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Interview with Jill Jayne Read, February 26, 2018

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:57 - Coming to Athens

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Partial Transcript: So Jill, tell us about coming to Athens and how you got engaged into the arts originally.

Segment Synopsis: Read discusses first coming to Athens because her husband, an ophthalmologist, sought a base for his practice. She describes her initial impression of Athens as an aesthetically displeasing city, due to attempts by the locals to renovate the older buildings. She states how her initial bad impression of Athens changed when she met the towns people, whom she came to like. Read describes how she joined the Heritage Foundation, where she specialized in building restoration before she became a trustee of the organization. Read gives insight into her childhood, emphasizing the importance of creativity and artistry in her family, and how it led to her future appreciation of the arts. She recalls the way that the University of Georgia dominated cultural activities when she first came to town.

Keywords: Athens; Augusta; Heritage Foundation; historic preservation; revitalization

00:07:18 - Athens music scene (early 1970's)

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Partial Transcript: And I knew the statistics...

Segment Synopsis: Read discusses the music scene when she arrived in Athens. She emphasizes the fact that university students dominated the music scene, as locals (non-university) were often not allowed to play in the university band, and were used as sit-ins when students weren't present. Read talks about the creation of a community band, which gave the towns people a chance to play. Read describes the issues associated with downtown revitalization of Athens during the early 1970's, as conflicts arose between businesses and people over the use of extra space in Athens.

Keywords: Athens Library; Brumby House; Dottery Street; Heritage Foundation; March of Dimes; The Franklin College Chamber Series; music; revitalization

00:14:13 - Re-building the community / Historic preservation

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Partial Transcript: In 1970, the Heritage Foundation created the Downtown Revitalization Committee ...

Segment Synopsis: Read goes through the series of events that lead to the creation of a cultural community in Athens. She describes the creation of a revitalization group, which had the goal of preserving the historical structures of Athens. Read also describes the creation of bike paths and after-school programs that allowed for a stronger sense of community. Read relates the story of how the Franklin House, one of the oldest commercial buildings in Georgia, was prevented from destruction because money was donated by the community for revitalization of the building.

Keywords: Athens Choral Society; Athens Downtown Development Authority; Downtown Revitalization Committee; Franklin House

00:21:24 - Tourism in Athens / Spread of music culture

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Partial Transcript: Athens, at the same time, created a tourism office...

Segment Synopsis: Read discusses the creation of the first tourism office in Athens. Read explains the process of starting the Bicentennial Committee and the Bicentennial band, which performed during celebrations. Read describes the gradual increase of younger musical groups, such as the B-52's, throughout Athens.

Keywords: Art Commission; Athens Transit System; B-52's; Bicentennial Committee; Bluebird Cafe; Clyde Nobel; Jules John; Owen Parker; Robert Peckham; Tourism Office; tourism

00:28:20 - Rise of the arts (late 1970's)

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Partial Transcript: In May of '78, we had the first arts festival.

Segment Synopsis: Read continues to describe the booming cultural scene of Athens during the 1970's. She touches on the subject of the creation of the Morton Theater Corporation. Read talks about the emergence of Athens' first orchestra, and the later creation of Athens' first radio broadcast channel, WUGA Radio.

Keywords: Alliance for Clarke County Arts Education; Bizarre Art Ensemble; Black Business District; Memorial Park; Monroe Morton; Morton Theatre Corporation; WUGA; WUGA Radio; arts festival

00:36:50 - The community-building process

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Partial Transcript: I think to have a successful community you can't just develop in one sector.

Segment Synopsis: Read explains her approach in providing services for the community. She emphasizes the importance of ensuring equal care and assistance for all members of a community, regardless of background. Read reflects on the willing attitude of Athens' residents and credits their dedication as being the catalyst needed to build the community. Read also recalls the decreased activity in downtown Athens during the 1980's due to the creation of the Georgia Square Mall, which quickly became the new center of activity in Athens.

Keywords: Board of Commissions; Downtown Athens; Georgia Square Mall; city council

00:42:14 - Athens during the early 1980's

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Partial Transcript: By this time there were computers.

Segment Synopsis: Read outlines the creation of Athens' data processing system for city government during the 1980's. She explains the process, which novel at the time, involved computers that digitized information about Athens residents, and ultimately allowed for better communication between Athens' city council and the public. Read discusses the impact of the well-known artists, Raymond and Benny Andrews, who volunteered as coordinators for an art program focused on the Athens' inmate population.

Keywords: African-American; Arts Alive Radio Program; Athen's Area Porcelain Artist; Athens City Hall; Benny Andrews; County Commission; R.E.M; Raymond Andrews; artists; computers; data processing

00:50:40 - Athen's cultural affairs (early '80's)

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Partial Transcript: And then we began the survey for the National Registrar's Nomination...

Segment Synopsis: Read discusses the passing of the Graphics Ordinance, which allowed for the removal of excess signs on Athens roadways that competed for visual space. She describes the opening of the Athens' airport gallery and the start of many additional cultural affairs. Read goes into detail on the Athenian celebration then known as Bach's Birthday, a celebration of the life of the composer Bach. Read discusses the publishing of the 1983 cultural directory and the subsequent creation of cultural magazines such as the New Arts Review, which was started by a group of locals. Read describes the process of searching for and exhibiting the works of untrained artists using funds from a grant by the National Endowment of the Arts.

Keywords: AAUW ( American Association of University Women); Airport gallery; Bach Baroque; Civic Ballet; Graphics Ordinance; Heritage foundation; Heyward Allen; Humane society; National Endowment for the Arts; New Art's Review; Observer T.V; Phil Sanderlin

00:57:26 - Works of published 1985 cultural directory

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Partial Transcript: What were some of the other developments you think were important in that period?

Segment Synopsis: Read describes the adoption of a more business-like approach by the various cultural organizations in Athens. Read praises these organizations' growing professional maturity as a way to ensure the survival of organizations. She discusses the effects of publishing the 1985 cultural directory, which gave the public resources and notification about cultural events happening at the city and county level. Read explains the importance of focusing on the arts and culture as a way to improve quality of life in a community. Read relates the process of creating the Athens jazz festival which featured live performances by well-known jazz musicians. She gives insight into the creation of the university's botanical gardens and recalls how she emphasized the point of ensuring the gardens would be wheelchair accessible.

Keywords: Accessibility Committee; Blue Sky Concert Series; Bobby McFerrin; Clark County; Community Mural Project; Dave Brubeck; Georgia University Botanical Gardens; Heritage Foundation; National Dance Week Celebration; Niche Space; Southern Arts Federation; St.Mary's

01:07:44 - Athens cultural affairs (late 1980's)

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Partial Transcript: And then I got another grant and hired Dianne Penny...

Segment Synopsis: Read describes the addition of new community events, including the Blue Skies Concert Series and the National Dance Week Celebration. Read describes the process of opening the Memorial Park Zoo, the idea of which was initially proposed by her daughter's first grade class. Read talks about the opening of the Athens Classic Center, funded by the Special Local Options Sales Tax, which gave Read's division the opportunity to later build the Classic Center.

Keywords: Blue Skies Concert Series; Classic Center; Clayton Street; College Square; College Street; Community Mural Project; Georgia Museum of Art; Memorial Park; National Dance Week Celebration; National Endowment for the Arts; Opportunity Industrialization Center

01:14:27 - Wish for amphitheater / Athens Veteran Memorial

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Partial Transcript: The one thing we don't have in Clarke County is an orchestral hall.

Segment Synopsis: Read explains the building of the Athens orchestral hall, which was funded by the federal National Endowment for the Arts. Read discusses her wish for the building of an official amphitheater as a place for upcoming bands to perform. Read talks about the building of the Athens veteran memorial, the final design for which was chosen through a design competition. Read recount the start of building the Lyndon House Arts Center.

Keywords: Athens Concert Hall; National Endowment for the Arts; Veterans Memorial Competition

01:20:57 - Restoring the Morton Theatre

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Partial Transcript: I remember the debate on the materials...

Segment Synopsis: Read and the interviewer discuss the controversy that arose from Read's choice of high-quality and, consequently, expensive materials in building projects. Read defends the point that the expensive materials increased the longevity of the building which, in turn, outweighed the initial cost. Read describes the end of the 1980's as coinciding with the completion of many cultural restoration projects. Read talks about the impact of the community project of restoring the Morton Theatre, which was, at the time, a predominantly African American theater. Specifically, Read relates the theater's restoration as a successful attempt to unite Athens people. Read then talks about the famous black composers who originated in Athens, and often performed in the Morton Theatre.

Keywords: Hall Johnson; Lyndon House Arts Center; Robert Cole; Robert Shawl; SPLOST (Special-Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax)

01:31:28 - Morton Theatre restoration (cont.)

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Partial Transcript: But then SPLOST came along and then ...

Segment Synopsis: Read explains the impact of SPLOST on getting the Morton Theatre restoration project funded. Read describes the commitment of the community to the Morton Theatre restoration and praises Athens City Council's foresight in expanding the non-profit sector as a way to improve quality of life. Read then expands on the fraudulence of profit-seekers, who often obstructed the restoration of the Morton Theatre through lawsuits. Read discusses the history of Hot Corner (where the Morton Theatre is situated) as being the black business district.

Keywords: Hot Corner; Paul Cramer; SPLOST (Special-Purpose Local-Options Sale Tax)

01:39:19 - Building a non-profit / Athens' future

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Partial Transcript: You've seen many successful nonprofit organizations, what did you see that were success factors for these organizations?

Segment Synopsis: Read states that commitment is an important factor in ensuring the survival of a non-profit organization. Read ends the interview with her wish for the revival of Athens' art projects, which died as the result of later consolidation efforts by the city government as a way to save money.

Keywords: Athens; non-profit organizations