Community Spotlight: Melissa Roberts of Canopy Studio


Located in Terry street warehouses, is an acrobatic playground where kids and adults alike learn and practice the art of aerial dance.

Canopy Studio, this acrobatic playground, was started 13 years ago by former modern dancer, Suzan Murphy. Having roots in Georgia, Murphy started Canopy in Athens, because she knew it would be receptive to a creative idea like a trapeze studio. Within a few years of opening, Canopy had a full company and was putting on productions twice a year. Murphy retired in 2009 and passed along the professional company to Melissa Roberts, who is now the director of the studio.

“Not only did Murphy pass along the professional company, she also passed along the idea of aerial dance not just as doing tricks, but as going on a journey of modern dance,” Roberts said in reference to Murphy’s vision.

After Roberts took charge of Canopy, she immediately began brainstorming ways to expand and grow the organization. She added more energy to the studio and expanded farther into the community, allowing her to partner with more organizations.

“Aerial dance is one of the hardest most physically amazing things I have ever done and in the midst of it being so physically demanding it is also technical, fluid, and beautiful,” said Roberts regarding her love of aerial dance.

Canopy Studio hopes to build more of a community through its nontraditional way of moving. Roberts explained this nontraditional way of moving is a vital aspect of a happy, creative life because, “The more you move, the better your brain works. You are able to problem solve in different ways and create a sense of body confidence.”

The studio that began with primarily adult classes now has more than 40 classes a week and caters to all different parts of the community. Roberts has created an outreach position that developed a teens program, as well as an after-school program that includes special needs children. Roberts has fostered working relationships with the neighborhood schools in order create this after-school program and give children the opportunity to experience aerial dance.

“We give these kids a chance to do something they never would have been able to do. It is a very sobering feeling to leave the studio and drive down the street to see the kids that come to our ASP classes at the bus stop with their parents, waiting to go to the shelter.”

This incredible opportunity for these kids gives them a sense of body ownership and self-esteem, which translates into their every day lives. The studio is a safe space for these kids to fully engage in what they are doing and express themselves through physical movement.

“This type of physical movement where the kids learn to pull themselves up onto the bar really allows them to pull themselves up in other areas of their life while instilling confidence and independence,” Roberts said.

Many of the attendees refer to Canopy as their “safe space” and say that it allows a sense of healing and growth. Roberts agrees and says, “As long as this safe space is still present and that energy continues to move forward, we are meeting our mission. Now we just need to grow our space.”

They have the ultimate location: close to downtown, walkable to some of their community partners, and just far enough to feel like a get away from town. The studio itself is a space that inspires creativity and reflects the dancer’s passion. Many of the aerialists themselves have gone through profession training programs and some participate in ongoing residential training programs. The talent in the group is outstanding and the mix of all the different backgrounds that bring these people together creates an energy and passion unlike any other.

Canopy prides itself on welcoming people of any background, age or physical ability. Performances are held throughout the year from the different levels of dancers and this gives the Athens community a chance to experience and see how much work and focus it takes to be able to do this type of dance.

Roberts explained her love of the performances the amount of work that goes into make each one new and exciting. “The performances are especially fun because we love to unveil a story behind the performance. Every aerialist has a specific character and it makes it really fascinating to see how the art of body movement and acting comes together,” Roberts said.

The studio is constantly growing and there is no better place than Athens for this to happen. The level of quality and creativity that Canopy brings to Athens makes it yet another example of why Athens is so unique.

“We want to reach out to everyone in the community. I know we are making a difference in people’s lives, and and if it weren’t for Athen’s supportive community we are so grateful for, the studio would not be able to do what it does.”

Interested in checking out Canopy Studio? Check out their website at

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Written by Meg Taylor. Photographs by Mercedes Bleth.


Bread and Thread Presents: Dream(e)scape

Left: Cortesan au Chocolat made with Rocky Acres farm eggs in Madison, GA and chocolate filling with Sparkman’s Cream Valley whole milk
Right: shirt, Suska; earrings, Rhys May; skirt, American Apparel

featuring Cortesan au Chocolat as seen in Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel

in the comfort of my own home
i adorn my shoulders
fur and lace that fit quite nicely

in the comfort of my own home
i grasp the mixing bowl
egg and flour that blend together well

the feminine feel for my eyes only
silk and satin serve as staples
in my very own versailles

the tempting treats for my mouth only
sugar and spices fill the shelves
in my very own cuisine

the softest pastel hues
stitched together seamlessly
draping charmingly across my curves

the smoothest pastry dough
piped to perfection
slowly rising as it bakes

aligning textures and patterns
from assorted fixtures of time
my passions personified

arranging tiny towers
of delicate confections
my passions personified

For this installment of Bread and Thread, we thought that music and poetry would best convey our newfound whimsy. Looking well and eating well are everyday facets of our lives; however, you don’t always need an audience or occasion for either. We believe it is important to savor attention to detail, to bask in the simplicity of bare necessities, and to revel in the finer things – simply just because.

Do you love Bread and Thread? Check out their new website at

Food preparation, styling, and photography: Madison Trapkin
Fashion styling: Ally Smith, assisted by Seyi Amosu
Fashion photography: Tatim Kilosky
Hair styling: Model Citizen Salon
Shot on location at Suska
Featuring clothing and accessories from: Dynamite Clothing, Suska, Rhys May, Agora, Community, and The Pope on Prince
Featuring food items from: Rocky Acres farm in Madison, GA and Sparkman’s Cream Valley

Left: shirt, vintage; skirt; Community
Right: eggs from Rocky Acres Farm in Madison, GA

Top: stone ring, Agora; bralette and earrings, Dynamite Clothing; house dress, The Pope on Prince; midi rings, Rhys May
Bottom: pastries made with Rocky Acres farm eggs in Madison, GA

Left: pastries made with Rocky Acres farm eggs in Madison, GA
Right: skirt, dress, and cardigan, Suska; earrings, Rhys May

Left: Cortesan au Chocolat made with Rocky Acres farm eggs in Madison, GA and chocolate filling with Sparkman’s Cream Valley whole milk
Right: fur collar and sweater, Suska; slip, The Pope on Prince

Left: earrings, Suska; dress, The Pope on Prince
Right: Cortesan au Chocolat made with Rocky Acres farm eggs in Madison, GA and Sparkman’s Cream Valley whole milk

Community Spotlight: Jan Kozak of the Athens Farmers Market


The Athens Farmers Market is a gem. As a college student, it is a place that I can go where I am reminded that I live in a community with a variety of people and not just a college town. There are more layers to Athens than I have yet to experience and the Farmers Market is one of the first places to teach me that.

For a little while, I volunteered at the Athens Farmers Market through the Daily Co-op. I would wake up every Saturday at some ungodly early hour and bike down Prince Avenue to the market before anyone was awake yet. The market is a wonderful place where there’s great music, beautiful produce, and some of the best people.

Jan Kozak is one of these people. He is the market manager and was kind enough to let My Athens interview him for our blog. According to Kozak, the market officially began in 2008 as a response to the community’s need for “direct connection to producers”. Kozak started as a volunteer with Cedar Grove Farm and became a vendor of the market in 2009. In early 2010, he was offered a position as the market manager. Since then the market has continued to evolve and grow–adding more vendors and events to serve our community.

The market is a place that provides patrons the opportunity to meet the farmers and vendors who grow and create the things they buy.

“There’s immediate accountability because of [the market’s] transparency,” said Kozak. “You can’t get much safer than the Farmers Market because the farmers are invested in the community”.

One goal of the market is to provide local food year-round. Kozak hopes for farmers to have opportunities to offer preserved goods in the months when the cold does not allow for much variety. Of course, “there are other ways to get local food, but we should provide for twelve months to the community”, said Kozak.

According to Kozak, the farmers at the Athens market “are invested in you being healthy” in addition to building relationships. It is a place where individuals comes together to support one another, which ultimately supports the community as a whole.

For Kozak, aside from the food and events, it is this sense of community that keeps him engaged. I encourage you, fellow Athenians, to go to the market this Saturday at Bishop Park (8am-noon) to meet your local farmers, buy some delicious food and engage with the incredible growers and creators in our community.

Interested in learning more about what the Athens Farmers Market has to offer? Check out its website at









Written by Zelda Speight. Photos by Ella Ferguson.

Community Spotlight: Lee Epting of Epting Events


In an interview that turned into an adventure, My Athens Director Heather Luyk, Photographer Amanda Archambault, and myself, were taken on a journey to learn, see, and taste the history behind the amazing event planning, barbecue making, television series producing: Epting Events. It was no surprise that the interview was just as fun and inspirational as the business.

The interview began at the top of a dark stairwell in the back of a delicious restaurant, called Harry’s Barbecue. As I walked up the dimly-lit stairs, unsure of what would be at the top, I was welcomed by laughter and smiling faces into a hidden editing room where the behind the scenes work on the Epting Event’s reality television series, Black Tie & BBQ, was in session. Ashley Epting, CEO of Epting Events, was the first to greet me, and I immediately felt welcome. Also on the scene was Scott Meier, the producer of the TV series, and Desiree Sullivan, Epting’s public relations assistant.

Ashley began the interview by telling us about the history of Epting and its amazing journey to become what it is today. Lee Epting, a native Athenian, started his own catering business in Athens after finishing college at the University of Georgia in 1976. This small catering business, called Lee Epting Catering, eventually transformed into what it is today—a large business of 75 employees that continues to expand in its many facets of entertainment. Lee Epting’s two sons, Ashley and Daniel, are now integral parts of the business and help lead the company in different ways. Like father like sons, both Ashley and Daniel were born and raised in Athens. Ashley, who is the CEO of Epting Events, runs Harry’s BBQ, The Hill Properties and Epting Productions. Lee’s other son, Daniel, is the COO.

After learning about the background of Epting Events, we had the privilege of watching an episode of Black Tie & BBQ, Epting Event’s TV series based on the everyday happenings of the Epting world. The series captures Lee Epting’s uncanny hilarity in action, as well as various moments among the fun-loving family’s talented crew. After watching a few minutes, I was ready to go watch the entire series. The TV series was picked up by Comcast and is available on Comcast Xfininty Video On Demand.

Along with the TV series, Epting has also filmed and directed the Showtime movie, Not Since You, which has been aired in 16 different countries and was shot entirely in Athens. This talented production crew also uses their series as a fundraiser. An example of a recent organization they supported is “Darius Goes West.” Darius West suffers from muscular dystrophy and, due to his disease, is confined to a wheelchair. They created the “Bling my ramp” campaign as a way to support Darius, as well as other victims of muscular dystrophy who are wheelchair-bound. They even gave the wheelchair ramp in front of Harry’s BBQ a “Bling my Ramp” makeover, to honor Darius and all other patients of this disease. The enthusiasm and love behind every Epting project is contagious.

The most recent addition to the Epting empire is Harry’s Barbecue. Harry’s BBQ, which used to be called Harry’s Pig Shop, was born out of the insatiable love Epting’s catering company’s customer’s had for southern-style pulled pork, and their desire to have it all of the time. Harry’s has sensational food and even more sensational people. The long-line of generations that have passed down the tradition of the love of food, people, and Southern heritage did not stop at Lee Epting. Ashely ordered Harry’s amazing fried green tomatoes and mouth-watering pulled pork sliders. He even catered to us vegetarians and ordered the tofu sliders that tasted unlike any tofu I have ever had.

As we sat around the table together eating Harry’s amazing barbecue, it felt as though we were tasting a piece of Athen’s rich history. The Eptings, Janice, Rick Selleck and Emmanuel Stone created the restaurant. They named it Harry’s Barbecue to honor Harry Epting, who used to own “Harry’s” in Five Points. The famous Harry’s BBQ was voted Athen’s Favorite BBQ in 2012 and Athens Banner-Herald Best BBQ in 2011 and 2012, and for good reason. Harry’s continues its tradition of making barbecue in a local Pecan Wood Smoker that is hidden behind a beautifully hand-crafted wooden door right at the entrance of the restaurant. The ingredients are all local and the food is made from scratch, making it some of the best barbecue in town. The small details that transform Harry’s BBQ from simply eating food to experiencing a tradition, are the same details that transcend every part of the business. The restaurant has been serving smoked butts for more than 25 years, and after tasting it, I am convinced they have the secret to addictive barbecue.

The Eptings’s deep roots and historical Athens background has allowed the family-run business to expand in many different directions and locations within Athens itself. In addition to Harry’s, the Eptings also own a piece of land called The Hill, where they preserve several historical homes from around Athens in order to maintain the rich history of Athens. Part of the interview included a visit to The Hill. The Hill has a nostalgic quality about it that makes it feel like home. It is almost as if the happy and uplifting energy found in every part of Epting Events lingers in The Hill property. It became clear that Epting Events is not only a business, but a true example of what it means to love and preserve Athens, Georgia.

The interview ended at the Epting wearhouse where they keep all of their inventory. We were given a tour around the massive office building and got to see all of the beautiful materials that come together to create their stunning events. Walking through the storage space felt like strolling through a mini Ikea right here in Athens. There was a large industrial kitchen, a sewing room, a place where they keep all the furniture and tools to put on events, a showroom and office space. As the tour continued, it was clear that Ashley and his employees all had one thing in common–the love of making people feel welcome and happy. Each and every employee we met was grinning from ear to ear, and was happy to welcome us into their space. We were all having such a good time that by the end, we did not want the interview to be over. However, the interview concluded on a sweet note with Harry’s delicious, home-made banana pudding that they had saved for the very end. We all joked like old friends and said our goodbyes, but not before receiving a round of hugs. We were told that “we are now part of the family,” and as I walked out the door, I truly felt as though I got a taste of the Epting experience.

Interested in checking out Epting Events for yourself? Visit their website at








Written by Meg Taylor. Photographs by Amanda Archambault.