Arts

Museum celebrates Athens Art Association history

Laura Blackshear (American, 1875 – 1967), still life with fruit and pitcher, n.d. Oil on canvas. Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia; Gift of the Kuzmicki Collection. GMOA 2017.45.

For the past 100 years, the Athens Art Association has built a community dedicated to the promotion of the arts. The exhibition “Our Town and Beyond” celebrates its 100th anniversary and includes works of its earlier members. The exhibition will be on view at the Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia from May 18 through Aug. 11.

This show includes still life paintings, portraits, landscapes and even some early work in photography. Laura Blackshear, a local artist and educator, founded the association in 1919 with 20 charter members. She intended to form an organization that sponsored the physical production and celebration of art in Athens. From its earliest days, the Athens Art Association welcomed both men and women.

“Self Portrait, Reading,” a self-portrait by painter Lucy May Stanton, (American, 1876 – 1931), 1914. Oil on canvas, 46 x 32 inches. Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia; Gift of Mrs. Frances Forbes Heyn. GMOA 2002.45.

Lucy May Stanton painted members of her family and the Athens community. “The South is virgin soil as far as interpretations in terms of paint is concerned,” she said. “The things have never been painted before, never been seen before.”

Stanton envisioned a new South, though she worked within the social, racial and gender divisions of her time. Her self-portraits speak to the shifting nature of her identity as both a southern lady and an artistic suffragette.

Lamar Dodd, for whom the university’s Lamar Dodd School of Art is named, painted some of the landscapes included in the exhibition. He aligned the student art association at UGA with the Athens Art Association in the 1930s. Today, both organizations continue to maintain a good relationship. The show also includes some sculptural works by Martha Odum, best known as a landscape painter in watercolors and wife to Eugene Odum, who founded UGA’s Institute of Ecology (now Odum School of Ecology).

“The Georgia Museum of Art is pleased to join the Athens Art Association in celebrating its history of contributions to the cultural life of our community. Rich in visual arts resources, Athens-Clarke County is fortunate to count among them the Athens Art Association, which continues to this day to advance visual learning and to encourage the creative impulse,” said William U. Eiland, director of the museum and curator of the exhibition. “Our exhibition at the museum examines the works of early members, including the Association’s founders. While relentlessly realistic, these early 20th-century works are significant in the visual history of our region and our nation, since the artists in the exhibition followed the dictates of the times in studying the Old Masters and in attempting to represent the local world with all its everyday marvels and notable personages.”

The Athens Art Association continues to flourish by sponsoring exhibitions and lectures held primarily at the Lyndon House Arts Center. Other arts venues in Athens are also celebrating its anniversary, including the Lyndon House Arts Center (“A Century of Art: The Athens Art Association, 1919–2019,” June 6–Aug. 15, organized by Christine Langone, professor emerita in leadership education at UGA, and the Lyndon House Arts Center’s preparator Celia Brooks), the Athens-Clarke County Library (Aug. 10–Oct. 5) and the State Botanical Garden of Georgia (November and December).

Related events at the museum include:

  • A public tour by Eiland and Langone on June 5 at 2 p.m.
  • A screening of the documentary “Athens in Our Lifetimes,” directed by longtime Athens residents Kathy Prescott and Grady Thrasher, on June 13 at 7 p.m.
  • 90 Carlton: Summer, the museum’s quarterly reception, on July 19 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. ($15, $10 for Friends of the Museum and Supporters, free for current members; galleries open until 8:30 p.m.)

All programs are free and open to the public unless otherwise indicated.