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Athens takes a community-based approach to art

Photo by Phalen Kuckuck.
Written by Phalen Kuckuck

The Athens Municipal Arts Commission held a public meeting Wednesday at ARTS/West that included a presentation and discussion about local art projects developing around the city of Athens.

The city of Athens has a particular focus on displaying and promoting art. This meeting served to lay plans for future projects and stimulate community discussion and involvement in the arts Athens has to offer.

“If you want to put art on a city owned building or piece of property, then you have to approach AMAC first,” said Chelsea Peterson Morahan, program specialist at ARTS/West. “They’re the stamp of approval, then you can take it to city council to present it.”

AMAC exists as a separate entity from the physical ARTS/West facility where the meeting took place, but both are fundamental in fostering artistic expression in Athens. According to the Athens city website, “The Athens Municipal Arts Commission … (exists) to encourage new opportunities for the creation, performance, and exhibition of all the arts; and to promote policies and activities that preserve the beauty, history, and culture of the region.”

Carol Patterson, the interim-chair of AMAC, wrote the original legislation to get the program started in Athens.

“A mural was suggested for Athens, and the city council said, ‘We don’t know anything about murals, how do we make the judgement?’” Patterson said. “So the idea was that the commission would be a group of experts that would be able to look at these things and be able to make practical suggestions and recommendations to city council.”

AMAC discussed numerous artistic projects in the city. Some of these include the banners attached to street poles, displaying art from children of the Athens City School District, poetry displayed on the sides of city buses and photographs from the Athens Photographic Project that will be displayed on the uptown parking garage.

In addition, there were several potential projects up for display and discussion, and the citizens in attendance could vote directly on which they would like to see implemented. Citizens were given three small stickers that they used to vote on their favorite of the potential art projects around Athens.

Athens City Planner Paul Logue also attended the meeting because according to him, there is “huge value” to art in Athens.

“I go to a lot of night meetings,” Logue said. “If I can go to a night meeting and talk about art, I don’t necessarily feel like I’m at work; I feel like I’m having a good time. I really enjoy these conversations and I do love art. As I’m walking down the street, or driving a car sitting at a red light or a stop sign, I should see little things that tell me that the arts matter in Athens.”

Following the AMAC presentation was a lively discussion about artistic expression in the City of Athens. One community member suggested art be placed around the city, such as on East State Street.

“I love it when they combine art and practicality,” another community member said. “Could we have crosswalks that are artistically amazing, but yet practical for the children so they don’t get run over?”

On display in the ARTS/West building are oil paintings from a local artist named Eric Nimburger. Funding for the venue is meant to “encourage economic growth, educational excellence and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans,” according to its website.

All AMAC meetings are open to the public, and members of the public are encouraged to attend.

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Phalen Kuckuck

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