The headline at the top of the My Athens Is webpage is constantly shifting. Each new adjective puts a different spin on the Classic City: charming, generous, amazing.
Reflecting the many different views held by its more than 30,000 residents is part of the goal behind the innovative, Instagram-driven art show, My Athens Is.
For months, My Athens Is has been inviting photographers of all skill levels to tweet or Instagram their photos of Athens to the hashtag #my_athens.
Many of the photos will be curated for an exhibit to take place at the Bottleworks on Prince, April 6-20, where many of them will be silently auctioned off to raise money for Athens Area Habitat for Humanity.
Through the duration of the show, local organizations and Athenians will hold special events at the Bottleworks, including musical performances, lectures and conversations about “art and creativity, social good and the community,” according to the My Athens Is website.
Greg Gilbert, the University of Georgia graduate behind the My Athens Is initiative, was inspired by the social media love recently shown for another great Georgia city.
“We were definitely inspired by Atlanta, by the We Love ATL that happened in December,” Gilbert said. “I loved the concept of taking something in a world where people are online, going digital, less depth of relationship, less community, and using social media as a drive to bring people together.”
Online, the #my_athens hashtag has collected over 2,000 photos so far. The deadline for photos to make it in the show has passed, but photos are still being collected for photo of the day picks and other contests this year.
“It was a really cool idea about Habitat for Humanity, easy and simple enough to get involved with, because all you do is post Instagram stuff,” said Nolan McClure, a graduate student in family financial planning from Roswell.
McClure was happy to tweet a photo of the Student Learning Center to the cause.
“As a graduate student I’ve been in Athens for five years now,” McClure said. “It really celebrates the town, and it goes directly towards benefiting the Athens community.”
Leslie Bentley, a fourth-year nutrition science major from Winder, found out about the My Athens Is movement the opposite way: when it started following her on Instagram.
Bentley posted a photo from a concert at the Georgia Theatre, in addition to adding the #my_athens hashtag to several of the photos she’d already posted to Instagram.
“I think it’s neat, because you kind of see different people’s perspective of Athens,” Bentley said. “Athens is such a cool city, and there are so many different landmarks, but when people Instagram them you see the city in a different way, which I think is really cool about it.”
For Gilbert, the charity-oriented display of love for his favorite town is just as much about reaching out as it is giving back.
“Through this process, what I realized is that I have certain patterns of places I would go and things I would see, and many times they were the same places and the same things,” Gilbert said. “It has been phenomenal to really go deeper and wider into what the city has to offer.”
The fact proceeds from the silent auction go to benefit the Athens Area Habitat for Humanity only enhances the initiative’s focus on community.
Many of the photos that aren’t sold will be placed inside Habitat for Humanity homes to “give them a little something to have on their wall to represent Athens,” said Lawrence Jones, the public outreach director at Athens Area Habitat.
“It’s just a really great way to engage your community,” Jones said.
Photos may be uploaded to Instagram or Twitter at any time using #my_athens.