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Friday, Aug 01, 2014

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Visiting assistant professor organizes summer cultural series


A summer cultural series organized by an Ohio University visiting assistant professor is bringing Athens-area adults together to nourish their social and intellectual needs.

Dubbed "Soul Biscuits," the series features musical performances, educational classes and discussion groups. It began in May with events scheduled from 5:30 to 7 p.m. every Friday through Aug. 23 at the Church of the Good Shepherd, 64 University Terrace.

The series was organized by Elizabeth Thompson, who's been serving in OHIO's Department of English since 2008.

Thompson was inspired to create the cultural series by her visiting assistant professor colleagues, some of whom are displaced from their homes while shouldering significant teaching loads.

"Not only does the cultural series provide entertainment for adults in Athens, but it also provides a mental health break for professors, especially visiting professors," she said.

Originally from Tulsa, Okla., Thompson has modeled Soul Biscuits after The All Soul Acoustic Coffeehouse, a music series hosted by a church in Tulsa. That series brings in nationally known acts to play in the church's sanctuary while those in attendance enjoy food, beverages (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) and a chance to socialize.

And while both the Tulsa series and the series here in Athens are held inside churches, Thompson emphasized that the program is secular in nature.

"There's no preaching. There's no praying. There's no attempt at conversion," Thompson explained.

Instead, the series focuses on musical performances and educational and fun programs – all presented by local residents, both affiliated and not affiliated with the University, who wish to share their talents and/or expertise.

Programs already presented include:

  • Adult Recess, a group class focused on the power of play and presented by Jamie Betit, a local fitness guru.
  • Socially-Conscious Farming, featuring individuals from Rural Action and Good Earth Farm who shared their knowledge and experience regarding the social and environmental issues surrounding the food industry today and the role consumers play.

Another program featured jazz musicians John Horne and Gary Holcomb, who is an associate professor of African American Studies at OHIO and an accomplished jazz guitarist.

Thompson explained that while Holcomb isn't likely to showcase his musical talents in one of the uptown Athens venues, which are geared primarily to students, Soul Biscuits provides him that outlet.

"One of the underlying motivations for all this is to develop something that's targeted for professors – not to exclude students, but to give professors a place where they really feel comfortable, where everything is designed with their interests in mind," she said.

Upcoming programs include:

  • July 26 – Live Folk/Americana Music with local musicians Kelly Latimore and Adam Remnant.
  • Aug. 2 – "Mozart on the Green" preview.
  • Aug. 9 – Through a New Lens: Photography Class with Joe Barbaree.
  • Aug. 16 – Iconography with Kelly Latimore.
  • Aug. 23 – Wine Tasting with Theresa Moran.

The series' programs are open to the public, but some of the programs require registration. Admission to the programs is free, but donations are welcome.

Thompson noted that appetizers and non-alcoholic beverages are supplied during the programs, and the wine and beer available at the events (participants are asked to bring their own) are only meant to make the programs feel more "social, casual and relaxing."

While programs are scheduled through Aug. 23, planning is underway to continue the series into the fall. Thompson's goal is to not only see the series continue but also to expand it as other interested parties get involved.

"My hope is that someone in the University might be able to partner with us and continue the tradition of university/community collaboration," Thompson said.

For more information or to register for an event, email Thompson at elizabeththompson1004@gmail.com or visit the Soul Biscuits Facebook page.