The Dairy Barn Cultural Arts Center (Wikipedia)
The Dairy Barn Cultural Arts Center (Wikipedia)

Dairy Barn Celebrates 100th Year

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One Athens County arts center was born in a barn — literally. And the facility itself will be celebrating its 100th year in Athens in 2014.

While the Dairy Barn Arts Center is commemorating its 35th year on Dairy Lane, the actual structure was built in 1914 to serve as a dairy barn for the former Athens Lunatic Asylum — hence the name Dairy Barn Arts Center.

According to Dairy Barn Director Jane Forrest-Redfern, the goal of the dairy barn was to provide enough milk for each patient and employee to have at least one glass of milk a day.

She said the dairy farm greatly exceeded that expectation and was home to over 100 cows including the once state champion dairy cow Lotta Faye.

The current Dairy Barn Arts Center was one of several buildings on the farm complex near The Ridges, but over time the buildings deteriorated and were demolished. The current arts center was slated to be razed in 1977.

Just nine days before the barn was to be torn down, a citizens task force spearheaded by artist Harriet Anderson and her husband, Ora, convinced the state to turn the barn into a nonprofit arts center.

In her letter to the state to save the dairy barn, Harriet Anderson wrote, “Those wonderful old dairy barns are actually exciting to contemplate. The main one is literally an (architectural) gem, surrounded by spacious yards paved with brick made from the area… Interior space is unlimited and almost ready made for craft shops, studios, class rooms, display spaces and the like.”

Forrest-Redfern said that more than 100 volunteers came together to clean up the barn and convert it into the arts center it is today. While walking through the facility, the original ceiling and structural elements can still be seen. The center was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

As a condition to use the building as an arts center, the group had to organize an art exhibit within a year. That first exhibit in 1979 was Quilt National, which now features art quilts from around the world and draws thousands of visitors to the center each summer. As a whole, the arts center draws nearly 15,000 visitors to the region every year.

The Dairy Barn Arts Center now offers exhibitions, events and educational programs that nurture and promote area artists and artisans.

To commemorate the 100th year of the dairy barn, the center will be hosting special exhibits throughout the year. Forrest-Redfern said that there are no records as to the exact date the facility was opened, so the celebration will last throughout the year.

The first event to kick off the 100th anniversary was a New Year’s Eve party with live music, appetizers and a cash bar. Forrest-Redfern said the event was a huge success with 250 guests in attendance.

The next event will be an exhibition called It’s All About the Barn, which will walk guests through the history of the structure to present day. An opening reception for the exhibit will be held on Jan. 10 from 5-7 p.m. The exhibit will open to the public on Jan. 11 and be on display until Feb. 16.

Other special exhibits to celebrate the 100th anniversary include Athens Paints, a curated exhibit featuring notable painters of yesterday living, working, or studying in Athens (Feb. 28-March 29); Athens on Paper, a curated exhibit featuring works on or with paper by artists from the past and present (May 9-June 8); Art We Use, a national juried show with a broad base of media that features works from tools to teapots, bowls and boats to bracelets and baskets (June 20-Aug. 31); and Quilt (R)Evolution: Art Quilt Retrospective 1979-2014, a special exhibition featuring art quilts from Quilt National jurors who have served since 1979 (Sept. 19-Nov. 22).

The Dairy Barn Arts Center is located at 8000 Dairy Lane in Athens. For information about the center, visit or call 592-4981.