The history of the Athens Centre is a story of many different people who interacted to create a series of activities, events and happenings in Greece and abroad, generating a synergy that resulted in unique moments in their lives. Moments of creativity, of learning, moments of confrontation and change resulted in an awareness of Greece and things Greek, an awakening of the senses beyond themselves, of ideas that motivated them to do more, learn more and become part of a universal cultural milieu that seeks without seeking.
It is a history about people: students, artists, musicians, professors, poets and people who worked for the joy of ‘making music’ outside the mainstream of educational and cultural programming. It is a history of special ‘moments’: Buckminster Fuller doing his special seaman’s dance on an island ferry in the sunset, or performing Antigone on the Greek Yugoslavian border in the dead of winter, using the 3rd Greek Army brigade as a chorus. It is the moment of walking into the Athens Centre courtyard with its elegant statues, earthenware pots, greenery and plants and feeling that you have come home. It is the story of opening the minds of hundreds of students of all ages to the contributions of Greece to the development of so many aspects of western civilization.
The activities of the Centre stretched beyond Greece, to an opera festival in Barga Italy, a concert of Madrigal singers at the Leighton house in London, and events with the De Marco gallery in Edinburgh. It was bringing Greek theatre, music and art to Antwerp, Madrid, Copenhagen and Luxemburg as part of the Cultural Capitals of Europe infrastructure. It was sculpting marble on Naxos, painting on Spetses, theatre performances in the stone amphitheatre overlooking the Aegean Sea. .It was early morning poetry readings at the Centre, the excitement of new students arriving, the sadness to see them go.
It is a history of a protean organization which not only created events and academic programs, but in the process changed and evolved itself. It is history of space and time. The importance of where one was without regard for time. The Centre has people as its focus, an infrastructure that encourages innovational activities, an aesthetic presence and a future that will be guided by inspiring people.
The Athens Centre has been bringing talented poets, artists, scholars, writers, and performers to Greece from the time of its founding. Internationally known figures such as W.H. Auden, R. Buckminster Fuller, Irving Stone and others have visited and lectured here. Members of the Julliard String Quartet and the Metropolitan Opera have spent summers at the Centre giving concerts and musical evenings under the stars. American poet James Merrill gave his last reading at the Centre, and Beat poets Gregory Corso and Alan Ansen were poets in residence. The Centre has organized sculpture workshops on Naxos, Art workshops in Aegina, Spetses and Athens, and poetry workshops in Athens and the islands. Other programs in Turkey, Egypt, Madrid, Antwerp, Copenhagen, Luxembourg and Lisbon have been organized within the framework of the «The Cultural Capitals of Europe». Cultural events have taken place in cooperation with numerous embassies in Athens, including the American, Irish, Chinese, Argentinian, French, and other foreign missions.
The co-director of the Centre, Yannis Zervos, has served as cultural advisor to the American Embassy, was on the Board of Directors of the Cultural Centre of the City of Athens, was on the Board of Directors of the Fulbright Foundation in Greece, has served on the Board of The Partisan Review and has advised cultural organizations in the United States, Edinburgh, Helsinki and Cyprus. In June 2003 he was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters by The American College of Greece for his work in cultural activities and education over the last thirty years.
Mr. Zervos has lectured to many government and private organizations. He writes articles on Greece and things Greek for Athens newspapers and publications. He was the publisher of Omphalos, a literary review, and has been involved with a project for the European Union on Cultural Tourism in the framework of the Leonardo Program.
The co-director and program administrator, Rosemary Donnelly, has been involved in overseas educational programs for over 30 years. She maintains regular contact with American universities and colleges, formulates and administers the semester and other study abroad programs, and initiates new programs and affiliations. She attends international studies conferences in the U.S. to keep in touch with new ideas and links in studies abroad, and is active in several cultural and international organizations in Greece. She was the editor of the English newspaper Athens News in the past, and has written travel articles for several publications.
Over the years the Centre has cooperated with many distinguished organizations, including foreign embassies in Athens, more than 20 affiliated universities, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and others. The Centre has also coordinated programs with the Fulbright Foundation in Greece, including the Fulbright-Hays Program and the Iowa Writers Workshop on Paros, the Cultural Centre of the Municipality of Athens and the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sciences.
The Centre plays a unique role in Athens as an educational institution. Its programs emphasize quality instruction in an environment conducive to learning. Individual attention is given to all participants. The Centre’s classes are an enjoyable experience, and provide an introduction to life and culture in Greece as well as to the subject being taught. Instructors all love teaching, and are very aware of each and every student’s needs. Being at the Centre one feels in touch with some of the best elements that Greece has to offer.
The Centre’s main facility in Mets is a neo-classical building, listed by the Greek Ministry of Culture as a protected historical building, and is surrounded by a courtyard of greenery, statues, clay pots and pieces of marble. Additional buildings include a computer centre, other classroom facilities, and a kitchen area, where complementary tea and coffee is served.
The Athens Centre’s modern Greek language program enrolls about 400 participants each year. The program includes courses from beginners to advanced levels. Athens Centre productions of ancient Greek drama have enabled American actors, students and other professionals to perform classical plays on-site in ancient and modern amphitheaters in Athens, Spetses, Argos, Aegina and other places. University-affiliated programs of Greek Studies bring more than 250 students to the Centre each year for Semesters in Greece, and other types of programs.