Athens Arts League is expanding the Fourth of July holiday celebration into the weekend by hosting a free community street party.
The Scout House Street Party with music and food trucks will be Saturday, July 6, from 5-9 p.m. on East Street beside Scout Music House.
Plato Jones, a Tuscaloosa cover band comprised of Athens musicians, will be the headliner. The band debuted in 2005 to serve “the world one ear at a time.” The original band members started playing music at Athens High School and formed the band while at the University of Alabama. Current members are Tyler Crawford, William Stephenson and Ian Greenhaw. The band has performed throughout the South, playing rock, funk and blues.
Opening for Plato Jones will be local musicians:
● Astro Diggins – Psychedelic rock/R&B soul/ blues-rock
● Elate Euphoria - Psychedelic rock/alternative
● DCrook – Christian rap
The party kicks off Athens Arts League’s Alabama Music Series, sponsored in part by the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area and current and former members of the Limestone County Legislative Delegation. The purpose of the series is to promote Alabama-based musicians and provide cultural events for citizens of Athens and Limestone County.
Athens Arts League President Jennifer Hilton Sampieri said the Fourth of July holiday weekend offers an opportunity to kick off the series in a party-type atmosphere and allow the League to share information about its cultural and educational programs.
Athens Arts League operates High Cotton Arts, a non-profit art incubator in Downtown Athens with artist studios, art classes and cultural events. In addition, the League is renovating the 1938-era Scout House into Scout Music House to host house concerts and provide hands-on training for students interested in marketing, performing, event planning, recording, stage set up and other areas of the music industry. The League recently replaced the rotten roof thanks to funds raised from Anderson East’s benefit concert in November. The League currently is obtaining plumbing estimates for a handicap accessible bathroom and the addition of a second bathroom.
“While Scout Music House is being renovated, we have worked with students to provide them opportunities to learn about stage setup, merchandise sales, photography and marketing at two concerts performed by Grammy-nominated musicians, Anderson East and Secret Sisters,” said Athens Arts League board member and Scout Music House Committee Chair Holly Hollman. “These students were thrilled to be included in the process for our concerts, and we want to expand those opportunities with Scout Music House.”
The students worked with two Athens Arts League board members, Jim McDole and Mike Johnson, who perform locally and have sound and light equipment. McDole and Johnson allowed students to learn from them and assist them in setting up their equipment on the stage at Athens State University’s McCandless Hall for the Anderson East and Secret Sisters concerts.
“In addition to giving students hands-on experience off stage, we want to give students the opportunity to perform on stage. Saturday’s concert will give local high school and college musicians the chance to play in our community as opening acts for Plato Jones,” Hollman said.
Spectators can bring chairs to enjoy the street party. Bathrooms are available at the adjacent Big Spring Memorial Park pavilion, and parking will be available at the park and at Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful/Gulf Station on East Street. For the event, organizers are closing East Street between Washington and East Market Street.
The food trucks that will be at the event are The Spud Truck, Baldemar Tacos and Shaved Ice. Spectators will need to bring money to purchase food from the food trucks. There is no charge to attend the concert.
After performing a Birmingham show a few years ago, The Secret Sisters met a group known as The Shakes.
Duo member Laura Rogers said “these kids” approached her and her sister Lydia Slagle with a burned CD with the group’s name handwritten with a green Sharpie. The group offered to open for The Secret Sisters.
Rogers said because of touring, it was a month or two before they listened to The Shakes’ CD. Once they listened, The Secret Sisters knew the group had a great sound. A few months later, The Shakes morphed into The Alabama Shakes receiving worldwide acclaim.
“We’re going to take them up on that offer one day,” Rogers laughingly told fans on Saturday, Jan. 26, during a concert hosted by Athens Arts League at Athens State University’s McCandless Hall. “We still want them to open for us.”
The Grammy-nominated duo The Secret Sisters hail from Greenhill, Ala., where the support of a music-based family helped propel them into their music careers. During a pre-concert interview, they talked about how they had limited access to music-related curriculum.
“We were both in marching band and loved it, but you can’t take that and have an adult career with it unless you are going to teach band,” Rogers said.
If a community and its schools do not have art-related opportunities for youth, and families cannot afford lessons and are not musically inclined, that limits a child’s resources, Rogers said. She said some students go outside of their community to gain access to training, lessons and other opportunities.
“Any place where you can invest in the youth of the community, it’s the most important investment,” Rogers said.
“(Students) are the minds of now and the minds of tomorrow,” Slagle added.
Slagle and Rogers commended Athens Arts League and the community for supporting visual and musical art opportunities. For their Athens concert, five high school students from the city and county schools and a college intern participated in stage setup, photographing the event, selling merchandise, event prep and interviewing the performers.
Slagle said the popularity of this area’s music means those interested in music-related careers need to “strike while the iron is hot.”
“There has been a surge of people coming out of North Alabama like Jason Isbell, Alabama Shakes and Anderson East,” she said.
Rogers said there is “something about being from here geographically that makes for a different kind of music.”
“When that music gets somewhere on a national or international level, people see that all of these bands are from this one spot in the world,” Rogers said. “Kids are inspired by Jason Isbell, Anderson East and Alabama Shakes. Those kids need a place to go, a platform, encouragement, a push so the legacy of Alabama music is as special as it always has been.”
Slagle said the Tennessee Valley is “right in the hub of all of it” from blues to country to Appalachian music. Her sister added, “We are the melting pot of all good things that are music.”
Both said those interested in a music-related career need to build their talent but also understand the business side of the field because that is where most people fail. Giving students hands-on experience for events like their concert help cultivate that learning.
While in Athens, The Secret Sisters visited High Cotton Arts, a downtown visual art incubator operated by Athens Arts League. They also learned about Scout Music House, which Athens Arts League is renovating into a musical venue that offers hands-on experiences for students.
“Having that kind of resource in your area as a young person is vital. There are so few places where kids can go and do something creative and meaningful in a safe and productive environment,” Rogers said.
For The Secret Sisters, music is an outlet and a way to express their life experiences, something that students can learn to develop.
“We don’t know how to process struggles, heartbreak and loss without writing about it,” Rogers said, adding that many of their fans have experienced similar things.
Photos by Athens Arts League intern Hayley Malone, Athens High student Justin Wyatt and Athens Arts League Board member Holly Hollman.
Students and staff from Lindsay Lane Christian Academy spent a day sanding rust off our facility's fire escape and painting it black. The students adopted the project as part of their participating in United Way of Athens and Limestone County's Day and Week of Caring program.
The students worked in the muggy Alabama heat to help us get one step closer to opening the doors of Scout Music House. Athens Arts League appreciates their willingness to volunteer and support our project!
An oil portrait of Patti Malone will grace the original stone fireplace of Scout Music House as a tribute to the woman who went from a young slave to international singer.
Athens Art League announced Monday, April 16, that artist Ann Moeller Steverson of Madison received the commission to paint Malone’s portrait. Athens Arts League received a $4,500 grant from Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area to commission the portrait.
Read more: Patti Malone Portrait Project
Heart bombs exploded with sentiments of love for an iconic and historic site in Athens that is under renovation by Athens Arts League.
For Valentine's Day, Girl Scouts from Troop 1922 created heart bombs for Scout Music House on Washington Street near Downtown Athens. The Girl Scouts read about the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Heart Bomb 2018: Spread the Love of Historic Places challenge, and created Valentine's for Scout Music House. The troop has helped with a clean up day at the site as well as pulling weeds, writing thank you letters to donors, and learning about the process for pulling a community together to save a historic site.
The City of Athens leased the 1938-era structure to Athens Arts League with a challenge to raise funds to renovate the unused structure and re-purpose it into a music venue the provides cultural events, hands-on learning experiences for students, and honors Limestone County's musical heritage. Renovations are underway with the goal to open in November 2018.
What are heart bombs? According to National Trust, they are love letters to historic places that appear at historic sites nationwide, on local landmarks, and around places both safe and threatened. "Heart bombing is the act of showering an older or historic place with tangible expressions of affection and devotion," the National Trust's website stated.
Troop 1922 made pink and red Valentine hearts that are displayed on the front door and windows of Scout Music House. Here are some of the sentiments the Girls Scouts shared:
"You make me soar with love." - Riley Creel.
"I love the Scout House because it was durty (sic) and now it is clean." - Emma
"I love Scout House because it is my favorite place to clean." - Kylee
Troop leader Mindy Slinkard said the Scouts plan to take selfies at Scout Music House with their Valentine’s and share their love on social media with the National Trust’s hashtag: #IHeartSavingPlaces.
Athens Arts League is honoring Patti Malone, the "First Lady of Music in Limestone County," by commissioning an oil portrait of her that will be on permanent display at Scout Music House.
Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area is funding the project with a $4,500 grant.
Athens Arts League is issuing a call out to artists to submit applications for review. The selected artist will receive $4,000 for the portrait and for Athens Arts League to retain all rights to the portrait and image.
Patti Malone's Story
Lillian Glanton, a graduate of West Limestone who appeared on American Idol, performed at the Nov. 4, 2017, National Defense Luncheon hosted by the DAR in Huntsville. She spoke to the group about her love of music and the Scout Music House Project in Athens. Lillian is pursuing songwriting and collaborates with songwriters in Nashville.
During its nearly 80-year existence, the Scout House on Washington Street served the community’s youth until its doors closed in 2012.
The facility, built in the WPA-era, soon will open its doors to the youth and community again as the Scout Music House. The City of Athens owns the historic structure and leases it to Athens Arts League. The city challenged Athens Arts League to raise funds for renovation and to repurpose it into a music venue that included music-centered educational opportunities for children.
Since the city issued that challenge, Athens Arts League has raised $94,500 in grant funds, the most recent being $30,000 from Steelcase Foundation for the student music studio. Athens Arts League will offer hands-on opportunities for students in scheduling, promoting and recording concerts as well as opportunities to perform and collaborate on song writing and editing.
In addition, Athens Arts League will honor Limestone County’s musical heritage through exhibits, and will host workshops, house concerts and other cultural events for the community.
“The Steelcase Foundation trustees were very appreciative of the community involvement and support in this project, as well as the work of the Athens Arts League to recognize the area’s musical and artistic contributions,” Steelcase Foundation President Julie Ridenour wrote in a letter to Athens Arts League.
Scout Music House Committee Chair Holly Hollman said she is impressed with those in the community who have devoted their talents and time to the project, which she expressed to Steelcase Foundation.
“There is no question you need funding to tackle a project such as this,” Hollman said. “But you also need someone to perform the work, and many in our community have volunteered to do the work as a donation because they believe in preserving this historic site and supporting artistic opportunities for our community.”
Hollman said Boy Scout John Paul recently oversaw construction of the handicap-accessible ramp on the west side of Scout Music House as part of his Eagle Scout project. Boy Scout Christopher Nave oversaw removal of a window and installation of a door for the handicap-accessible entrance in conjunction with the ramp project. That part of the work was Nave’s Eagle Scout project.
Girl Scout Troop 1922 has written thank you letters to donors, pulled weeds from the new landscaping and assisted with a clean-up day. Scout Music House Committee member Jim McDole is teaching the troop guitar lessons at High Cotton Arts, a visual arts incubator operated by Athens Arts League, to assist the Scouts in earning their music badges. Once Scout Music House is open, music opportunities such as those will be there to provide more space and privacy.
“In addition to the Scouts, local businesses have donated materials and work crews,” Hollman said. “The community has truly embraced this project, and we appreciate Steelcase Foundation for investing in our community’s vision.”
How you can help
Born a slave and heralded an ‘unsurpassed soprano’ Patti Malone to grace Athens with her presence once again
Pattie Malone is on the far left
An Athens arts organization is working to commemorate the story of Patti Malone, who was born a slave in Athens, pursued an education and joined an internationally acclaimed chorale group.
Athens Arts League received approval for a $4,500 grant from the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area to commission an oil painting of Malone, who died in the late 1800s while traveling with the Loudin Jubilee Singers. There are few photographs of Malone, and the painting will provide a commemorative piece to help share her story.
“I think of her as the First Lady of Music in Limestone County,” said Athens Arts League Board Vice President Diane Lehr, who wrote the grant. “She has an amazing story that can inspire new generations of musicians.”
Once complete, the oil painting of Malone will be on display at Scout Music House, which Athens Arts League is raising money to renovate into a music venue. The structure on Washington Street once served as a recreational facility for Boy and Girl Scouts and then the Athens City Schools Central Office, but has been vacant for about five years. The City of Athens owns the circa-1938 structure and leases it to Athens Arts League.
The Scout Music House venue will provide hands-on opportunities for students to explore various aspects of music from performance to recording to marketing as well as cultural events for the community and exhibits to honor Limestone County’s musical heritage. Malone’s portrait will be on permanent display.
Athens Arts League Promotions Chair Holly Hollman said the League is collaborating with the Athens-Limestone Community Association on the portrait. ALCA, which oversees the historic Trinity site, will appoint a committee to review artists’ renderings and select an artist to create the oil painting.
“Patti Malone is an integral part of Trinity’s history, and we want the association to be pleased with her portrait,” Hollman said.
Athens State University art professor and Athens Arts League Board member Gail Bergeron and her students will assist with final approval of the finished portrait and document its historical significance. Athens Arts League will schedule an unveiling once the portrait is complete.
Malone’s story starts on The Cedars Plantation in Athens where she was born into slavery, according to the 2000 Nashville Conference publication Leaders of Afro-American Nashville. Her mother arranged with their former master for Malone to go to school at Trinity, which educated former slaves after the Civil War. The principal Mary Wells befriended Malone and sent her to further her education at Fisk University in Nashville.
Malone made her debut with the Jubilee Singers in Hamburg, Germany, in 1878, the publication stated. When the singers disbanded, Frederic Loudin organized the Loudin Jubilee Singers, and Malone toured with them in Europe and Australia. She bought property in Athens in the Village View area and named her home The Oaks. According to the publication, while Malone was on tour with the Singers in the United States, she fell ill and died in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1897. She is buried in Athens.
Malone spent about 20 years as a Jubilee Singer. According to the publication, her legacy is "one of good deeds, an unsurpassed soprano voice, and a touring agenda that included visits to 17 countries and appearances before six crown heads of Europe."
“Athens Arts League appreciates the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area for supporting our project and having a commitment to the arts and culture of our community,” Hollman said.
Athens Arts League announced today (Thursday, Aug. 17) that it received a $40,000 pledge to embark on Phase 2 of a renovation project near Downtown Athens.
Athens Arts League will leverage the funds with in-kind work for its opus, re-purposing an empty building on Washington Street into a music venue called Scout Music House. The venue will offer house concerts, hands-on music related training for students and exhibits to honor Limestone County’s musical legacy.
Dekko Foundation based in Indiana stated in a letter to Athens Arts League President Amy Golden that, “Our research into child development tells us that music can support many other skills, knowledge and character development in children and teens.”
Dekko Foundation’s mission is to foster economic freedom through education. Dekko’s funding is contingent on Athens Arts League raising the remainder $55,000 for Phase 2 through cash donations or in-kind work.
The facility is a former Scout House for Boy and Girl scouts and the former central office for Athens City Schools. It has been vacant for more than four years. The City of Athens leased the facility to Athens Arts League with the challenge of raising funds to renovate it and turn it into a music venue.
Friends of the Scout House Committee Chair Holly Hollman said the community is embracing the challenge along with Athens Arts League. The Athens Lowe’s store, local contracting company Athens Handyman, the Boy Scouts and an anonymous contractor have committed in-kind work. Phase 2 includes completing the exterior repairs, adding a handicap accessible ramp and entrance, and converting the bathroom into a handicap accessible facility.
“Handicap accessibility has always been a necessity for public buildings, and when I learned there was no current handicap access, I felt like it was my duty as a Scout and as a Christian to help,” said Boy Scout John Paul, who is constructing a handicap accessible entrance ramp.
Athens Arts League started renovations at the end of 2016. The League funded Phase 1 at a cost of $35,500, with a Keep America Beautiful/Lowe’s grant and in-kind services. That work included the front façade, drought tolerant landscaping, removal of decaying trees and exposing the original stone fireplace. Phase 3, estimated to cost $69,500, will complete the interior. The goal is to open by late fall/early winter 2018.
"I am so excited that we have a place for children here in Athens to learn about music,” said local singer/songwriter Lillian Glanton, who appeared on American Idol. “When I was in school, I didn't have this opportunity. I always felt like the kid who was doing something different. I don't want any kid who aspires to pursue music to feel left out. The Scout Music House will fill this void.”
Athens Arts League is collaborating with local schools on programs that will provide hands-on experiences for students, such as scheduling, marketing and recording house concerts, public performance opportunities, and use of a student music lab.
“Music speaks when words cannot, and it has shaped me into the person I am today,” Glanton said. “I am so excited about this project and I can't wait to see what the future holds."
Glanton has secured space at High Cotton Arts to work with students on songwriting. High Cotton Arts, also operated by Athens Arts League, is a non-profit downtown arts incubator with a primary focus on the visual arts. It does not offer the privacy Glanton needs but serves as a temporary site until Scout Music House is complete. In addition, Friends of the Scout House Committee member Jim McDole is providing members of Girl Scout Troop 1922 guitar lessons to help them earn their music badges. He will utilize High Cotton Arts or City Hall when they are available until Scout Music House opens.
“We have sought opportunities to give the community ownership with us on this project,” Hollman said. “Girl Scouts from Troop 1922, for example, pull weeds each month. The Boy Scouts have completed one and are starting two more Eagle Scout projects here. Other non-profits like Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful have joined us as have local businesses and the schools.”
Amanda Gudmundsson, director of Fine Arts at Athens City Schools, said Scout Music House will serve many facets of the system’s students.
“Athens City Schools Fine Arts Department is very excited about the opportunity that the Scout Music House will afford our students, and we look forward to Scout Music House becoming a fully functioning physical conduit between ACS Fine Arts and Athens Arts League,” she said. “Not only will it serve as a living historical repository for Athens City, but a facility to further fine arts educational opportunities, such as music, instrumental and choir, visual arts and concert space available to both our traditional and non-traditional students.”
Roger Murrah, award-winning songwriter and Athens native, said he wishes there had been a facility and programs like the Scout Music House when he was a child in Athens. Murrah, who wrote number one hits for artists like Alabama and Alan Jackson, said the project will give students a foundation to explore their interest in music careers.
Those who are interested in supporting Scout Music House can email Hollman at email@example.com or donate online at https://www.ioby.org/project/scoutmusichouse.
Breakdown of in-kind work for Phase 2:
Friends of the Scout House Committee member