Skate Park of Athens is Breaking Rocks, and We Need Your Help!

Words and Photos: Jeremy Olson and Alexa Rivera

Edited: Nina K. Guzman

Skate Park of Athens has been the stomping grounds for those who prefer to glide over the pavement or show off newly learned stunts along with their newly formed bruises. It has become the bedrock of the close knit skateboarding community open to Athenians and visitors alike. Initially started as a grassroots movement to create a safe and inviting park, has grown into an Athens staple. Over the years,  local business owners, community members along with Tony Hawk grants, SPLOST, and Athens Clarke County Leisure Services, the park has evolved into an iconic design—a world renowned park that is not duplicated anywhere else. These plans always included a street course however, and this is where you step in.

Corwin Weik, Jeff Hannan, and Alex Blankenship are leading this project, and they want the input of the community. Branding ideas, logo ideas, and all other ideas are welcome in this ongoing development so that this project has your voice. The rocks that are being broken right now as you read this are for the development of a street course. This addition is to allow skateboarders of all skill levels to develop and master their talents. The park already has a welcoming environment, but to stress a specific characteristic of the Skate Park of Athens, the healthy competition creatively inspires all to be the best that they can. This park has produced signed skateboarders in the past, some of whom consider this park to be a huge factor in those achievements. This addition for the park is to allow those who are just starting off a flat surface that will be a great jumping off point. The possibilities of this safe environment away from public roads can be the location where someone learns their first Ollie or kick flip. This full circle mentality is what the culture encompasses at the park and we hope this is where the cycle of continued great talent grows. The street course will also add new obstacles through the creation of urban style structures. These additions will push everyone to conquer a new environment and express themselves through their talents. We want to see this community grow and foster more friendships in the pursuit of excellent skateboarding.

To accomplish this, the Skate Park needs  donations to fulfill our promise to grow our welcoming community. The goal is to raise $80,000 dollars for construction and renovations so that the immediate ongoing renovations are fulfilled to their highest ability. This is not a park just for the individuals who are running this program, but for every Athenian, every Georgian, and every person who comes across this park who wants a quality skating experience. Everyone can be themselves here, emotions are let loose and friendships are made.

Donate to help support this park and create a loving environment that we can all say we had a hand in building. By donating, you will help that new eight-year-old skateboarder to have a safe place to begin their passion alongside the avid skateboarder to push others and themselves to new levels of skill. Your donation will help broaden the skating experience at the Skate Park of Athens.

To donate stop by their Go Fund Me page

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
Continue reading “Help Wanted! Seeking Spring Interns”

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”

Fire Up the Hydrants

Words by Nina Guzman    Video by John Roche   Feature Photo by Joshua Jones

Last month you might have noticed something different in the Athens downtown area. Small murals popping up in the most unexpected of places; fire hydrants! No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. That is a bear drawn with playful precision on a fire hydrant. To commemorate 80 years of clean drinking water in Athens, fire hydrants all over downtown have been turned into fun (and useful) art pieces. After a blind evaluation process, 20 artists with varying degrees of skill were chosen by a panel of judges representing the Athens Area Arts Council (including yours truly), ACC Fire and Emergency Services, ACC Public Utilities Department and the Athens Downtown Development Authority. What a fun way to bridge water conservation and art.

Inspired by this wonderful mix of water conservation awareness and art, John Roche created a video showing off the newly designed hydrants.


Visit the Fire Up the Hydrants to learn more more and to vote for you favorite hydrant!  Voting ends in February 2017 and winners will be announced March 2017.

Athens Eats: Franchises that Make a Difference

Editor’s Note: This rerun from last year is a perfect one for the week after Thanksgiving! We have a lot of fantastic businesses in this town, local and otherwise, that are helping our community. Let’s give them some love. 

Athens thrives as a town known for having strong local roots. While our local business owners are always looking for ways to team up, get involved and benefit others, a number of small franchises are also giving back to the community. Dane Henderson of FIVE and Whit Richardson of Taziki’s Mediterannean Cafe have sought opportunities serving nonprofit organizations in the community with food, funds and even some fun.

five Continue reading “Athens Eats: Franchises that Make a Difference”

Let’s Give Thanks: Part 2

Words by: Nina Guzman

Here in My Athen, we have a lot to be thankful for, which brings us to part 2 of our Thankfulness series. We hope this post finds you safe and surrounded by the people you love.




Cathy Marszalik – Photographer/Contributor

I’m thankful for the The Classic City that I’ve called home for the past 7 years. Between its kind residents, creative vibes, and outstanding food, I’ve truly found a place where I belong, and a place that has helped me become the artistic, adventurous and happy person I always hoped I’d become. Thank you so much for many years of twinkling winters, invaluable lessons, and beautiful friendships… Athens, I love you.



Kelsey Smith – Graphic Design Intern

I am so thankful for my little family in Athens & the little life we share together. They have seen me through so much change over the last year. Doing life wouldn’t be half as meaningful if I didn’t get come home to their love every night.



Sam Stephens – Food Editor

The day before Thanksgiving will be the first anniversary of getting this beautiful girl! Rosa, my 3-ish year old pit bull, is the only reason that I’m as sane as I am. I’m so thankful to have such an incredible animal as a companion. Dogs are the most loving creatures; I’m blessed to have been chosen by the best one.




Austin Steele – Photographer

I’m thankful for the season of fall. Yeah, I know everything is dying and it’s getting colder, but it’s the time of year when we can come together with our friends and families to break some bread and (preferably) drink some beer. Cheers!


Let’s Give Thanks

Words: Nina Guzman

It’s that time of year again. Time to visit family, stuff our faces with fattening/delicious food, and watch the parade on TV. As it starts to get chillier outside (and even chillier in our terribly ventilated houses) we keep ourselves warm with thoughts of thanks. Thanks for free wifi in our favorite coffee shops, for cute puppies and gas station ramen. We are thankful for you; our readers, sponsors and friends that support us, read our posts and attend our events.

This week we will be rolling out  thoughts of thanks from our contributors and editors. We hope this post finds you in good health and good company.


Mobley Brandenburg – Contributor

I’m thankful for the simple scenes that make you stop in you tracks. We can all use more time to reconnect and soak in the moment.


Courtney Blackwell – Style and Communications Intern

This year I am thankful for the many blessings I have achieved through the year of 2016. An internship I love, clarity in the direction I want to go in career wise, and the opportunity to celebrate another Thanksgiving with those I love.

Kayla Renie – Blog Photo Director

I’m a big believer in loving the little things in life. There’s so much I’m thankful for, but I’m particularly fond of my cat and all my little plants. Having a sweet pet to come home to and inheriting my mom’s green thumb makes life pretty great.


Jason Clarke – Contributor

I am thankful, thankful for my five awesome cats and the love of my life, who cleans their litter box when I don’t want to…so a lot of the time.


Nina Karina – Managing Editor

Here is a package my father sent me a few months ago. Every corner of this box is marked with positive affirmations and loving messages. It wasn’t my birthday and there weren’t any holidays going on. I keep this package in a prominent place in my living room to remind myself that I am not alone, that I am loved. I am thankful to have such wonderful people on my side.



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 Eats: Our Halloween Favorites

Happy Halloween! While most have already celebrated, we can’t ignore the candy-filled holiday in spite of its Monday status. Everyone in the killer My Athens editorial staff has shared their favorite Halloween treats, and why, below. Come get to know us here, and be safe this Halloween!

Rachel Bailey, Executive Director:


“Reese’s Sticks are the TRUF for many reasons, first among them being they are the second coming of Nutty Bars. Reese’s has perfected the chocolate-wafer-peanut butter ratio, so biting into one is met first with a little give as the wafer sinks into the PB; then a satisfying crack as it crunches. That’s why any Reese’s Sticks pro knows King Size is the ONLY way to go.”

Nina Guzman, Managing Editor: 


“While the term ‘choco-holic’ doesn’t make much grammatical sense, that is ABSOLUTELY what I am. When it comes to Halloween candy I can’t choose between one chocolate treat. 3 Musketers, M&Ms, Milky Way, Twixt. I love them all! I will trade any Nerds or juice flavored candy for chocolate. However the second you add nuts or peanut butter to chocolate, I’m out.”

Kayla Renie, Director of Photography:


“Hello there! M&M’s are my favorite candy because I love chocolate, and they just go great with everything: cookies, ice cream, and my personal favorite, popcorn. They also remind me of my mom because they are her favorite candy as well, and my sister Emily because when she was little we liked to call her Em&Em. I don’t think the colors make a difference, but nevertheless the blue ones are my favorite.”

Shayon Keating, Social Media Coordinator: 


“Well, hey there! My favorite candy bar is Snickers because you aren’t you when you’re hungry (or trying to hit all the houses in your neighborhood for a pillowcase full of candy).”

Eva Claire Schwartz, Arts Editor:


Hi gang! I take candy very seriously. While I never feel I need an excuse to eat chocolate (and you shouldn’t either!), Symphony bars are my favorite. What’s a Symphony bar, you ask? Glad to take one for the team and answer. It’s a milk chocolate bar with toffee and almonds. Heavenly doesn’t even begin to cover it. I resonate with this chocolate bar; it’s discerning. Not a lot of retailers have them, so it takes the dedicated chocolate connoisseur to track one down. My grandmother used to keep them in her cabinet just for me. They usually come in a very large size, making them perfect to share or to snack on for a while. 10/10 eating experience. I almost had a square with my breakfast.”

Aspen Fairchild, Fashion Editor:

Processed with VSCO with c6 preset

“My favorite candy is 100 Grand because I know that that $1 candy bar is the closest thing I will ever get to actually holding $100,000. Eat chocolate and feel rich at the same time, what more could anyone want?”

Sam Stephens, Food Editor: 


Well, we’ve come back around to me! I can honestly say that there was nothing I loved more as a kid than a candy that both tasted delicious and complimented me! Why, thank you, Mr. Smarties! I AM a smarty– at least until I licked the powder out of the wrapper to collect as much remaining Smarties dust as I possibly could.

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.”