Annie Laura Eve Blackshear established the Athens Art Association in 1919. A native of Augusta, Ga., Blackshear served as president of the Georgia Art Teachers Association, vice president of the Association of Georgia Artists and Georgia sponsor of the Southeastern Arts Association. She put her knowledge as an educator, artist and leader to use in founding the Athens Art Association and serving as the president for many years. The original fee to become a member was a dollar for a man and his wife. Around 20 charter members made up the initial association. Other notable individuals who contributed to the advancement of the association include Millie Dearing, Lucy Stanton, Annie May Holliday and Sally Goodwin.
The association expanded when Lamar Dodd became a member in 1937. Dodd was appointed as an artist in residence at the University of Georgia and became the head of the department several years later. His contributions led to the creation of UGA’s Lamar Dodd School of Art, named in his memory. Dodd and his wife became members of the organization and helped it grow to include not only artists but also anyone who enjoys or collects art.
Over the course of the last 50 years, the organization has maintained a historical presence in the Athens community. In 1958, the association began selling art on the sidewalks of the Beechwood Shopping Center. These transactions, known as sidewalk sales, increased the awareness of the organization and allowed for the integration of art into the community. In 1962, the organization sponsored The Art Cart at St. Mary's Hospital, which allowed patients to select a piece of art for their rooms. The association celebrated its 65-year anniversary in 1985 by showcasing work from original charter members at the State Botanical Garden.
Today, the association holds monthly meetings at the historic Lyndon House Arts Center, a community arts center initiated in 1974 to serve as an exhibit space for community artwork. The organization continues to promote local artists, celebrate the works of past artists and provide its members with training and workshops to expand their art education. This year, the association celebrates its centennial year.