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October 2004

Atlanta Ballet

The Atlanta Ballet, founded 75 years ago by Dorothy Alexander, has become the oldest continuously run ballet company in the country. Now under the direction of John McFall the Ballet strives to find a balance between classical ballet and contemporary formats. Through the Atlanta Ballet's Center for Dance Education, the ballet has developed numerous programs for both amateur and professional dancers.

The ballet school also features lessons for both children and adults. Recently the Atlanta Ballet and the Indigo Girls teamed up for a second time to bring a unique combination of Rock n' Roll sound to fluid dance in Shed Your Skin. For their 75th season the ballet will again perform their most popular program the Nutcracker and will bring back an old favorite in October, Dracula. To learn more about the Atlanta Ballet and their upcoming season go to their website.

The Morris Museum

Located alongside the Savannah River in downtown Augusta, the Morris Museum offers a unique collection dedicated to Southern Art. Only 12 years old the Morris Museum has expanded its collection from a little under 1000 to almost 3000 pieces of art. The Museum not only houses Southern Art but also features a research facility dedicated to the study of Southern Art and Artist in the Center for the Study of Southern Art.

The Museum offers a unique look at the history of the South, told through Art. While visitors wind through the different galleries, they can experience the history of the South, beginning with Antebellum Art and continuing through Civil War Art, the Black Influence in Southern Art, Southern Impressionism and ending with the newest influence, Twentieth Century Art. To learn more about the Morris Museum vist their website.

West African Drumming

Master drummers across Georgia are filling up classes with individuals eager to learn the ancient art. Georgia contains a wealth of talent in this artistic expression with the inclusion of two local drummers, Peggy Benkeser, a professional musician with twenty years of experience and co founder of Thamyris a music ensemble based in Atlanta and Aly Camara, lead drummer for Les Merveilles d'Afrique of Mohammed Kemoko Sano which performs traditional Guinean drum and dance ballets to international audiences.

Drumming is also being used in the therapeutic treatment of children through programs such as the one at Inner Harbour headed by Tom Harris and Michael Watkins. Through their program children can play West African drumming to help them deal with the problems they face in everyday life. West African drumming may be an ancient art but it is a new beat being heard around Georgia.

To read about Inner Harbour, visit their website.

Jack Leigh

Born in 1948, Jack Leigh began his work in photography after finishing his studies at the University of Georgia in 1972. From the beginning of his career, he desired to record the people, places and lifestyles of the South, his native region. In 1993 he became widely known after his haunting photograph of Silvia Shaw's Bird Girl appeared on the cover of John Berendt's best seller, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Over 56 years Jack Leigh authored five books dedicated to the images of the South such as Oystering: A Way of Life and The Land I'm Bound To.

With his death from colon cancer on May 19, Leigh left a void in the southern photography scene, but left a lasting impression that will live on in his photographs and books. His dedication to and love of photography inspired him to continue his work until his last days. To find out more about Jack Leigh or to browse some of his work visit his gallery website.

Fabulous Fox Theatre

Atlanta's Fabulous Fox Theatre, built in 1929 originally as the Yaarab Temple Shrine Mosque, was designed as the headquarters for the 5,000-member Shriner's organization. When the Theatre was designed it was a masterpiece of trompe l'oeil meaning false beams, false balconies, false tents, ornate grillwork hiding air conditioning and heating ducts insuring that every practical feature was disguised with artistic fantasy including the men's and ladies' lounges.

With a beautiful starry sky looking down on four thousand seats, the theatre has enthralled many generations of both the young and old. Because of its brilliance and everlasting presence in downtown Atlanta, the Fox Theatre has become one of the Southeast's entertainment and cultural icons. With its incredible example of Moorish and Egyptian architecture it has proven to be a lasting example of Atlanta history and architecture. To read more about the Fox or if you're interested in getting tickets to a performance go to their website.

The Alliance Theater: The Color Purple

Alice Walker's The Color Purple, published in 1982, tells the story of Celie, a Black woman in the South from the 1920's through the 1940's. In the course of her story, Celie meets a series of other Black women who shape her life but Celie is the center of this community of women, the one who knows how to survive.

This unique and award winning novel is now the basis for the Alliance Theatre's newest musical. The novel is given a musical touch with a mixture of Blues, Gospel, Jazz, Swing, Rural Roots and African music combined with dance styles that range from the Charleston to the Lindy Hop. The Color Purple had its world premiere in Atlanta on September 9, and will eventually make the trip up to Broadway. To buy tickets or find out what else is going on at the Alliance Theatre visit their website.

Funky Chicken Arts Project

Just west of Dahlonega, Georgia in Lumpkin County there is a "funky" project that started as a chicken coup and progressed into an art gallery and outdoor sculpture garden. The gallery opened in 1995 and co-owned and operated by artists Christina White and James Sargous is in stark contrast to most art gallery around the world. Featured on Oprah Winfrey's "Oprah Goes On-Line," the Funky Chicken Art Project displays a wide variety of art mediums including jewelry, oil and acrylic paintings, fiber art, sculptures in metal, stone, and cement and mosaic art.

To go along with the name, the Funky Chicken Art Project also includes a collection of chickens and pheasants that make their home among the art. With live chickens and beautiful art it promises to be a unique gallery with a little style and a lot of funk. To learn more about the Project visit their website.

Educators: Atlanta Ballet

Margo Sappington
(Choreographer, Shed Your Skin)

Texas born Margo Sappington joined the Joffrey Ballet, at the invitation of Robert Joffery, where she danced an extensive repertoire of works. Transitioning from the ballet world, Margo danced on Broadway in Bob Fosse's Sweet Charity, and assisted and appeared in the award-winning Broadway musical, Promises, Promises, choreographed by Michael Bennett. In 1969 she choreographed the off-Broadway musical Oh! Calcutta! In 1971 she choreographed her first ballet Weewis, for the Joffrey Ballet which was a section of the company's highly acclaimed evening-length work, Billboards, danced to a score by rock musician Prince. Her works have been danced by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Carolina Ballet, the Joffrey Ballet, the Houston Ballet, the Harkness Ballet, the Milwaukee Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, the Pennsylvania Ballet, Aterballetto (Italy), Ballet du Capitole (France, Ballet du Nord (France, Ballet Nuevo Mundo de Caracas, Netherlands Dans Theater, and Ballet Jazz de Montreal. Since 1986, Ms. Sappington has formed a close artistic association with Hubbard Street Dance in Chicago where she has created Cobras in the Moonlight, Step out of Love, And Now This, Forging Ground, and One Summer Night. Margo has also choreographed several Broadway musicals including Doonesbury and revivals of Where's Charley? with Raul Julia, and Pal Joey. She recently choreographed a Latin version of Andrew Lloyd-Webber's Song and Dance for the Coconut Grove Playhouse. Margo has also choreographed for opera productions including Aida, Samson and Delilah, and La Gioconda for the San Francisco Opera.

The Indigo Girls (Amy Ray and Emily Saliers)

(Music, Shed Your Skin)

Long before Joan Osborne, Sheryl Crow, Liz Phair or Courtney Love ever splashed across the American musical landscape, the Indigo Girls were singing and guitar-slinging their way into the hearts and minds of anyone willing to lend and ear to two of the hardest-working women in the music business. Stripped-down, folkie rock was not exactly prime radio fodder at the end of the eighties, but somehow the Amy Ray and Emily Saliers combination of thoughtful, semi-political topics, accessible melodies, and feminist posturing caught on, both with the college-radio crowd and a more mainstream audience. Add in the duo's indefatigable approach to touring, and you get a long-lasting formula for success. By 1981, Emily and Amy had completed their first basement tape (literally - it was recorded in Amy's basement) called Tuesday's children, a collection of cover songs augmented with two original tunes. Amy continued her songwriting and, the following year, she recorded a solo tape of her own material called Color Me Gray. After high school, Emily became an English major at Tulane University and the next year, Amy headed off to Nashville to study English and religion at Vanderbilt. But being away from home didn't sit too well either, and by 1984 both were back in Atlanta as students at Emory University. In 1985, again performing together on a regular basis, they decided to go by the name Indigo Girls. In one of the time-honored traditions of rock, the name held no real significance - Amy chose "indigo" from the dictionary because the word sounded cool. The first official release from the Indigo Girls was the independent seven-inch single "Crazy Game," and in 1986 they followed up with the six-track EP engineered by local singer-songwriter Kristen Hall. In 1987, Emily and Amy put out their full-length debut, Strange Fire, and while it didn't generate a great deal of interest, its release was impeccably timed. Tracy Chapman and Suzanne Vega had just broken through on radio and on the charts, and suddenly, the growing field of women singer-songwriters moved into the mainstream. Epic Records saw potential in the Indigo Girls and the label signed the duo in 1998. Their eponymous debut album on the label, released in early 1989, established the duo as a force on the national scene. They were initially bolstered by the instant cachet of a guest appearance by REM's Michael Stipe, as well as having Irish rockers Hothouse Flowers as their backing band for several tracks. But it was the radio success of "Closer to Fine" that ultimately broke the album, and six months after its release, Indigo Girls went gold. By the spring, the Girls had been nominated for a Best New Artist Grammy and took home the award for Best Contemporary Folk Recording. The Indigo Girls' achievements are impressive. Over the course of the last ten years, they have sold over seven million albums worldwide-including one double platinum disc, three platinum and four gold - and earned six Grammy nominations. But more impressive than the industry accolades and sales figures has been the way these two voices can consistently reach out in the darkness and make a bunch of strangers feel at home, understood, inspired.

The Indigo Girls Electrify Atlanta Ballet's Season

Atlanta Ballet opened its 2001-2002 season with an exclusive, world premiere collaboration between folksy blues group The Indigo Girls and our very own Atlanta Ballet. The work was choreographed by Margo Sappington, whose groundbreaking work Billboards, set to Prince's music, played to standing room only crowds in 1993 when it premiered by the Joffrey Ballet. The Indigo Girls perform live on stage with the Atlanta Ballet during the run at the Fabulous Fox Theatre. A project that has been in the works for several years, The Indigo Girls Project is a unique evening of music and dance. For the first time ever, the harmonic strains of Indigo Girls songs like Least Complicated, Cara Mia, and Touch Me Fall will intertwine with the soft swooshes of tutus onstage. John McFall, Artistic Director, states that "it is an honor to be part of this once-in-a-lifetime collaboration with The Indigo Girls and Margo Sappington." The Indigo Girls, composed of talented songwriter-singers Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, met in Decatur, Georgia when they were attending Laurel Ridge Elementary School. The pair released their first official single in 1986, and put out their full-length debut in 1987. Over the course of the last ten years, they have sold over seven million albums worldwide-including one double platinum disc, three platinum and four gold-and earned six Grammy nominations. In addition to their impressive successes in the music industry, The Indigo Girls are involved in the local Atlanta community. Having benefited from the help of other musicians in the Atlanta and Athens, Georgia, music scenes, Amy Ray decided to use her own good fortune to give something back to up-and-coming local musicians. In 1990, she founded Daemon Records, an independent label focusing on Atlanta-area bands that continues to be an important outlet for the scene.

Thank you to The Atlanta Ballet for information on the Indigo Girls.

For information on the The Indigo Girls:

The Atlanta Ballet

The New Georgia Encyclopedia

Educators: Morris Museum

For information on The Morris Museum of Art:

The Morris Museum of Art

Great Museums episode titles and descriptions

New Georgia Encyclopedia

For information Museums and Galleries in Georgia:

Georgia Museums, Art Galleries and Art Centers

Georgia Association of Museums & Galleries

Georgia Museums on the Web

New Georgia Encyclopedia

Educators: West African Drumming

Peggy Benkeser

Peggy Benkeser is a teaching artist with twenty years experience in teaching, arts administration and performance. As a Georgia Council for the Arts approved Artist-in-Residence and Young Audiences of Atlanta Roster Artist, Ms. Benkeser conducts residencies, master classes and performances at schools throughout the state of Georgia.

Ms. Benkeser has extensive performance and recording experience as a soloist and member of chamber ensembles and symphony orchestras. Her most recent CD, "Music for Hammers and Sticks", was released on Innova records in February 2005. Ms. Benkeser has taught at Georgia State University, Clayton College and State University and Emory University. From 1987 - 200, she was the co-founder and artistic director of Thamyris, New Music Group. Under Peggy's guidance, Thamyris received awards for adventurous programming from Meet the Composer/Chamber Music America and received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Chamber Music America, American Composer's Forum, Meet the Composer, the Copeland Fund for New Music, and numerous local and state funding agencies.

Peggy currently teaches music for children ages two years through fifth grade at the Cliff Valley School in Atlanta and maintains a private teaching studio where she works with students of all ages and abilities.

Speech Rhythms and Music: Let the Drums do the Talking!

The Art of Teaching Poly-Rhythms Using Language:

A Five Lesson Music and Language Arts Unit for upper Elementary through High School

For Information on African Music and Drums:

African drum history

Traditional rhythms

Virtual drum museum

World percussion instruments

For Information on African Drumming and Dance:

Drumming and Dance

For Information on Music Therapy:

Drumming and Dance

Educators: The Fabulous Fox

The Fabulous Fox Project launched in December 2004 with the premiere of two GPB documentaries about the history of the Fox Theatre: The Fabulous Fox and This Old Movie Palace. In addition to the documentary programs, the Fox Project includes an extensive website, which offers visitors a number of ways to learn more about the Fox Theatre, including a virtual tour, a behind-the-scenes look at the Atlanta Ballet, celebrity accounts of their experiences at the Fox, and an examination of the cultural history and significance of the theater.

In order to enhance the educational value of The Fabulous Fox website to teachers and learners across the state, GPB's Education staff developed an instructional unit focusing on architectural elements found in the Fox's interior and exterior spaces. Using art, history, mathematics, language art and social studies, students may explore the cultural and historic themes found throughout the structure's decorative arts. The unit also offers educators, students, and parents a range of projects that will allow them to engage in drawing, ceramics, art criticism and aesthetics.

Art Lessons:

Click here to view the entire Fabulous Fox Project.

Educators: The Color Purple

For Information on Broadway Musicals:



For Information on Alice Walker and The Color Purple:

Alice Walker

Alice Walker Links

Georgia Encyclopedia

For Information on the Education Programs at The Alliance Theater:

Alliance Theatre