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Enhancing Artistic Standards for Athens' Artists


The Athens Art Association has long been an integral part of the Arts Community in Athens, Georgia. It received its' start in 1919 when Laura Blackshear recognized the need for a place where like minded individuals could gather for education and innovate the field of visual arts. The original membership fee was $1.00 per year for a man and his wife and required only that the individual share the interest of the group. There were about 20 charter members consisting mostly of the professional artists living in Athens. These first members were worldly with a wide range of travels and quickly became recognized as community leaders. They gave and hosted exhibits, sponsored lectures and frequently contributed to the newspaper. Their articles were diverse and educational. 

     Possessing such a strong education and background in the arts, Blackshear was able to create an outstanding standard of excellence for this early group of artists. She studied at the Woman's Art School of Cooper Union, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine arts as well as the University of Georgia. Blackshear also served as art director for Piedmont College for seven years, director of art and music at Nacoochee Institute of At Sautee and Jones Normal School Eclectic Ala. Her illustrations for the Agricultural extension services created a high demand for work that allowed her to employ fellow Athens Art Association member Millie Dearing as an apprentice. Dearing quickly established herself as an outstanding artist and went on to win many awards such as Athens art woman of the year. Many within the Association and community still speak of Millie's influence as well as the profound contributions of Lucy Stanton. Internationally known, Stanton was recognized for her unique style of miniatures and was the recipient of many awards including medals of Honor from the University of Pennsylvania, the Concord Art Association and the Atlanta Art Association. Two other notable and beloved members of the early group were Annie May Holliday and Sally Goodwyn. Both were recognized as landscape and figure artist. Strongly committed to fine arts education, their greatest contributions were their writings and support for fellow artists. While it's almost impossible to track down the awards and achievements of this early group, it is easy to recognize the standard of excellence and the commitment to the visual arts set forth for years to come.

     The Art Association quickly gained strength in 1937 when internationally known artist, Lammar Dodd joined the staff at the University of Georgia. He and his wife quickly became Association members and were frequent contributors to events and lectures.

     Current Association members who were familiar with Mr. Dodd often express the joy and love that he brought to the group. A favorite story of the Association is that of Alfred H. Holbrook, an ex-lawyer who enrolled in the university at the age of 70 to hone his collecting skills. Under the instruction of Mr. Dodd, he studied painting and quickly produced exceptional work. Mr. Holbrook also shared with the Athens community his extensive and valuable work, including such artist as Whistler, O'keefe and Homer. The Athens Art Association not only includes artist but also collectors and others knowledgeable of Art.

     The Athens Art Association has continued to thrive in the years since the tremendous success of the original charter. In 1958, the Association began sidewalk sales at the Beechwood shopping center and has continued to find ways to bring new, innovative and artistic ideas to the community. Along with various member exhibitions and presentations, the group has sponsored and exhibit of Israeli art in 1962 and sponsors The Art Cart at St. Mary's Hospital which allows patients to select a piece of art for their rooms. 

     Laura Blackshear passed away in 1967 at the age of 91 but the organization she loved and founded has continued to thrive. In 1984, The Art Association celebrated its 65th anniversary at the Athens Botanical Gardens and exhibited artwork of original charter members.

     While the current group still sponsors events at various locations, annual meetings are held at the Lyndon House arts center on Hoyt St. Initiated in 1974 as a Community Arts Center, The Lyndon House center currently hosts classes and provides exhibit space for the art community of Athens. The Association still offers a low membership fee, informative lectures and unique exhibit space including on the Internet.

     Members of The Athens Art Association help to celebrate the timeless, ageless, genderless joy that we call - Art. As a current member of the Athens Art Association, it has been a joy to research this group and develop a relationship with the history of these outstanding individuals.

Kirby N. Amick