"Bear Hollow" by Will Eskridge
Dedicated to documenting the characters who make life in Athens a little more interesting, Athens Uncharted is a fairly new website for sharing creative projects in unique formats. The project is co-produced by Bowen Craig, an author and editor, and Mark Katzman, a writer and musician. With journalistic backgrounds and experiences spanning across literary and performative arenas, it seems only natural for the duo to keep a keen eye on the creative endeavors of other Athenians.
“We wanted to capture some of the stories which fall through the cracks,” says Craig. “There are so many interesting people in town doing so many interesting things that sometimes amazing narratives can get lost.”
Craig and Katzman became interested in collaborating with Will Eskridge after viewing his multimedia installation, “Wolf City,” at the Bulldog Inn Annual Art Show last year. On the brink of launching Athens Uncharted, they wanted to interview the artist, but in a non-traditional way that would combine a unique project alongside a story. The three eventually sat down to flesh out a new idea Eskridge had been brainstorming, and after nearly six months of development, the first installment of the website’s Athventure series was launched.
Interested in the role mankind plays on the well-being of wildlife, for better or worse, Eskridge’s paintings and installations often explore the delicate relationship between nature and technology. Many of his oil paintings juxtapose impressionistic depictions of endangered species of animals alongside hard-edged, geometric forms symbolizing the manmade structures that are often responsible for habitat loss and environmental destruction. Taking this thought-provoking theme off of the canvas and directly to people’s fingertips, his latest project utilizes a digital platform through a quick response code scavenger hunt themed around local wildlife.
“The Athventure concept is meant to be a living and adjustable art form that gets the community out and about to these wonderful, Athens-centric locations,” says Eskridge.
The first step to participating in Eskridge’s project is to print out the crossword puzzle from the website, which will be used to keep track of trivia answers throughout the scavenger hunt. Next, you must download a QR code scanner app to your smartphone. After answering the first trivia question online, a location will be revealed. At this establishment, you’ll find a QR code with the word “scavenge,” which can be scanned for the clue that reveals the next place, and so on. Completed crosswords can be submitted to Athens Uncharted to receive prizes donated by some of the participating locations like Sandy Creek Nature Center, the State Botanical Garden and Bear Hollow Zoo.
“Pokémon Go may have dipped into the pot a little, but I hope that the same people that play this and other forms of geocaching will be inclined to play my scavenger hunt while they are out,” says Eskridge. “All in all, we want people to have fun exploring outside [while] using their distraction contraption to learn more about the Athens area.”
Craig and Katzman plan on presenting many more Athventures, with no two alike. The goal is for the ongoing archive to serve as a hub for various projects by artists, writers, chefs, musicians, historians and other locals.
In addition to Athventures, the Athens Uncharted website features Jukebox, a well-rounded Soundcloud compilation of locals, including mainstays like Drive-By Truckers, Circulatory System, of Montreal and New Madrid, as well as some lesser-known acts. There are also interviews with folk sculptor Harold Rittenberry and craftswoman Sarah Carnes, aka Ms. Creatonomics, plus Setting Solstice, a short film performed by fire dancer Ember Fox. For future projects, visit athensuncharted.com.
OPEN STUDIO: Local artists lacking the necessary space or equipment to materialize their visions should take note of the Lyndon House Arts Center’s new Open Studio Membership Program, which launches in September. The membership grants access to seven different studio spaces dedicated to ceramics, jewelry, painting, fiber, woodworking and sculpture, printmaking and photography. Artists are able to work independently at their own pace and can use the facilities’ equipment, including a potter’s wheel, kiln, print press, loom, darkroom and plenty of tools.
The program fits a niche need by offering an affordable way for adults to explore creative pursuits while continuing to foster the community of artists and art lovers who are regularly engaged through the center’s exhibitions, workshops and various guilds. Memberships are particularly beneficial for artists who might not be ready or able to invest in a private studio and expensive equipment, as well as artists who would simply like to dabble in several mediums.
Studios can be used up to 32 hours a week, with hours held Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1–8 p.m. and Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m.–4 p.m. A studio monitor will be present 12 hours a week to assist with equipment and safety. Memberships cost $65 per month or $175 for three months, and can be reserved by calling 706-613-3623 or visiting athensclarkecounty.com/leisure.