Art Rocks Athens: How Art Made Music In Georgia From 1975-85
Art Rocks Athens: How Art Made Music In Georgia From 1975-85
Paint, dance, print, film: All forms of art energized the emerging music scene in Athens. Help us preserve and protect this history!
Paint, dance, print, film: All forms of art energized the emerging music scene in Athens. Help us preserve and protect this history! Read more
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Over the past few years, many of the people who were involved in the early Athens art and music scenes have come to a startling conclusion: They are not going to live forever. Gasp. They have also come to fully appreciate that although local bands like Pylon, R.E.M., Love Tractor, and the B-52’s have been heard around the world, Athens artists have scarcely received any recognition for the pivotal role they played in turning their town into a magnetic center for the arts. There has never been a retrospective of Athens visual and performance artists from 1975-85. No one is working to protect this history by documenting, preserving and recording it. And no one has stepped forward to do this – until now.
Art Rocks Athens is a non-profit foundation dedicated to the preservation and celebration of art in Athens and its influence on music. The purpose of the current Kickstarter is to raise funds for our flagship 2014 exhibitions, primarily in May, with many scheduled for Memorial Day weekend. Artists have been uploading digital images of their art for collection in a museum-quality database, where the work is being cataloged. Graphic artists have been uploading images in staggering numbers of posters, flyers, album cover art and other ephemera. Additionally, Art Rocks has located many rare artifacts from this time period.
The vast majority of Art Rocks programs will be free and open to the public. Since Athens has one of the widest income gaps in the nation, keeping events and activities with no charge will give the greatest number of people an opportunity to participate. After reading the story below you will find details about specific exhibitions and events.
The Art Rocks Board is is already planning future exhibitions; a book covering this period of time; and ongoing outreach to build up the art database and provide access to the national and international art community, so that in the years to come researchers and other interested people will be able to view Athens art from this seminal period. Art Rocks Athens is also working in conjunction with the University of Georgia Special Collection Libraries to make the public and collectors aware of the opportunity to have their collections housed in a climate controlled environment and oral histories recorded for posterity.
What happened in Athens, Georgia?
In the 1970’s and 80’s in Athens, Georgia the living was easy. Rent was cheap, crappy part-time jobs were plentiful, and there was loads of time for making art and music. At 6:00 p.m. most of the downtown businesses closed and the daytime folks went home, leaving a delightfully empty playground for a group of young people who were ready to work off the stress of school and work. At first there were artists' studios on upper floors of old brick buildings, cavernous spaces with unfinished heart pine floors and very little in the way of even the simplest amenities. Of course, while drawing or painting there had to be music, especially from early British and American punk bands. Before too long, the artists and their friends started forming musical groups of their own, first playing at parties and then venturing into the world outside of the inventive incubator that was Athens, Georgia.
Buy Me A Million Dollars by Love Tractor 1982, DB Records; video by Leslie Michel, 2014
Perhaps it was because many of these young people came from sleepy little Southern towns where they were reared to be hospitable and get along with other people. Maybe it was because when they reached the University of Georgia, individuals who had lived lonely lives as rebels and outsiders suddenly found themselves part of a large gathering of similarly-minded souls, all of whom were burning with a desire to express the truth of their inner visions. Whatever the reason, an otherwise disparate collection of painters, poets, musicians, dancers and dreamers became each other's support, and began a lifetime of collaboration and cooperation. The group’s confidence grew as members spurred on one another to try new approaches and genres in their work. They became fearless because of constant inspiration and stimulation from their peers and professors. This opened wide the doors of exploration and examination, sometimes leading to the creation of something a little strange, or maybe a little wonderful.
Much of this raw energy focused itself in both novel and familiar forms of self-expression. The Art Department at the University of Georgia became a laboratory where anything could happen. Brash young professors challenged their students to take risks and explore the world in new ways. Installations in the yard outside the building went up and came down with the frequency of mushrooms after a rainstorm. Art students were producing work at such a rate that they would make a painting, paint a base coat over what they had made the previous week and make another painting. People sat in bars and restaurants with their sketchpads, capturing random street scenes or perhaps an extraordinary face in the crowd. In the photography lab, students began by making pinhole cameras and progressed to developing their own 35mm photographs in the darkroom. Others grabbed Super 8 cameras and began making films.
The world was filled with art; then the music came along, and the scene really exploded.
After hours in the art department, boom boxes first played the Velvet Underground and New York Dolls along with recordings by Yma Sumac, Patsy Cline or Stockhausen thrown into the mix. As time progressed, speakers blared punk bands, and eventually blasted out songs by local Athens musicians. Music started to become more than a background of ambient sound and began to creep into the art. With cameras and sketchbooks always being in attendance, works inspired by bands merged into being in student portfolios. Not only that, but all of these new records needed cover art and bands needed posters and flyers for their shows. Some of the most coveted early posters and t-shirts were screen printed. With so much activity during the evening hours, the art school building became a roiling cauldron of imaginative energy, fueled by people with a relentless drive to create.
In Athens, Georgia from the mid-to-late seventies, life did not imitate art. Life was art. One way that people expressed their originality was through their clothing. People discovered thrift shopping. In part, this came about because of a lack of funds, but it equally happened because the clothes of the time were mostly made from itchy, scratchy polyester in plaids and prints of hideously unnatural colors. It was much more fun to go to the Potter's House Thrift Store and bring home soft cotton pants, outrageous fifties prom dresses, and Hawaiian shirts. Mixing and matching eras resulted in a unique style of dressing that could not be duplicated. Eclectic everyday looks got taken a step further when bands began to dress up for performances. Musicians competed with their audiences to see who could have the wildest style, the biggest hair, the boldest looks.
What is Art Rocks Athens doing in 2014?
Between Rock and an Art Place at the University of Georgia’s Lamar Dodd School of Art
Beginning on May 23, 2014, under the direction of curator and former UGA art instructor Robert Croker, a fine art exhibition will encompass artworks in every medium. This no-holds-barred curatorial exploration will honestly demonstrate the combined effect that a loose coalition of immensely talented students, faculty, and townsfolk were capable of producing.
ARTifacts Rock Athens: Relics from the Athens Music Scene, 1975-1985 at the Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection at the UGA Special Collection Libraries
Come here expecting to see seldom seen artworks, records, significant correspondence, hand-written original lyrics, instruments, amps, set lists, early posters and flyers, buttons, tour passes, t-shirts, stickers, photographs, newsletters, fan club items, and rare film and video. See Kate and Cindy’s stage clothes in a fashion show at the opening on May 1, 2014.
Paper Covers Rock: Graphic Arts and the Athens Music Scene, 1975-1985 at the Lyndon House Arts Center
In the upstairs atrium gallery, every rock collector's dream will come true with the treasures from band members and long-time Athens music enthusiasts gracing the walls: Original artwork for album covers, as well as magazine and fanzine covers will share the space with posters, flyers set lists and graphic art of every description. This show is curated by Sean Bourne, whose early band screen prints are prized by graphics collectors.
Nightclubbing Videos with Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong
Although Art Rocks is saving much of the video and film for the 2015 exhibitions, for its first year, we introduce these two native New Yorkers, who filmed entire concerts by Pylon and other Athens bands in their series of Nightclubbing videos. Pat and Emily will talk about their work in a Q&A after the showing, where they will discuss punk rock and rock music history, and give advice to aspiring filmmakers.
Clear the Floor: A Retrospective Dance Concert Featuring Original Choreography Created in Athens, Georgia, 1975-1985 at the UGA Dance Department New Dance Theater
With a cast of local dancers and current UGA dance students, choreographer and former UGA student and faculty member Peggy Thrasher Law is planning an ambitious retrospective dance performance featuring reconstructions of dance works from the 1975-85 time period. This performance will be held on Saturday, May 24, 2014. The lobby of the building will display striking dance photography from the 1975-85 period by the late L. David Dwinnell.
There will also be other events, including concerts at the Georgia Theatre and the 40 Watt Club, and a specially curated night of Art Rocks themed stories with the Rabbit Box Storytelling Collective. These activities will not be utilizing Kickstarter funds.
What is the bottom line here? How can you help?
1. "Buy me a million dollars!" We deeply thank you for your donation in whatever size works best for you.
2. Share this site with your friends. Please share our campaign with music fans, history buffs, collectors or anyone else you think may be interested in this project.
3. Come back here often for frequent updates. We will be posting videos and information about some of our fabulous finds, performers and activities. For example: What if you were to find that there was an alternate album cover for the debut album of… We'll save that detail for another day! We may also be enhancing some premiums or making other special offers.
Title banner credit: Pylon by Watt King, Acrylic and collage on cotton duck, 1979
Risks and challenges
We recognize that this is an ambitious project requiring many hours of work to come to fruition. For that reason, Art Rocks Athens has recruited volunteer committee chairs and curators who are doing this because they recognize that this project wants to be done. They work for love, not money. A few people doing specialized tasks are being paid for their work, mostly so that they will not lose any funds through being involved with Art Rocks. About 95% of the work is being done for free. Part of the reason we are able to maintain such strong project cohesion is because many of us have been friends for most of our lives.
We do recognize that unforeseen events may take people away from this work. For that reason, most people in leadership positions have associates who may take over if they need to step away. We aim for transparency and open communication in everything we do. In short, this group of people is in it for the long haul, and we hope you decide to support this worthy project.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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