Chess & Community: The Coolest Athens Change-Makers You’ve Never Heard Of

Chess & Community


Story by Rachel Bailey.

Athens Clarke County Police Chief Scott Freeman hit the deck, face down on the floor of the stage in front of hundreds of kids and their parents. Step by step, the kids in the crowd, mostly young black men, hollered instructions: “Put your hands palm-down on the ground!” “Legs straight!” “Feet flexed!” “Now PUSH!” “Push again!” “One…Two…Three!” Following the children’s instructions step by step, the Chief began doing push-ups for the crowd.

Was this a scene from some youth’s benign payback-for-the-police dream in a Black vs. Blue Lives Matter world? Quite the opposite. It was a highlight of 2016’s Chess & Community Conference, with Four Athens director Jim Flannery leading the crowd in coaching Chief Freeman — one painstaking movement at a time — to do push-ups, all part of a demonstration of how easy it is to write computer code. After all, if you can teach a police chief to work those arms, you can teach a computer to run the program you’ve dreamed up.

Chess & Community

With Chess & Community’s 2017 Conference fast approaching (January 7 on the 5th floor of UGA’s Tate Center, with doors at 10 a.m.), My Athens caught up with Executive Director Lemuel LaRoche (better known to some as Life the Griot) for a chat about how the Athens nonprofit is working “to bring this divided community together.”

“Chess & Community is a youth development organization that develops leaders in Athens,” LaRoche says. “This is a youth-led conference.”

Continue reading “Chess & Community: The Coolest Athens Change-Makers You’ve Never Heard Of”

Help Wanted! Seeking Spring Interns

My Athens is growing fast, and we need our team to grow with us! We’re seeking some new contributors for the spring, from video to commercial photography to writers. Check out the descriptions below!

Want to get involved but don’t quite fit within any of the descriptions below? Reach out to us anyway! Who knows — you could be the piece we didn’t even know we were missing. Contact Executive Director Rachel Bailey at and tell us about yourself!

Video Intern
Commercial Photography Intern
Graphic Design
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Athens Style: Grinning Mule

Editor’s Note: As the holidays are fast approaching, the crew over here at My Athens would like to remind you of some of the awesome boutiques around town where you can #shoplocal for everyone on your Christmas list! One of our favorite picks is men’s clothing store, Grinning Mule located at 1738 S. Lumpkin St. Check out our story on the shop from this past spring and get to shopping!

Words & Photos by Steven Patterson.

One of the most charming and magnetic characteristics of Athens is the presence of locally owned, one of a kind clothing stores. Recently, Grinning Mule Clothing Company has jumped into the mix of clothing stores in Athens. Located at 1738 South Lumpkin Street near Five Points, Grinning Mule offers high quality men’s clothing with a exceptional twist. Owned and created by Wade Moore, Grinning Mule brings its own brand of clothing designed by Moore to Athens as well as a variety of other brands such as Zenfari, Cooper Jones, True Grit, Age of Wisdom, and other high quality clothing lines. Continue reading “Athens Style: Grinning Mule”

Moonflower Designs

Editor’s Note: Remember a time when it wasn’t gloomy and rainy and horrid outside? This terrible weather is making us dream of spring flowers and warm afternoons. What a better way to brighten up your day than reading this great archive piece about Moonflower Designs, and bask in the beauty of their wonderful floral arrangements.

Words by Eva Claire Schwartz & Catherine Dolaher. Photos courtesy of Moonflower Designs.

We had the chance to sit down and speak with Mandy O’Shea of Moonflower Designs about her passion for the art of floral arrangements and why she has chosen to make her art right here in Athens.


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Community Spotlight: Pageman Barbershop


Editor’s Note: With a slew of holiday parties coming your way (and the subsequent stress the holidays bring along) there’s not a better time to treat your self to a new cut in a relaxing atmosphere. If that peaks your interest, this archive piece by Casey Sykes explores the one of a kind experience that is Pageman and its resident barber, Jamie Wester.

Words and Photos by Casey Sykes.

It’s common knowledge that most women enjoy going to a salon. They love being put at ease, getting pampered, and leaving refreshed. But why are these things stereotyped as exclusively feminine qualities? Don’t men also enjoy getting cleaned up and given a fresh cut by a person who pays attention to detail? Shouldn’t there be a place for a man to be taken care of while at the same time be taken seriously? This is precisely the idea behind PAGEMAN, an Athens barber shop exclusively for men.

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Great Dame Jewelry

Great Dame

*Editor’s Note: We are excited to once again feature Katherine Ball of Great Dame Jewelry as we rifle through the archives and revisit stories we think are important. Take a look at the story by Christy Rogers and gather holiday gift ideas.*

Katherine Ball: The Face Behind Great Dame Jewelry

Words and Photos by Christy Rogers. 

“Complacency is the devil.”

Katherine Ball is a woman after my own heart. Clad in all black, we sat together at Hendershot’s Coffee and laid our lives out on the table. A passionate dreamer, Ball spoke to me with a surefire, yet humble confidence and dug into how both her career as an up-and-coming musician and her Great Dame jewelry line strive to be as far away from that “devil” as possible.

Great Dame

As a child, Ball’s first instrument was her voice. When she was only three she made the jump to piano, teaching herself scales and techniques as well as picking them up in her various music classes at school. Much of her influence came from church – Ball split her time between two churches, one hymn-oriented and the other soul-centered. Always learning and craving more singing and piano techniques, Ball was forced with the choice – “It became about living inside the box versus being able to compromise and harmonize and experiment.”

Ball definitely broke the norm in her teens, hiding out in her car and blasting Metallica and Black Sabbath on her way to gymnastic meets and other events. Even though her music now is Southern Gothic inspired, both genres hit close to the cuff. “I grew up in an environment where people said how to act so I tried to act against them,” Ball says. “It’s about taking control back into the artist’s hands.”

Great Dame

That, Ball definitely did. Opting to spend time honing her melodic craft in college, she graduated and moved out to Colorado where she found the person she wanted to be. “It’s like a blank slate kind of,” describes Ball, touching on the weight some history can hold. “And it’s like, ‘Are you gonna let it control you and sink your ship or are you going to make something beautiful out of it?’”

Eventually Ball moved back to Georgia, packing with her so many of the earthy, honest attributes of Colorado and channeling them into her music and jewelry. Picking up the guitar as well, Ball traveled up the Mississippi River with a band, eventually leaving to go through grad school at UGA. “Athens has so many things available at your fingertips that if you just kind of let go, some pretty cool stuff will happen,” Ball praised.

Great Dame

Aside from her music, Ball dedicates much of her time to working on the pieces for her brand Great Dame Jewelry. Mixing in flavors of the East, Great Dame revolves around the idea of empowering women by celebrating the talents and joy that are already inside them.

Reflecting this idea, Ball blends antiques, mostly comprising the metals, from her father’s side and a gemmed, earthy character from her mother’s side, all while taking inspiration from them to support small businesses across the US. “We are living in a new Renaissance age. People are out here honing their crafts and should support each other.” Thus, the brand is about so much more than jewelry – every piece tells the story of a “revivalist, sexy, classic, empowered” woman carrying an air of timelessness around her neck or wrist.

Even though the ladies sporting Great Dame are timeless, they are far from complacent. They echo the ideas of constantly discovering your own natural gifts, refining them until they’re exceptional, and not being afraid to get uncomfortable and show them off.

Great Dame


Athens Style: The Art of Thrifting

Words by Cliffton Jacques. Photos by Robert Daniel.

I recently had the opportunity to meet and spend a morning with Jay Gulley, a local realtor, and a true Athenian. Jay, a man who has done it all in Athens from leading a band, working as a buyer for vintage shops, and now selling homes with character, spoke about and shared with me one of his favorite passions: thrift shopping. Yes, thrift shopping is nothing new in Athens. From pop culture to college students’, thrifting is well known, but my time with Jay led me to experience and appreciate the activity just a bit more thoroughly. Although, he does say thrifting in Athens is more difficult than most towns. A town full of thrift happy college students and vintage shops, there is definitely competition to get the best stuff first.


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Serra Jaggar’s Indie South


Words and photos by Eva Claire Schwartz

Sitting snuggly along Prince Avenue, in a light, exposed brick space, sits the sunny new Indie South storefront. Its interior, upon stepping inside, boasts exposed brick walls and a collection of handmade fares that would make anyone’s wallet beg to become lighter. A woman dressed in a Bohemian top and cuffed bracelets scrolls through a playlist until she settles on the perfect artist for such a space: Cat Stevens.

Having opened in August of this year, patrons will probably know the space as the old Double Dutch Press headquarters. Now its racks and shelves are filled with crafted goods, from vintage clothes to terrariums and wallhangings.

Owner and founder of the Indie Craft Fair, Serra Jaggar, had been on the hunt for a space for the past two and a half years. The Fair has grown substantially in its years since the fledgling market started in 2006, but a storefront seemed like the next step to Jagger.


“Working out of home was difficult to separate work and life,” explains Jaggar. “It fell into my lap. I knew it was serendipitous.”

Jaggar is no stranger to turning a craft into an independent business. Starting with a jewelry and handbag line, she had a boutique in 2002 when the handmade movement was still in a stage of infancy. But after a child and a separation, she needed consistency job-wise and ultimately closed up shop.

After being a part of multiple craft shows, the Indie South Fair seemed like an obvious next phase, especially since Jaggar admits she always liked uniting people.

The craft fair grew organically, sprouting on its own as she continued to get positive feedback and took note of patrons from bigger cities.


Now the fair travels all over the southeast, hitting crafting hubs such as Nashville, Tennessee and Asheville, North Carolina. There are still six markets a year in Athens, including the Eclectic Bazaar and Holiday Hooray (coming up December 3rd and 4th).

But it’s not just the fair that’s rewarding to Jaggar, who also started the Strange Magick Vintage line, which can be found here. She describes the most rewarding aspect of her job is watching people grow their businesses. Some vendors start out with the mindset of “my friend or my mom likes it, but I don’t know if anyone else will” and then their line resonates with others and it takes off, she explains.

“A lot of designers refine their craft and hone their skill through Indie South,” says Jagger.

While the Indie South Fair store has something for everyone, its main clientele would be an individual who isn’t focused on buying the latest thing. Rather the conscious shopper, one who is willing to invest, will find their wares here.


When asked about goals for this space, Jagger responses quickly.

“The goal is to create a place where the community feels they have a stake in it,” explains Jagger. “I am responsive to what Normaltown wants.”

The store is already in the works of starting handmade classes in order to build personal connections within the community. With the onslaught of social media, Jagger wants the store to connect with and introduce people to the things they wouldn’t otherwise see. She wants people to experience something in this space and leave feeling inspired, maybe even enough to pick up a natural dye or weaving kit and try something new.

“Art is not something on a white wall,” says Jagger. “Art is something human that we’ve been doing since the beginning of time.”


In hopes to get people in touch with their creativity, the Indie South Fair store hopes to offer a range of classes including sewing, indigo dyeing, weaving, and knitting.

Jaggar also hopes that the Indie South Fair validates the creatives living in Athens. She admits that a big motivation for starting the fair was giving validity to the “creative people doing creative things,” not just the Athens music scene. Even most musicians are also painters, creatives and makers who deserve recognition for their artistic maker side too.


While the next outdoor fair will be held December 3rd and 4th at 660 N. Chase St., Jaggar insists the storefront has helped spread awareness of the Indie South Fair. While she insists that the brick and mortar aspect of the store has made it more real to some, Jaggar has made a space that is undoutedbly a welcoming part of the Normaltown neighborhood.

“It’s all about trying to get people engaged,” she says. “I always liked to bring people together.”

To check out the Indie South Fair, take a look at their website and their Instagram.


Athens Eats: The Art of Pouring

latte art

**Editors Note**: The editor’s team decided to rerun this piece in celebration of the Shakedown: Coffee Cocktail Competition. Taking place Thursday, October 20th, the Old Pal will play host to a cocktail competition that will feature 1000 Faces cold brew in cocktails. The competition will feature barkeeps from Athens’ favorites such as Hi-Lo, The World Famous, and The Old Pal. 

Words by Eva Claire Schwartz. Photos by Taylor Canerday.

In a world where Starbucks is consistently getting the spelling of our names wrong, it’s gratifying to be handed a mug of coffee and shown we matter.

Specialty coffee shops around the country are allowing people to make connections with their baristas and look down at the mouth of their mugs to see a work of art: latte art. Recently, latte art has gained a whole new level of momentum. With coffee brewing quality at the highest level it has ever been, baristas are able to focus primarily on the value and the experience.

Mike Young, a coffee manager for Two Story Coffee, is no stranger to this mindset. After starting work in April 2014, Mike learned tips and tricks from older baristas around the bar to pick up free pouring, a form of latte art in which the design is made in the process of filling up the mug with your drink.

Don’t get us wrong, taste is the most important part, but the art makes the experience special.

“Honoring the coffee by brewing it in a way it shines is most important,” says Young. “Art is the cherry on top.”

Let’s talk mechanics of pouring here. Milk is steamed so that the lipids separate (whole milk is best). Then the barista, when pouring, is basically folding the resulting microfoam into the espresso crema (those tiny brown bubbles you see on top of an espresso shot). Now, both the crema and the microfoam want to battle it out to rise to the top. When pouring, the barista is actually tricking the crema into sharing some of that top space with the microfoam. When the barista physically pours, envision he is pushing the microfoam, which pushes the crema into different patterns.

When folding the crema and microfoam, you start with a dot in the very center. From here, the barista can pull through at the end and make a heart. If wanted, they can make either a tulip or a rosetta design out of this heart.

While these frequently top the mugs you’ve probably received in the past, latte art has come a long way from it’s onset of popularity in 1980s Seattle. Now, baristas get together from all over the globe to compete in throwdowns, competitions where the most creative and most consistent barista wins.

Ben Helfen, of Counter Culture, is no stranger to throwdowns. Having won the Millrock Latte Art competition in 2008 and proceeding to compete at all levels, Helfen felt invigorated to give those involved in the local coffee community a chance to get together. Along with M’lissa Muckerman they created the first reoccurring throwdown event in a particular city: Atlanta, Georgia. “Thursday Night Throwdown” is a tradition that is still going strong since 2008, popping up all over the country and even other parts of the world.
Having worked in numerous specialty shops over the years, Helfen has noticed that coffee sales, even during the recession, never dropped.


“Because people drink coffee no matter what,” Helfen explains, “people are willing to splurge on it even when times are tough.”

Helfen also remarks on the significance of good service in specialty shops. If you’ve had a good experience, your brain is already in the mindset that you’re about to encounter something really special – that you’re going to enjoy this time and sit down for a moment or two.

“The best thing is when I give someone their drink and I turn my back and hear them remark on their latte art,” says Young. “It’s just awesome. There aren’t a lot of jobs like that.”