Sustainability, Public Art, And Rain Barrels In Mt. Airy


At the Mt. Airy Art Garage, artist Barbara Kigozi decorates a rain barrel for use along Germantown Avenue in Mt. Airy. | Photo: courtesy of Mt. Airy BID

Editor’s Note: We recently visited Hollie Malamud-Price, Executive Director of the Mt. Airy Business Improvement District (BID), to discuss the brightly-painted rain barrels the organization gave out to businesses along Germantown Avenue in Mt. Airy. Rain barrels, which collect and store stormwater runoff from rooftops, can help add capacity to the sewer system and reduce sewer overflows to creeks and rivers.


Jennifer Leibert: You recently installed 20 rain barrels along Germantown Avenue, each decorated by a different local artist using themes of community: eco-friendliness and conservation. How did this project come about?
Hollie Malamud-Price: BID plants annual flower baskets every year to beautify the Germantown Avenue commercial corridor. Last year, when we were planting baskets and securing watering sources, I spoke with Libby Hawes, the Preservation Director of Cliveden of the National Trust. We discussed ideas for making it easier and less expensive to water our 90 flower baskets. After determining rain barrels were the best solution, I shared this idea with our board, which enthusiastically supported the idea. Ken Weinstein, our board chairman, contacted the Philadelphia Water Department and PWD agreed to donate fifteen ran barrels for the project.

BID board member Carolene Wood took the project one step further and suggested local artists decorate the rain barrels to add art to the Avenue. I knew right way this was a great idea. She put the word out for local artists and contacted Linda Slodki, executive director of the Mt. Airy Art Garage. There was so much enthusiasm from the Art Garage artists that PWD donated another five rain barrels to meet the demand.

A rain barrel beautified by Shawn Dubin. | Photo: courtesy of Mt. Airy BID

 JL: How are the barrels used?
HMP: The barrels are used to fill the water tanks the BID uses to water the flowers. As long as there is rain to keep them full, of course.

 JL: How have the barrels changed the neighborhood?
HMP: So far we have received a lot of positive feedback. People have noticed them. I believe public art is always a positive addition to a neighborhood.

Artist Loraine Dunn, art director of the Mt. Airy Art Garage, paints a rain barrel. | Photo: courtesy of Mt. Airy BID

JL: Besides rain barrels, what is the BID doing in the neighborhood nowadays?
HMP:The BID’s focus is the cleaning and greening of the Germantown Avenue commercial corridor between Cresheim Valley Rd and Washington Lane. Litter is removed five days a week and one Saturday a month. Last year the BID installed the flower baskets along the Avenue and the holiday decorations, as well as purchased over $5,000 in flower pots for property owners/businesses. Additionally, we’ve installed security lighting, hung banners, assisted in securing off-street parking, and participated in other projects. I believe the continued beautification of Germantown Avenue has a positive impact on Mt Airy. A clean, beautiful, and safe commercial corridor makes a neighborhood attractive to homeowners.

JL: What are your future plans for the BID?
HMP: In collaboration with the Mt Airy Arts Garage, we are planning a rain barrel walking tour in the fall. We will participate in the fall Philly Clean-Up, as we have in the past, and we are considering doing a holiday light pole/flower basket decorating contest. However, right now my goal is to keep the flowers in the baskets alive in the summer heat!

About the author

Jennifer Leibert was born and raised in the Kensington section of Philadelphia and has a deep passion for Philadelphia history. She holds a B.A. in Political Science and a M.A. in Museum Studies, with her graduate thesis focusing on public art in Philadelphia. After completing her college coursework, Jennifer was selected for The City of Philadelphia’s Destination Mayoral Fellowship, where she was apart of The Public Art Office (now apart of The Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy). It was during this experience that her passion for art and architecture grew stronger. Jennifer is also a caretaker for an historic home in Northwest Philadelphia, teaches with the Claymobile Program (an award winning mobile ceramic art program), and is the Public Programs Coordinator at the Wyck Association.

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