Sustainability + Art: On Germantown Avenue Stormwater Rain Barrels Represent a Renewal of CommunityBy Andy Sharpe |
Barbara Kigozi works on a rain barrel design.
The Mt. Airy Business Improvement District (BID) has just painted the color green in sustainability along the Germantown Ave. commercial corridor. In fact, local artists have painted more than just green as they are designing twenty colorful rain barrels that will enable the business community to take advantage of sustainable stormwater techniques along the corridor from Cresheim Valley Dr. to Washington Ln. The proud artists joined with members of the Mt. Airy business community and councilwoman Cindy Bass on Tuesday to unveil the twelve rain barrels that are currently up.
The installation of the rain barrels denotes a collaboration between the Mt. Airy BID, the Mt. Airy Art Garage (MAAG) and participating artists, and the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD), says Hollie Malamud-Price, the enthusiastic Executive Director of the BID. The BID engineered the idea, MAAG provided many of the artists, and the PWD donated the rain barrels, which is in line with their “Green City, Clean Waters” program to sustainably handle stormwater. According to Malamud-Price, Mt. Airy is the city’s ﬁrst BID to incorporate rain barrels.
The rain barrels will provide an environmentally-friendly method of watering the ﬂower baskets and tree wells that line the avenue with lush vegetation. Malamud-Price exclaims that the colorful barrels will save between 32,400 and 39,600 gallons of water during a six-month season. They also mean that corridor businesses that were previously donating water, such as GeeChee Girl Rice Cafe (where the unveiling was held), Mr. Peeper’s Optical, Avenida Restaurant, and Past and Present costumes, no longer have to. Instead, the barrels will collect stormwater from downspouts.
Making it an art
Participating artists are thrilled to be able to take part in such a sustainable and community-based art display. One such artist, Barbara Kigozi, a professional videographer and photographer, feels gratiﬁed to be able to make the Germantown Avenue corridor a more aesthetically-pleasing and sustainable destination. This represents “the renewal of a community,” says a hopeful Kigozi. “The Germantown [Ave.] that once was.” She sees her role in the rain barrel project as part of a trend of activists who want to make a difference at the local and hyperlocal level.
Kigozi’s rain barrel represents a labor of love for the Northwest Philadelphia community. She crafted “a plant-based design” using stenciling, leaves, and mosaic tiles. It took her two weeks to ﬁnish painting the barrel, which meant applying two coats of paint and dispensing a weather-resistant spray. Making full use of her trade, Kigozi made sure to photograph every step in painting. Her barrel can be found behind Community Acupuncture of Mt. Airy (CAMA), which is on the avenue by Carpenter Ln.
MAAG received such a rousing response from artists that they’re looking to move beyond the PWD donation and design additional rain barrels. “This has turned into, for us, the Mt Airy Art Garage Rain Barrel Project which we intend to pursue independently (though grants) and use it to spread the spirit of community and art among more artists and the schools,” says Linda Slodki, the President and Co-founder of the art garage. Slodki adds that there is currently a waiting period to paint barrels, resulting from a “rousing avalanche” of interest from Northwest Philadelphia artists.
The brilliant hues of the rain barrels represent the latest attempt by the Mt. Airy BID to beautify the commercial corridor. Last year, the BID purchased about $5000 worth of ﬂowers and street planters to inject some beauty in the blocks between Cresheim Valley Dr. and Upsal St., says Malamud-Price. The city has decided to work with the BID to place additional ﬂowers between Johnson St. and Washington Ln. For the BID, small steps like these mean enormous things for the community. “Each little thing we do has an impact,” says the Executive Director.
Meanwhile, Barbara Kigozi is so inspired by the Mt. Airy BID’s work that she wants the effort to be extended down Germantown Ave. into her Germantown neighborhood. She singles out the struggling Chelten Ave. corridor as an area that would especially beneﬁt from visually-pleasing rain barrels. “I strongly believe that you can use art to draw attention to improving the community,” waxes Kigozi. She’s hopeful that Germantown’s heralded new CDC, Germantown United, can advocate for a similar blend of art and sustainability.
Photos via Mt. Airy Business Improvement Districtblog comments powered by Disqus