Water Pollution is Hazardous to River Unicorns

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In 2012 the Corporation for National and Community Service held a photo and video competition to celebrate AmeriCorps Week with the theme ‘AmeriCorps Works.’  The rules were simple.  For the photo competition, submissions had to include the AmeriCorps logo and have a tagline that told the story of the image.  Then Between March 10th and July 15th, 2012, accepted submissions would vie for cash prizes based on who could leverage the most votes on their submission.

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431087_2479435764908_100188251_nThis seemed like a great opportunity to combine my enthusiasm for Photoshop and  the penchant for whimsy of my current CAC AmeriCorps member, Joshua Cunningham.  With the support of Stormwater Matters intern, Jessica Davis, we spent a bit of time on Turkey Creek in the Town of Farragut near a water accessible historical mill wall.  Wearing our waders and armed with a unicorn head mask and “Trash Ball” Christmas Ornament from Trash Collective Artist, Katie Walberg, we played around a bit with perspective and Josh standing in front of some pretty aggressively flowing currents while we got the imagery just right.  Then I fiddled with the composition which eventually yielded an image that would come to be title “Water Pollution is Hazardous to River Unicorns.”  The value argument that would accompany it in the competition would read:

Taking a dive into the whimsical, this image was created during AmeriCorps week as a PR piece noting AmeriCorps’ effort’s in our local water quality program and promoting several stream cleanup programs. The narrative that accompanied this image was as follows:

“Water Pollution is Hazardous to River Unicorn’s as well as fish, birds and people. AmeriCorps plays a vital role in keeping our streams, rivers and lakes clean here in Farragut and across the United States.

For opportunities for Stream Cleanups in the Town of Farragut, please contact Josh at americorps@townoffarragut.org. River Rescue is coming up in the near future and our Adopt-A-Stream program is always looking for citizens interested in protecting our local water resources.”

Not necessarily the most obvious image to represent AmeriCorps as a whole, but certainly a whimsical way to interpret a local environmental issue and draw attention to AmeriCorps’ role in addressing it.

In the circumstance that prize money is awarded for this image, it will go towards implementing an on-the-ground water quality project in the Town of Farragut, TN to be coordinated by our AmeriCorps Service member at that time.

Fun fact, the competition ended up leveraging the vote and commentary of celebrity Jerry Seltzer, also known as “The Commissioner”, the second and final owner of the original Roller Derby League (the first was Jerry’s father, Leo Seltzer), a league once broadcast on 120 television stations in the US and Canada.  His take on the piece?

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206255_10151248359943973_1119643887_nIn addition, by engaging a national network, we were able to leverage another 2.7 or so thousand votes resulting in 1st place win out of 256 entries and $2,000 that went to a project at Hardin Valley Academy to lay the groundwork for an Outdoor Classroom Space on their campus.   This has become one of my favorite examples of how a creative concept can be leveraged to draw attention to a meaningful issue and create a tangible impact in the community we live in.

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Thank you to Roy Arthur for this photo from the Hardin Valley event.