By Brittini Ray
Preparing to celebrate its first birthday in 2014, My Athens continues to incorporate its community-focused message in its upcoming projects.
“I have recognized some of the places I’ve seen on My Athens and it made me see Athens in a different light,” LeLoni Smith, a University of Georgia (UGA) student and My Athens Instagram follower, said.
As a UGA graduate, My Athens founder, Greg Gilbert, wanted to create a movement that commemorated the Classic City.
“My wife and I both graduated from UGA,” Gilbert said. “We loved the school. We loved the town. We loved coming back. The creativity, the food, the environment, the culture; we just wanted to try to do whatever we could do and use this cool format to show off the city.”
The movement launched Jan. 12, 2013 on Instagram. Since its birth, My Athens has branched out into other platforms including its annual 16-day gallery show. Held at BottleWorks, the show features 120 of the best works selected from over 4,000 submissions. Profits made from the sale of gallery works benefitted the Athens Area Habitat for Humanity.
“We also wanted to bring people together,” Gilbert said. “We did that by using social media to bring people together at a live event at the My Athens gallery. They were all pictures of Athens. We also used the atmosphere of the space at Bottleworks off Prince Avenue. [Bottleworks] wound up being a cool place because I think Prince Ave corridor represents a lot of what’s important to know about Athens.”
My Athens collaborated with local businesses and musicians to host the gallery show. After the gallery, My Athens began focusing on its citizen-driven Instagram account, encouraging locals to participate in the movement by using the hashtag, #my_athens. My Athens Instagram features photos submitted from its 1,540 Instagram followers.
“I think My Athens is a great example of a city effectively using social media,” said Allison Morrow, a UGA student and My Athens Instagram follower. “It helps form a sense of community because everyone can contribute to My Athens photos. I know as an Instagram user and avid photographer, I hope my pictures will be seen by My Athens.”
Gilbert hopes to increase community involvement in My Athens in the coming year.
“What happened was I wanted to celebrate a city I thought I knew and what I learned pretty quickly was that I didn’t know Athens as well as I thought and that is what is really cool about the social media aspect,” Gilbert said.