Rainy Day Brush-Off

422436_321160404599551_1464547533_nA program of the Water Quality Form, The Rainy Day Brush-Off was an artistic rain barrel program that operated between 2008-2012 and I had the opportunity to participate in between 2009-2012.  This program involved the efforts of representatives of the City of Knoxville, Knox County, Town of Farragut and the Water Quality Forum.  For the 2009 and 2010 events, in addition to helping facilitate the program, I also created two artistic rain barrels based on themes of repetition, symbiosis, and existentialism.

In 2012 Parci Gibson (Knox County), John Shubzda (City of Knoxville) and myself gave an internationally attended presentation titled “The Rainy Day Brush Off: Initiating a Successful Public Outreach Campaign” facilitated by the EPA.

1917972_1027552948745_7865791_nThe results of the Rainy Day Brush-Off Artistic Rain Barrel Competition included the distribution of over 2,500 rain barrels in the Knox County area while engaging local artists in the creation of over 115 unique artistic rain barrels.  At 55 gallons each, this resulted in an increase of an estimated 137,500 gallons of harvesting capacity in the community reducing runoff and improving water quality.

Poppy Seed

judeinprogress1After art school in 2005 I didn’t really draw for several years and, when I finally got back at it, it was in a way that emphasized simplicity and repetition over realism.  A decade later, in August of 2015, I had been working on a sculptural structure for about a year.  This skeleton of sorts was built from recycled consumer cardboard boxes built up from a piece of scrap plexiglass and then covered with a skin of paper which involves stacking layer after layer of newspaper using mod podge.  This process eventually creates a sturdy enough surface to draw on. I wasn’t really sure where I was going with the piece, but I liked the idea of revisiting my previous efforts to use reused materials in my work.  August was also the month that I came home to discover I would be a father.

judeinprogressThis realization inspired the direction I would proceed with my piece and prompted the addition of a womb-like focal element in the center of the piece encapsulating the avatar of my unborn child.   For the next 9 months I worked feverishly at finalizing the skin of the piece trying to get the color and gradient of the paper just right while beginning the most labor intensive part of the process, drawing the circles and the accompanying pointillism that create the overall sense of a biological/cellular space.

In my present cannon of creation, circles in a repetitive pattern serve to illustrate a sense of interconnectedness within the human ecology that we occupy throughout our physical experiences and perceptions.  Cells dividing, stars born through atomic fusion, birth, rings of a tree trunk, the human eye, all glimpses of a universal truth.  We come from one another and our existence and the fate of everything we know is interconnected.


The title, Poppy Seed, comes from the size of my son when I first saw him in an ultrasound photo.  He was a small circle with a second pulsing circle contained within it.  It was, and continues to be, one of the most amazing moments of clarity I have personally experienced.


Water Pollution is Hazardous to River Unicorns

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.

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