Incubator of Ideas and Action
The Willson Center for Humanities and Arts kicked off its 30th anniversary celebration with a gala reception in its offices at the charmingly restored old house on Lumpkin Street across from the UGA track field. The walls were (and still are) adorned with an exhibit of Margie Spalding’s lush floral paintings, and the swarm of guests was fortified with substantial delicacies by home.made.
The Center rose to its present prominence thanks to the generosity of a couple of successful South Georgia pecan farmers, Jane and Harry Willson, who were nutty enough to invest in the promotion of research and creativity in the humanities and the arts.
Such a center could of course be a place where people lounge around sipping wine and pontificating about deconstructing post-modernism. Instead, driven by the intellectual athleticism of Nicholas Allen, its current director, the Willson Center crams the campus with a continuous smorgasbord of art, ideas, dance, music, film, food and drama. After 30 years of such endeavors, the Willson Center’s tentacles reach into every area of the campus involved in the exploration of life’s rich panoply. The Center is like a supercharger for the intellectual life of the university, supporting and enhancing the work of faculty and students and constantly bringing in a plethora of top-notch talent, helping us grapple with issues that profoundly affect our ability to survive in our fast-changing world.
Voice of Our Athens
Meanwhile, another UGA institution celebrates its 30th anniversary. WUGA 91.7 FM went on the air Aug. 28, 1987, and it has been our NPR station ever since. WUGA has always struggled with meager resources and bureaucratic indifference, but they started a radio station from scratch and have kept it going for 30 years. The main ingredient right from the beginning has been talented people figuring out how to make radio work, and the station over the years graduated a lot of people into integral positions within NPR: Robin Hilton, producer and co-host of “All Songs Considered;” Melinda Weir, who was an NPR producer/editor for five years; Steve Lickteig, who was executive producer of NPR’s “Weekend All Things Considered” and is now executive producer of Slate’s online podcasts; Melissa Gray, who is senior producer for “All Things Considered;” and Angela Elam, who hosts and produces the nationally syndicated “New Letters on the Air.” All along, David Bryant contributed wonderful aural essays, and Mary Kay Mitchell fought to keep news and community affairs, and gave local people a voice. Abbie Thaxton has managed all that traffic since the beginning, and of course, from those early days all the way through until his retirement several years ago, Robb Holmes was the constant voice of WUGA, and he parlayed his love of music into a showcase for our local musicians.
A Decade of Style
Ten years in the life of a locally owned business is probably equivalent to 30 at a public institution, especially a business that opened on Labor Day 2007, just as the economy was beginning its dive into the Great Recession. Republic Hair Salon not only opened then, it has survived, and now it thrives and celebrates its first decade and is consistently voted a Favorite by Flagpole readers. Located within the old brick walls on the third floor of the former Athens Refrigeration Building (originally built for the famous Michael Brothers mercantile company around 1890), the salon exudes the Athens vibe. Local business, in addition to UGA, has made Athens Athens. There is nothing to compare with the audacity of putting your heart, your energy, your family and your finances into the effort to make your dream a functioning business. Congratulations to Republic and to all our local businesses that are making it after their first year, their fifth, 10th or 30th. (Hey, that’s Flagpole, too. We’ll turn 30 on Oct. 27. More about that later, of course.)
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