By Guy McClure Jr.
Since its inception in 1822, Athens State University has offered the community cultural and artistic forums that broaden the scope of the understanding of fine arts, theater, or musical entertainment.
Whether it is a theater production, alumni or student gallery showings, the curriculum of the newly expanded art department, or the offerings of the popular Livingston Concert Lecture Series, art at Athens State is not only an important educational focus but also an ongoing community service project.
The Sandridge Student Center located in the heart of the Athens State campus is home to the Bear Cage Gallery – a gallery that is currently showing the annual Alumni Art Exhibit, but will change in March to play host to an Art Exhibit honoring Women’s History Month.
Admission to the gallery is free and open to the public during regular school hours, Mondays through Fridays.
In 2010, Athens State was approved by the Alabama Commission of Higher Education and the State Board of Education to offer a bachelor’s degree in art. A curriculum is being prepared that will include course work in painting and drawing, computer graphics and licensure to teach art. Being able to continue to confer a degree in art, especially with these three important tracks, is one more way the university is meeting the needs of today's students while still maintaining the strong academic traditions of the school.
The Livingston Concert Lecture Series was endowed in 2007 and was made possible through the generosity of Robbie Nelle Christopher Livingston, a member of Athens College's class of 1942. Since it was established, the Concert Lecture Series has hosted over 40 events on campus. It has brought to Athens speakers such as education activist Jonathan Kozol and television star Laurie Hickson Smith, musicians such as pianist Emile Pandolfi and the group Trout Fishing in America, and many educational and cultural activities mostly at no charge and open to the public.
The Theater Department at Athens State has continually offered plays, both classic and first-run performances, that would not have been available in the area had it not been for the university and its wonderful venue of McCandless Hall.
The Theater Department utilizes student, faculty and/or community members in all of its performances.
The university is also the home of the extremely popular Athens State Community Band under the direction of Dan Havely.
The group was founded in 2003 and is sponsored by the Livingston Concert Lecture Series. In the beginning, the group was largely conceived as an outlet for graduates of the Athens High School band program, which Havely conducted for 34 years, to continue with their musical interests.
Today the band meets weekly throughout the year to practice and welcomes any local musicians with an interest in music and having fun.
The Community Band performs a Christmas and a Spring Concert, along with performance at graduations, special University events, and holds a yearly evening performance on the courthouse square in downtown Athens.
Athens State’s many alums, as well as local residents, have many fond memories of attending art-related events on the university’s campus.
Athens State is proudly committed to continuing this legacy of art and cultural enrichment of both Athens and Limestone County.