Art Rocks Athens is about the art that made the music that made Athens, Georgia famous. Art and rock music were inseparable in those early, wildly creative and formative years, 1975 -1985, into which ARA is delving again in 2015, this time with exhibitions of film and photography, as well as musical performances.
One need only recall The B-52's, Pylon, R.E.M., Love Tractor, Dream So Real, and Limbo District to understand the profound influence that the University of Georgia art school, art students and professors had on Athens music. Indeed, one of the more intriguing documents brought to light as part of ARA 2014 was a genealogy of early Athens rock music, prepared by Pylon's vocalist Vanessa Briscoe Hay while she was an art student at UGA, showing which bands were the progeny of which art school professors.
The ability of art to beget music, and, in turn, to be stimulated and influenced by music, is not a uniquely Athenian phenomenon, of course. There are many examples in pop culture one could cite, including avant-garde filmmaker Paul Morrissey's discovery of the Velvet Underground, and Andy Warhol's role as its manager, resulting in the band's legendary involvement in his multimedia Exploding Plastic Inevitable.
The interaction of pop art and rock was no less intensive in London than in New York in the 1960's and '70's: think of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and their White Album, or of former art student Bryan Ferry and the highly visual glam rock of Roxy Music. In Providence, David Byrne and fellow student at the Rhode Island School of Design, Chris Frantz, formed with others the quintessential art rock band Talking Heads.
Athens art and music are quirky particulars that illustrate the seemingly universal interplay of art and music at the limits. In that spirit, for ARA 2015, the Art Rocks Athens Foundation is organizing a retrospective of photography and film from the Athens art-music scene.
ARAF's History and ARA 2014
Art Rocks Athens was conceived in 2011, and organized as a non-profit corporation, Art Rocks Athens Foundation, Inc., in the State of Georgia in 2012. It applied for and received IRS determination of 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status in 2014.
In its inaugural year of public programming, 2014, ARAF organized, prepared, and presented three hugely successful art exhibitions, for which it was primarily responsible:
Between Rock and an Art Place, a retrospective of more than 450 works of drawing,painting, sculpture, photography, and video from art students, art professors, and others associated with the Athens art-music scene, 1975-1985, curated by Robert Croker, at the Lamar Dodd School of Art, UGA, Athens, Georgia, May 23, 2014 - July 2014.
Paper Covers Rock: Graphic Arts and the Athens Music Scene, 1975-1985, a huge, world-class exhibition of Athens music-related graphic arts, curated by Keith Bennett, Chris Rasmussen, and Sean Bourne, at the Lyndon House Arts Center, May 25, 2014 - July 25, 2014.
ARTifacts Rock Athens: Relics from the Athens Music Scene, 1975-1985, a carefully selected assortment of artifacts (musical instruments, stage clothes, records, buttons, photos, papers, etc.) at the UGA Special Collections Archives, curated by Keith Bennett, Chris Rasmussen, Mary Miller, and Ruta Abolins, May 1, 2014 - December 31, 2014.
In addition, in cooperation with Art Rocks Athens, Lynn Boland and Betty Alice Fowler curated at the Georgia Museum of Art a parallel exhibition, Shapes That Talk to Me: The Athens Scene, 1975-1985, that highlighted artists whose works are in the Museum's permanent collection, and who helped shape Athens' culture and marked its international significance, May 24, 2014 - October 19, 2014.
For its musical program, ARA 2014 presented two nights of music at the 40 Watt Club and the Georgia Theatre, featuring: Ola Moon; The B-53's (B-52's tribute band); OH-OK; Is/Ought Gap; The Pylon Reenactment Society; Armistead Wellford and friends (featuring members of the Drive-By Truckers, Of Montreal, and The Glands); Kevin Dunn; Michael Guthrie Band; Saint Eel; Squalls; and David Barbe.
As part of ARA 2014, ARAF also organized a fashion show, featuring stage clothes of Cindy Wilson of The B-52's; showed archival film footage of Athens bands; and presented Clear the Floor: A Retrospective Dance Concert Featuring Original Choreography Created in Athens, Georgia, 1975-1985, directed by Peggy Thrasher Law.
The founding members of ARAF were, alphabetically, Paul Butchart, Blair Dorminey, Maureen McLaughlin, Leslie Michel, and Heli Montgomery.
The mission of the Art Rocks Athens Foundation is to recognize the artists who gave birth to and helped shape the Athens music scene; to present, preserve, and promote their art; and to foster the continuing interplay of the visual and musical arts in Athens.
Who We Are
The Art Rocks Athens Foundation, Inc. is governed and directed by an Executive Committee, currently comprised by, alphabetically, Blair Dorminey, Leslie Michel, Heli Montgomery, Jason Nesmith, and Chris Rasmussen.
ARA 2015 essentially picks up where ARA 2014 left off. In 2014, Art Rocks Athens mounted major exhibitions and events devoted to: the "fine" arts, primarily drawing, painting, and sculpture with some photography and video in Between Rock and an Art Place (BRaaAG), curated by former UGA art professor and mentor Robert Croker; graphic arts, Paper Covers Rock; rock relics and archives, ARTifacts; influential artists, Shapes That Talk to Me; experimental dance, Clear the Floor; a fashion show; story-telling; and musical performances.
ARA 2015 will focus on photography, film, and musical performances. Sandra Lee Phipps, professor of photography at SCAD Atlanta and former Athens resident, is curating photography exhibitions with several sub-themes, as stated in ARAF's open call for images: portraits ("i'll be your mirror); a sense of place (athens); fine art; and people in their spaces/homes/rooms -- reflecting the way people lived in "thriftstore" athens ("in my room"); and party/clubbing photos (the "scene" itself).
ARA 2015 will screen video and Super 8 and 16 mm film, primarily of an experimental or DIY nature, or documenting the nascent art-music scene. Included will be works by Betty Alice Fowler, Keith Bennett, Spencer Thornton, and Stan Brakhage, among several others.
ARAF will also present two evenings of musical performances, including by Cindy Wilson, Glenn Phillips, Kevin Dunn, Vanessa Briscoe Hay, Dexter Romweber, Barry Marler, Squalls, Dana Downs, Jason Nesmith, and Cult of Riggonia.
Thursday, August 27, 2015
Screening: Films of Stan Brakhage
Auditorium, Georgia Museum of Art
Friday, August 28, 2015
Cocktails & Videos, Flicker
Opening Reception, Photography Exhibition, TBA
Soundtrack, Night One, The Foundry
Saturday, August 29, 2015
Cocktails & Videos, Flicker
Opening Reception & Screening, Film Retrospective
Auditorium & Lobby, Special Collections Library, UGA
Soundtrack, Night Two, Livewire
Sunday, August 30, 2015
Brunch and a Movie (Biscuit Bar & Bloody Marys)
Cine Lab & Lobby
Screenings, Cine Theater
Athens is well-known as a music town, but what's less understood is what led musicians to congregate here in the first place. The big bang's short explanation is that a significant pool of artists - many of whom moved into town to attend the Lamar Dodd School of Art - eventually extended their creative endeavors into music. Seeking to preserve and promote the crossroads of art and music during the pivotal years of 1970 - 85, nonprofit Art Rocks Athens launched last year with an ambitious series of exhibitions spread out across every major art venue in town.
Kicking off between Aug. 27 - 30, the upcoming installment will shift away from the launch's focus on paintings, drawings and graphic arts to a concentration on photography, video and film.
Organizers are asking community members to dust off any Athens-centric photos and videos for a free event on Thursday, June 11 from 9 - 11 p.m. at Little Kings Shuffle Club, where a sample of what's in store for late summer will be shared. Scanners will be on hand for anyone wishing to upload their images to the curatorial database from which exhibition pieces will be drawn. Check artrocksathens.com for future events and involvement opportunities.