The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

July 9, 2012

Guest Opinion: It's time for an arts center in Athens

By Diane Lehr
Guest Columnist


Art On The Square Arts League is a nonprofit arts organization, created by a dedicated group of volunteers, more than seven years ago. AOTS is one of the groups seeking use of the building known as the Little Red Schoolhouse, on Washington Street.

AOTS has a long-respected reputation with the city of Athens, Limestone County, Athens State University, TRAIL (county wide youth civic service organization), Redstone Federal Credit Union, and others who recognize AOTS’ superior work in this community. AOTS hopes to use the Little Red Schoolhouse to showcase and promote the arts in the Athens community, while drawing attention to its’ unique culture.

The goal will be to establish a center that reflects local history, as well as the future, by integrating an artistic vision into the space; sponsoring a year-round gallery with art shows; providing plein-air instruction in the historic district; offering a variety of classes; and engaging visiting artists and musicians to perform.

On Sept. 8, 2012, juried artists from far and wide will sell their works for the seventh consecutive year under the trees around the Limestone County Courthouse. The festival showcases some of the highest quality art from the region and beyond. Thousands of people attend the highly anticipated art festival.

A Budding Artists’ Tent allows young artists from this community to sell their own work during the show. Families bring their children to enjoy the all-art KidsZone. Everyone is invited to participate in creating a public art project that is presented to the community for display. Renowned guest musicians will perform. This year, a writer’s conference — Kudzu Chronicles: A Southern Writers Event at Art on the Square (see story on page 1A) — will add another dimension to the fine arts festival downtown, at the Center for Lifelong Learning. On Saturday, Sept. 8, attendees can come free to hear authors speak on a variety of topics, and join discussions on writing, getting published and historical research and genealogy. Tickets to the Friday night kickoff party are $20 each and attendees can meet the authors and have them sign books, as well as participate in a silent auction of books signed by a variety of Southern authors.

The Art On the Square board understands the importance of children growing up in a community that invests in its’ culture and art. AOTS currently reaches approximately 2,000 children in North Alabama. We want to do more.

  Creative arts drive the cultural success of a community. Art On the Square hopes to establish an art hub, like so many successful small towns and cities enjoy. From this center, art events can be easily accessed by the community and for tourists, year-round. Art On the Square volunteers have varied backgrounds and educations, yet remain singularly committed to seeing Athens succeed as a city that appreciates and supports art in community.

Diane Lehr is president of Art On the Square Arts League.