Q: Is it one of the goals to include all genres of art, from fine art to photography, from singing to writing? Why was this important?
Lehr: “Expanding from a visual arts event to a year-round arts league is an attempt to encourage people to experience all art forms. I love visual art and I love music, since I grew up in Memphis. I also write, took dance as a child, and I sing very badly. I love working in mixed media and, frankly, I would be a Renaissance woman if I were just talented enough. I think lots of people feel that way. They love it all. I saw a play last year at Athens State that I hope AOTS can produce for this community. It was spectacular and with local actresses including Karen Middleton. I also love local author Kelly Kazek’s book, ‘Fairly Odd Mother: Musings of a Slightly Off Southern Mom.’ I recently worked with musician Matt Prater, when he played for a Spirit of Athens event. He is a local singer and songwriter and his statement to me was, ‘I know I’ll be happy if I just follow the art.’ He is an incredible musician, as are so many locals like Barry Kay, The Charles and Grant Show, Kristi Coughlin, and Jana Pettus to name a few. And remember that Limestone County also produces musicians like the up-and-coming Alabama Shakes, who will probably be on the Grammy Awards in a year or two, and world class fiddlers who go on from here and the Fiddler’s Convention at ASU, to make it big in Nashville. I am also literally blown away by the visual artists that come from this area. There are too many to name individually, but come and see them at Art On The Square on Sept. 8. There are painters, sculptors, photographers, ceramicists, glass artists, jewelers, and mixed media artists beyond compare. Santa Fe, N.M., is the third largest art market in the country. Talented artists from all over the world move there and succeed. I tell you, the artists that AOTS brings to downtown Athens each September could stand in competition with those artists in Santa Fe and succeed in that market easily. Seriously, they are that great. Although I can’t mention everyone, I must say that this area has great talent all around, and it’s been such a treat to get to know that and to see them realize their talent.