By Diane Lehr
For The News Courier
Art on the Square’s tagline, “Art. Experience it. Own it.” says it all when it comes to the organization’s goal for its art festival held the second Saturday each September in downtown Athens. The fine arts festival is slated for 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8.
The all-volunteer arts league formed seven years ago and has perpetuated the goal of bringing art to life on the beautiful Limestone County Courthouse grounds each September since. Attendees are asked to stroll on the Courthouse grounds and enter a world of fine art right in the center of the local community.
“The little festival that could” is the mantra of the many AOTS volunteers who dedicate themselves to attracting the best artists and a wide range of visitors to the event that enriches the Athens’ culture each fall.
“This juried art festival has become more interesting and entertaining than ever, drawing thousands to Athens,” says Lisa Milby, vice president of the 2012 Art On the Square Arts League. She adds there is always local and regional talent taking part in the event, making it a true hometown happening.
Present on festival day will be approximately 50 selected visual artists including painters, sculptors, metal artists, glass artists, photographers, ceramicists, fiber artists, jewelry artists, and mixed media artists, as well as an array of performing artists and an author or two selling books that often reflect local stories and local flavor.
Savvy art collectors, and the simply curious, are encouraged to attend the festival and see the quality of fine art represented. Last year’s Best of Show winner, Debra Riffe of Birmingham, took home a first-place ribbon, $800 in prize money, and the honor of being selected as the overall best, among many other juried fine art participants.
Ms. Riffe is a linoleum block relief printmaker and a graduate of Howard University’s College of Fine Arts where she obtained a degree in illustration. Her works reflect African-Americans in Southern surroundings, performing everyday tasks in timeless, solitary reflective moments.
Ms. Riffe has won numerous awards for her work and she went on after Art On the Square, to win a Kentuck 2011 Award of Distinction.
The multi-faceted KidsZone is a huge part of Art on the Square. It is always free and offers over 20 art activities for children. Athens State students, TRAIL and RSVP volunteers, and numerous other good will representatives clamor to be part of the community service experience at Art On the Square each year. Hundreds of children thrive in the ‘arts only’ KidsZone environment presented for their pleasure and to stimulate their creative spirits during the event.
According to Trisha Black, a board member with Art On the Square, “Many have worked diligently throughout the year to bring this quality downtown experience to Athens, and all are excited to see the entire region coming out and enjoying the visual arts, music and dance in our small town downtown.”
The Saturday arts festival is always free to the public and a “heavy rain” location is secured at the Athens State University gym, ensuring the show will go on.