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image by Dov Gutterman, 9 November 2002
Waving a flag for 'greatest city in the world'submitted by Dov Gutterman, 31 December 2002
Area students create flags to symbolize a love for Athens and to welcome Cortona's mayor
By Mary Jessica Hammes
Each time University of Georgia art students arrive in Cortona, Italy -- and there have been more than 4,000 to do so since UGA's Studies Abroad Program was established there in 1969 -- they are treated to a show of flags. In the summer, the Cortonese hang flags throughout the city representing Cortona's five historic neighborhoods in a tradition that dates back to medieval times. And each year, the city holds a presentation by local flag throwers for arriving UGA students, creating a swirl of color in the air. It's a warm welcome from one city to another; Athens and Cortona have been official sister cities since 1978, a relationship declared by then-Athens mayor Upshaw Bentley.
When the mayor of Cortona, Dr. Emanuele Rachini, makes his first visit to Athens this month, Mayor Doc Eldridge will publicly welcome him on March 13, in the company of Athens' own kind of flag ceremony. ''A Flag for Athens'' is a collection of ceremonial flag designs made by 158 students in Clarke, Oconee, Oglethorpe, Madison and Jefferson counties, created in a contest for the most appropriate, albeit unofficial, flag for Athens. The designs are on display at the Lyndon House Arts Center through April 20 , along with historic flags lent from the Cortonese, and photographs of flags by Italian photographer Giorgio Lamentini.
Coordinator and local artist Susan Colangelo invited the students to ruminate upon the Bicentennial theme -- ''Respect for Our Past ... Hope For Our Future.'' She put them to work with a choice of only two to three colors (to keep it simple) and their imaginations. The winning design would be made into an actual flag. The results are touching, rendered in digital computer images, construction paper, and for those art classes which could not afford construction paper, in crayon. Just as inspiring are the artists' statements, describing the logic underlying their color choice and designs, and ultimately their feelings for Athens.
''One of the most moving things is these are five counties,'' Colangelo says. ''These kids don't all live in Clarke County, but they see Athens (with) ownership ... they're not talking about it like it's somebody else's place. It's their city.'' Carrie Gillespie, a student at Oglethorpe County High School, won the First Award. On her flag, a green field represents ''our city's wisdom, loyalty and hope for growth,'' she writes. A red horizontal line representing rational thought extends upward into an arrow, standing for unity and prosperity. Even headier, a moon symbolizing eternal life faces a green ring that represents the cycle of life, and a glorious yellow sign rises at the red horizon, meaning hope for the future, confidence, freedom and peace.
Other artist statements are filled with intricate details concerning the meaning of the flags. Lindsey Mason, a student at Madison County High School whose flag earned an honorable mention, includes the color green ''because it represents how the people of Athens have a great respect for wildlife and nature. Where else can you find a tree that owns itself.(sic)'' A burning red candle symbolizes the ''spiritual outlook the people of Athens hold dear'' on Coile Middle School student Jalisa Allen's flag, which won special recognition. Clarke Central High School student Unnati Patel's flag nods to his hometown of Gujarat, India. ''I have lived in Athens since 1999 with my family,'' Patel writes. ''I have made many friends in Athens. Friendship and the flower represents my feelings for this city. The petals in the flower represent the diverse groups of people living in the community ... the wavy lines in the flowers remind me of the rivers that flow through India as well as in Athens.''
Danny Ray Barnett, a student at Madison County High School, enthusiastically declares his love for Athens in his artist statement, writing, ''the laurel wreath represents the victory in being a wonderful city. Athens is the greatest city in the world!''
Rational thought, unity and eternal life are a few of the concepts expressed in Athens' new unofficial flag, designed by Carrie Gillespie, a student at Oglethorpe County High School. Her flag is part of the ''A Flag for Athens'' exhibit on display at the Lyndon House Arts Center.