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RG 30/262 - Athena Tacha (1936-    )

Athena Tacha was born on April 23, 1936 in Larissa, Greece, to Constantine Tacha, a neurologist, and Helen Malaki. During World War II, the Tacha family fled Larissa to escape the German Army. Upon returning to Larissa, the family suffered through the Greek Civil War (1943-49) and famine.

In 1954, Tacha graduated first in her class from the Girl’s Gymnasium in Larissa. She enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Athens and received a masters degree in sculpture in 1959. Tacha received a second masters degree in Art History from Oberlin College in 1961. Her graduate studies at Oberlin were supported by a Fullbright travel grant, and she studied under Professor Ellen Johnson (d. 1992), her mentor and lifelong friend. From Oberlin, Tacha entered the Sorbonne University in Paris where she received her Doctorate in aesthetics in 1963.

Upon completing her doctorate, Tacha began her career as Curator of Modern Art at the Allen Art Museum at Oberlin College in 1966. In 1969 she became a US citizen. Later, in 1973, Tacha resigned her position as curator to devote more time to her art and she became a professor of sculpture in the Department of Art. Aside from teaching Introductory and Intermediate Sculpture, Tacha also conducted classes in video, film and photography, as well as welding. During her time at Oberlin she served on several committees ranging from Honorary Degrees to Computer Committee.

Tacha’s interest in art started early, with her first drawing and sculpting skills apparent from the age of ten. During the 1970s Tacha won almost 50 competitions for permanent public art commissions, of which more than 30 have been executed around the United States. She received several national commissions and completed a number of solo shows.

Four books are devoted to Tacha’s artwork. They include, Athena Tacha: Public Sculpture (1982), Forms of Chaos: Drawings by Athena Tacha (1988), Cosmic Rhythms: Athena Tacha’s Public Sculpture (Ohio Artists Now, 1998), and Dancing in the Lanscape: The Sculpture of Athena Tacha (2000), and there are several illustrated catalogs of her exhibitions in New York.

Athena Tacha met and married Richard Spear in 1965, who a year earlier had come to Oberlin to teach Baroque Art History in the Department of Art. He also served as the director of the Allen Memorial Art Museum, 1972-83.

In 1990, the College of Wooster presented her with an honorary doctorate of fine arts.

Since 1998 she has served as an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland, College Park and lives in Washington, D.C. In 2001, she received a commission from the American Airlines Center to do sculpture as a part of a new sports arena in Dallas, Texas. These were pavement and fountain designs for the south entrance plaza. Subsequent commissions for Tacha included work on a plaza and walkway designs for the “Wisconsin Place” development in Bethesda, Maryland; a walkway near Strathmore Concert Hall in Rockville, Maryland; and, a plaza for the Washington Metro Morgan Station in Prince George County, Maryland.

Sources Consulted

Faculty file of Athena Tacha, Oberlin College Archives (RG 28/3); biographical file in the Athena Tacha Papers.

A list of Athena Tacha’s commissions, exhibitions, and institutions holding Tacha’s work is located in the biographical file in Subgroup I.

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