‘Ever-evolving’ Techno Speakeasy promotes community, art and activism | Arts & Culture


A colorful palette of identities surrounds each vendor stationed at Our Hope Metropolitan Community Church on Tracy Street on Saturday, January 29.

Baked challah sits on a colorful tablecloth, hand-printed shirts hang on a rack, earrings made from every object imaginable are displayed, bright paintings and busy scribbles of drawings are arranged in large piles.

Tables filled with books and informational posters about the Party for Socialism and Liberation are set up – a buzz of voices echoes throughout the event.

It’s the sound of old friends seeing each other for the first time in a long time, or new friends meeting for the first time. It’s the sound of artists admiring the work of others. It is a collective of creatives and agents of change. This is Techno Speakeasy Athens.

Techno Speakeasy Athens is hosting a pop-up featuring several local vendors at Love Craft in Athens, GA on Saturday, January 29, 2022. (Photo/Jessica Gratigny; @jgratphoto)

Change starts with a conversation

Techno Speakeasy Athens was started in August 2021 by a group of University of Georgia students, alumni, and Athens locals.

“The idea developed like a conversation after a series of parties,” said Zeina Khalife, TSA co-founder and young advertising expert. “We all felt very frustrated with the Athens nightlife scene.”

This frustration was centered on the fact that the music played in the bars was mostly top songs and that Athens nightlife venues claimed to be a safe space for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ people being “fronts”, according to Caliph.

“We are genuine people,” Khalife said. “We really want people to feel accepted in a party space.”

“‘Why don’t we step in and start curating these spaces for the people we care about?'” TSA co-founder and UGA alumnus Carson Barnes asked shortly. time before creating the new space.

The TSA hopes to change conventional systems in which some feel confined, to shake up the music, fashion and arts scene and bring about social change in a “melting pot of ideals and values”, according to Khalife.

The Jan. 29 rave and vendor fair was the third of its kind since the TSA began. From 1 to 5 p.m., local vendors sold everything from DIY jewelry to photo frames. This was followed by a rave which started at 9 p.m. with Barnes as the DJ.

“It’s just that feeling of having the beat on your face,” said TSA co-founder and UGA alumnus JD Hyers. you. It forces you to move. …This kind of music speaks to everyone and does not discriminate.

“[Techno Speakeasy is] take from the people in power who have inherited power and accumulated it, and distribute it in the community,” Khalife said. “I always try to speak on behalf of the people whose voice is being stolen – I think it starts at the community level.”


Zeina Khalife and JD Hyers pose for a photo. Techno Speakeasy Athens hosted a pop-up featuring several local vendors at Love Craft in Athens, GA on Saturday, January 29, 2022. (Photo/Jessica Gratigny; @jgratphoto)

Creative community

While TSA events usually only take a few weeks to plan, the organization tends to reach out to potential vendors at least a month in advance that they find through social media or friends.

But quite often, sellers find their way to Techno Speakeasy on their own. “Creatives find creatives,” Khalife said.

Among the vendors was Athens-born and raised Marianne Mitchell, a student and artist at Kennesaw State University, who displayed a dazzling array of paintings and prints.


Mari Mitchell poses for a photo with her artwork. Techno Speakeasy Athens hosted a pop-up featuring several local vendors at Love Craft in Athens, GA on Saturday, January 29, 2022. (Photo/Jessica Gratigny; @jgratphoto)

Mitchell started painting when she tore her ACL three years ago while skiing. Then she realized she could be part of a vibrant community of artists.

“[TSA] is a really nice space to have so many different people to meet and be a part of their lives in a way that isn’t “oh they climbed that mountain” or “they went on vacation”. Instead, it’s like ‘oh, they’re spending this time in their bedrooms and in their personal spaces creating these things that mean way more to them than vacations or hanging out with friends,'” said Mitchell.

To look forward

The TSA plans to host many more events in the future. The next vendor fair and rave will take place at the Cine on February 26.

“TSA’s main goal is not to fixate on one thing and we are always thinking of new ideas…We are constantly changing and transforming,” Hyers said. The TSA wants to make sure they stay true to their core beliefs and that the community holds them accountable.

The TSA may be a new element in the Athens community, but its mission and goal to bring about change already creates an undeniable sense of togetherness.

“There was a common itch. And we bought a back scratcher,” Barnes said.


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