a creative social consciousness. To lose our original home and come back from that … smaller in physical size, yet stronger than ever before to forge even deeper community connections.”
Slodki said MAAG’s biggest challenge was losing its space.
In 2016, after investing almost a quarter of a million dollars, including rent, in the formerly dilapidated building, MAAG’s landlord Greg Bushu gave them a nonrenewable lease. Thanks to a partnership with Mt. Airy USA, a community development organization, MAAG will eventually have a new permanent location at 6651 Germantown Ave. The nonprofit currently has its temporary headquarters at a handcraft gift shop at 6622 Germantown Ave.
The loss of exhibit space resulted in MAAG forming new community partnerships with the Philadelphia Theatre Company, the Fabric Workshop and Museum, NewCourtland Senior Services, the School District of Philadelphia, the Free Library of Philadelphia, the City of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Family Pride and many more.
Slodki said she has been “privileged to help forge MAAG’s path,” but it’s “time to turn over the reins to a whole new era.”
Mt. Airy resident Ken Weinstein said under Slodki’s leadership MAAG has grown from “a start-up to an established art institution for change.”
“From day one, she had very little resources, stretched them as far as they would go and made something great for our Mt. Airy community,” he said. “I enjoyed collaborating with Linda and MAAG as chair of the Mt. Airy Business Improvement District and through our Trolley Car Teachers’ Fund. The 15 beautifully painted rain barrels along Germantown Avenue are a lasting testament to her leadership and unending drive to make Mt. Airy a better place to live, work and enjoy. Her work brought together a diverse group of people, especially important in today’s sometimes divisive world.”