Want to know what makes Athens Athens, at least our Athens? Show up for the celebration (dessert, coffee and a cash bar) of the 40th anniversary of Lyndon House Thursday evening, Sept. 24, from 6:30–8:30 p.m. You will be reminded of all the elements that came together to give us a serious showplace for the arts in Athens.
The story begins, of course, with two people brought here by the University of Georgia—specifically its legendary art department. Ronnie and Nancy Lukasiewicz met in college and came down here to work on advanced degrees in art, and, in addition to being artists, they were unusual people who formed a perfect team. Ronnie was brash and pushy; when he got something on his mind that he thought needed doing, he wouldn’t leave you alone. Nancy was just as tenacious as Ronnie, but she pushed with a velvet glove—still does.
Meanwhile, the city owned the old Ware-Lyndon House—a true relic of Athens’ earlier days and a monument to two of our movers and shakers who helped build our town. The house had been saved from the large-scale Urban Renewal destruction of the historically and architecturally significant area known as “Lickskillet” and sat alone at the end of Jackson Street as a reminder of the obliterated residential area.
So, the city ended up with it, and the natural use for a useless old house was to use it for the arts, never a high priority in any administration. Ronnie had been hanging around over there teaching some courses in printmaking, and, being Ronnie, he conceived the idea of having an art show, but not just an art show: a juried art show. That meant that somebody with art credentials would decide which pieces had enough merit to be admitted to the show. That made it real. Ronnie convinced the city government to approve the idea, and they threw in some paint and rollers. Ronnie, Nancy and friends plunged into the impossible task of turning the semi-abandoned old house into an art gallery, and they painted a couple of rooms, replaced lighting and generally created an art gallery in record time. (If you think artists are incapable of dealing with reality, you never stretched a canvas.)
The carefully selected art in the lovingly created galleries were so impressive that Mayor Julius Bishop—not whom you would call a patron of the arts, but a man who knew a good thing when he saw it—was delighted with the transformation that the Lukasiewiczes and their friends had wrought. Lyndon House had a use, and Athens had a real home for the arts.
That was just the beginning, and of course during 40 years the present stunning space was built, and the Ware-Lyndon House was turned into a house museum that gives us a time capsule for vanished Athens. Ronnie was snatched away from us early by his untimely death, but Nancy still guides the flow of art at the magnificent galleries.
Thursday evening, Sept. 24, will be a tribute to Ronnie and Nancy and to the presence Lyndon House has established in our community through 40 years of showing excellent art. Come to Lyndon House to celebrate and to enjoy this soaring structure that focuses so much of the energy that makes us Athens.
The Wind that Shakes the Barley
Alas, another hallmark of our Athens is its embarrassment of riches. Also Thursday night, Sept. 24, at 7:15 p.m., we have at Ciné a free showing of the magnificent 2006 film, The Wind that Shakes the Barley, set during the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War. The film was partially inspired by the memoirs of Irish Republican Army leader Ernie O’Malley.
His son, Cormac O’Malley, a writer and editor, will be here Thursday evening to introduce the film. O’Malley and UGA’s Willson Center Director Nicholas Allen co-edited Broken Landscapes: Selected Letters of Ernie O’Malley, 1924-1957 (2011). They will conduct a question and answer session following the screening.