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”

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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Athens To-Do List: Stargazing with Vestigo

Story by Christy Rogers. Images by Austin Steele and Jonathan Lim.

It was Friday, May 6th. I tore out of the parking lot of Home.made, where I work, with about ten minutes to spare, leaving only a few moments to pick up Austin Steele. Trust me, he was not happy when I was going fifteen (maybe twenty) miles over the speed limit in the middle of the night to get to a random parking lot before 10 p.m.

The reason? I did not want to miss this.

Photo by Austin Steele

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Community Spotlight: Zach Brendel of Oneta Woodworks

(Editor’s Note: Contributing writer Meg Taylor wrote this piece back in 2014 and today we are dusting it off from the archives. Oneta Woodworks continues today to exemplify the creativity and community that we seek to celebrate in our city.)


If there is one thing that makes Athens the creative town that it is, it would have to be the innovative thinkers that make the mundane extraordinary. Oneta Woodworks, a small business based in Athens, specializes in utilizing reclaimed millwork to transform old wood for creative new uses. The heart and soul behind Oneta is the recovery of old wood that is going to waste. As Zach Brendel, owner of Oneta, said perfectly during the interview, “it all started from not wanting the wood to go to waste and recognizing that it had another life in it.” Continue reading “Community Spotlight: Zach Brendel of Oneta Woodworks”

Community Spotlight: Melissa Roberts of Canopy Studio


(Editor’s Note: Contributing writer Meg Taylor and photographer Mercedes Bleth collaborated on this piece a short bit back. With the upcoming spring show “With Flying Colors”, running April 22 – 24, we’re dusting this off to spotlight an extremely talented group of people. Tickets can be purchased in advance here.)

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. Continue reading “Community Spotlight: Melissa Roberts of Canopy Studio”

Community Spotlight: Athens Outdoors

Words by Heather Bryan. Photos by John Paul.

It is a perfect day in Athens; the kind that makes you feel guilty for staying inside. Maybe you are an adventure enthusiast, maybe you have been working inside all week, maybe you are trying to get in shape, or maybe it is just time to lose yourself and get re-centered.  Regardless of the cause, Athens’ park scene is alive and thriving—ready for you to start exploring.

Botanical Garden-

Botanical Garden

Entry that is free of charge, plentiful parking and only a 15-minute drive from downtown, makes the Botanical Gardens the ideal place to come and get back down to earth. My recommendation of how to “do” this trip would be to park, and then simply wander. Do not look at a map and decide where exactly you want to visit—because stumbling upon these seemingly hidden treasures simulates a child-like magic.  I began back behind the Terrace Room, where you will find a secret-garden-like running fountain in front of an old, stone wall engulfed in various greeneries from Asia and Europe and back to Athens.

Botans Continue reading “Community Spotlight: Athens Outdoors”

Dana Jo Cooley

Words by Steven Rounds. Photos Courtesy of Dana Jo Cooley.

Athens is undeniably a national music hub.  This rich, musically inclined culture is not only attributed to the musicians that live here.  Artists involved in every aspect of music production (from the creation of merchandise, to the set design and production, to the creation of auxiliary performance art) allow concert-goers to experience music in an enhanced way. One prominent local artist who has contributed immensely to the music-adjacent art space is Dana Jo Cooley.

Photo by Ben Rouse

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Stan Mullins

In honor of Stan Mullins, who hosts our fall fashion show in his amazing studio space this Sunday, we’re reissuing this 2014 interview, along with photos from the early stages of one of Stan’s next big projects — an enormous statue of UGA football great Herschel Walker — with some updates to reflect his recent work. Enjoy the sneak peek of Sunday’s event space and the thoughts and work of Stan, a true Athens original.

Tickets to Projections, a My Athens fashion show, can be purchased here.


Photos by Paige French. Written by Zelda Speight, with updates by Rachel Bailey.

If you’ve spent enough time on campus over the years, chances are you’ve passed the 14-foot bronze statue of former University of Georgia football coach and athletics director Vince Dooley at the corner of Lumpkin Street and Pinecrest Drive.

The man behind the bronze is Stan Mullins — painter, sculptor and advocate for personal involvement in the community. He makes his home and his studio on the large gated lot across the street from Pulaski Heights BBQ. Upon entering the gated property, you’re welcomed by music, barking dogs and a room filled with paintings and sculptures. The offer of a cold beverage is never far behind. The positive and inviting atmosphere matches with Stan’s optimistic attitude.

Stan Mullins poses with a model of his Herschel Walker statue and one of his dogs.

Mullins budgets his time between commissioned paintings, sculptures and labors of love. This September, he finished a year-long project for another university, Marshall, in Huntington, WV, creating a trio of 8-foot tall, bronze buffalo for installation on campus. Continue reading “Stan Mullins”