Monday, December 22, 2014

Staying Home for the Holidays? Enjoy Local Sites and Traditions

By Nina Kendall

How do you celebrate the holidays? What special events are you planning to attend? There are famous celebrations of the holidays across the United States from parades to Christmas tree lightings.  The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and other holiday events are broadcast on television. The White House has been lighting a National Christmas Tree  for 92 years.  Walt Disney World got into the act when they brought the Osborne Lights to Florida in 1995.

While major events draw crowds, you don't have to travel far to enjoy holiday traditions. Locales across the country feature unique celebrations that reflect local history and geography.  Popular traditions include caroling or sing-alongs, parades, festival of trees, and holiday light shows. 

A few Holiday Traditions with a Local Twist:

Festival of Trees
I love Christmas trees. To me a Christmas tree tells a story. Once a year we take out our treasures, memories , and joys and put them on display. Fernbank Museum of Natural History hosts Winter Wonderland annually. This exhibition is a collection trees and displays sponsored by cultural groups throughout the metro area. Each tree is decorated to reflect the sponsor. You can enjoy the trees, admire the handiwork, and learn about traditions from around the world practice by your neighbors.

I love to sing along. Secretly, I think everyone does not matter what they think of their voice. The Fox Theater hosted the 9th Annual Sing-A-Long event, Mighty Mo & More this year.  This free concert is a chance to sing carols, donate to Toys for Tots, hear a local chorus, and enjoy a holiday movie. There is little more cheerful than sing Christmas Carols with others.

Light Shows
Atlanta and surrounding environs have a number of light show destinations.  Lake Lanier, Callaway Gardens, Stone Mountain, and the Atlanta Botanical Gardens all host their own light shows. At Callaway Gardens, you drive through displays tied to the carols broadcast throughout the show. In the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, you walk amongst nature inspired light displays.  Each experience  imbued with a little Christmas magic.

New Year’s Eve Celebration
Atlanta’s Peach Drop is the local New Year’s Eve Celebration. This event takes near Underground Atlanta and is entering its 26th year.  The Peach Drop is a daylong celebration that draws young and old alike. Venture downtown to enjoy a fairway game, sample festival food, and ring in the New Year with thousands of locals.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Enjoying the Humanities in 2014

By  Nina Kendall

As 2014 comes to a close, I think about the opportunities to enjoy the humanities this year. This has truly been a year of fun engaging events. I have enjoyed art, music, and history this year all supported by the Georgia Humanities Council. As they work to fill their mission of making the humanities part of the life of every Georgian, they support unique projects and events throughout the state.  These events offer history, fun, and fellowship for the citizens of the state.  Here are some of my favorites from this past year.

Freedom Singers Concert
The Freedoms Singers are artists dedicated to continuing the tradition of singing rooted in the efforts of SNCC during the Albany Movement. Led by original SNCC Freedom Singer Rutha Harris, these performers share music and history with their audiences. Their performances focus on songs that provided courage to movement participants. Once they started singing the entire room was enveloped in song. Everyone sang along.  I enjoyed their performance in Atlanta, but you can find them performing the second Saturday of every month at the Albany Civil Rights Institute.  This group is a 2014 Governor’s Awards for the Arts & Humanities recipient and is definitely worth the trip to Albany.

Inspired Georgia
Inspired Georgia is a collection of 28 works by Georgians. This traveling collection features examples of folk art, abstract painting, realist painting, works on paper, landscape photography, and people and place in photography.  It was a chance to get to know the state art collection which has no permanent home. In this exhibit, you find the collective experience of the state, the traditions of rural Georgia and the modern urban experience. In each work, you can find a little history of the state. This collection will evoke your memories and touch your heart. For me it evoked memories of childhood and glimpse into modern life in Atlanta.

KONGO across the WATERS
KONGO across the WATERS brought art and artifacts from the Royal Museum of Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium, the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art in Gainesville, Florida, and from collections across the United States to Atlanta.  This exhibit fluidly combined art and history into an engaging experience. As you walked through the exhibit, you got a chance to enjoy centuries of art ranging from 16th century images to 20th century carvings and learn about the evolution of the form in different regions of the world. This exhibit was a walk down memory lane. Art forms and traditions common to the region displayed with their cultural roots. Face jugs and funeral practices illustrated the deep cultural connects between the southeastern United States and the Kongo peoples of western Central Africa.  Art and artifacts revealed the influence of diverse cultures whose history in the United States is not well preserved. I visited during an open house when members of the community went from piece to piece sharing their stories and connecting with the works.

To Begin the World Over Again: the Life of Thomas Paine
Actor Ian Ruskin performed the one man show, To Begin the World Over Again: the Life of Thomas Paine. Ruskin brought to life Revolutionary history while exploring the complex life of Thomas Paine. The audience were both engaged and educated by the nuanced performance of Mr. Ruskin. His performance helped make revealed many of the issues of the period and the revolutionary, Thomas Paine. It is a rare treat to learn from and enjoy live drama.

These are just a few of my favorite events from the past year supported by the Georgia Humanities Council. Yet it represents a small portion of the work done every year by this organization. From supporting teachers to encouraging literacy across the state, the Georgia Humanities Council is touching all our lives. I encourage you to check out their schedule in the coming months and make their work part of your plans in 2015.