The Serendipity of The Summer Arts

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More exciting art news is in the works downtown as the Athens Arts League, which is a branch of Spirit of Athens, partners with art benefactor Jim Batson of the HC Blake Company in order to offer a studio arts center to this community. The league will begin work on High Cotton Arts in November and hopes to be in an early operational phase within four to six month. Athens Arts League will occupy the storefront of the WE Estes building. They will oversee and direct the progress of this arts center that will include several studio rental spaces, indoor and outdoor class rooms and gallery space.

The Arts League is actively planning children’s art camps, special art events and extensive educational and entertainment opportunities that will continue to advance the arts in the local community. Always eager to share their passion for art with children, the League provided an art station in the Kid’s Activities area at the recent Athens Grease Festival. Recycled plastic bottles and other materials became whimsical birds and fish at the hands of the delighted children and Arts League volunteers. The bright animals were strung up on mobiles and could be seen swinging happily in the wind throughout the festival. Sunny afternoons in Athens got a little sweeter in 2013 with the introduction of the Summer Arts Strolls held on Fourth Fridays. Athens Arts League, formerly Art on the Square, offered art and music on The Limestone County Courthouse lawn with the hopes of bringing people out to enjoy the shops, restaurants and ambience of our historic downtown. With the group’s reputation for excellence and dedication to arts and downtown revitalization, come out they did! From art aficianados to sweethearts young and old, walking hand in hand, the sidewalks on the square were full of smiling folks enjoying the colorful bounty from the many local and regional artists. Children frolicked with hoola-hoops while shoppers enjoyed the sultry strains of live music drifting through the square. A variety of media was presented, from ceramics, to jewelry, to fabric art and more.

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A newcomer to the Athens arts scene, although not new to Athens herself, was Dana Hickman and her unique Knot Sew New Aprons & More. A natural born designer and selftaught seamstress, Hickman has always loved sewing and design, even making her own clothes with whatever was on hand as a young girl and still today. Her true passion is taking old clothes and make something completely new. Inspired by color and because she’s sentimental, Hickman is drawn to cotton and vintage fabrics and and feels that each piece holds a unique story. Nostalgia is a big factor and Hickman incorporates retro skirts, dresses, handkerchiefs and scarves into the designs. She searches for finds at estate sales, thrift stores, yard sales and often receives donations of old quilts and clothes from friends. Hickman reports “I’m just looking for fabric that’s looking to have a second chance.“ She coined the term “Kitchen Lingerie” to describe her pieces and quips “You don’t have to know how to cook, you just have to look like you do.”

Hickman loves being southern and was greatly inspired by observing her grandmother’s simple, day-to-day life. “Cooking and sewing are not just a way to survive, but a way to express yourself,” Hickman said as she recounted vivid memories of standing on a chair at the stove, stirring and watching her grandmother’s every move. Raised in Lauderdale County, Dana shopped in downtown Athens as a child and has fond remembrances of visiting several of the stores still open on the square today. Dana relocated 10 years ago back to Athens and “Got a second chance to fall in love with Athens allover again.”

Married to Jim Hickman, accountant and former City Council Member, Dana was surprised to be invited to present at the Summer Arts Stroll. She hadn’t looked at her textile work as art prior to that, but now recognizes that “Art is not just traditional media and I can use my designs, my sewing machine and my scissors to create art. Art is being original and creative and it is the basis of so much joy that we all need to experience.” Dana set up a special display for the July stroll dedicated to the women of the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service Home Demonstration Clubs, fondly known as “The Tomato Clubs.” The group of innovative women, including her grandmother, went out into rural areas and demonstrated the art of canning tomatoes. Hickman incorporated a vintage canner and other canning memorabilia as she displayed her specially-designed line of aprons for the display called “The Ladies of Summer.” As a nod to the Home Demonstration Clubs, each apron was named after an actual member of her grandmother’s club. Dana goes on to say that “Being part of the Arts Stroll allowed me to meet other artists and helped me to discover who I really am. We networked and drew inspiration from one another. Anyone that didn’t make it to any of the Strolls this summer really missed out on a lot of talented artists we have in the area.”

Dana’s creative designs have also been featured in local Trunk Shows, All South Appliance’s regular Girl’s Night Out promotions in Madison and on her Knot Sew New Facebook page. Her email is
By: Pam Hartmann