Editor’s Note: This article uses the pseudonym ‘Bill Johnson’ in place of the CUS founder’s actual name in order to maintain anonymity.
Written By Sarah Chesek
Anonymous. Urgent. Civic Action. Under no authority but their own citizenship, the Chattanooga Urbanist Society dropped off “illegal” benches and repaired bridge guardrails. Tired of watching the city’s infrastructure go unaddressed, the founder of CUS realized the cost of inaction—someone possibly falling–—was far worse than possibly being caught.
“Chattanooga Urbanist Society is a group that exists to take direct action to protect and uphold the rights of pedestrians, cyclists, and make the public realm a better place to experience in Chattanooga,” stated Bill Johnson, founder of Chattanooga Urbanist Society.
It’s estimated that over 2 million people visit caves annually in the United States. Brandon Powers is one of them, having been an avid caver for over two decades. He has been working with Chattanooga Hamilton County Rescue Services since 2016 and now holds the rank of captain.
“Caving, in general, is a sport that I feel like a lot of people don’t have a tremendous amount of information about, and you can find yourself way over your head real quick,” says Captain Powers.
From gardening in prison with Martha Stewart to inspiring women in recovery, Kelli Webber has lived many lives throughout her battle with addiction and substance abuse. Webber has taken her painful past as a former alcoholic and drug user and channeled it into a powerful tool to help others.
Like many others, Brayden Guerrette and his older sister Sydney have had their fair share of their mental health struggles since they were young. Back in their hometown of Portland, Maine, during a very intimate exchange on their kitchen floor, Brayden Guerrette finally opened up to his parents and older sister about his dealings with depression.
“We were just sitting there and he was just in tears, and as someone who is watching a family member and someone that they love go through something like that, it’s always very difficult because you don’t know what to do most of the time,” Sydney says. “All you can really do is be there for them continually.”
After this exchange, the Guerrette family took a leap of faith for the sake of their family’s mental health and sold their house, bought an RV and started their journey across the country in hopes of a healthy, fresh start.
The Union Gospel Mission through its GRACE Discipleship Program works to help men dealing with life-controlling issues. Program graduate and current volunteer, Dan Johnson, goes into the importance of the program itself, the people who come to Union Gospel Mission for help, how faith intersects with the work done, and why he stays there.
Seth Carpenter is a photojournalist as well as the current Photo Editor of UT Chattanooga’s student-run newspaper, the University Echo. Recently, he told the story of how a nurse and her family have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. He hopes the stories he tells will make a difference in the lives of people around him. You can contact him at Sethcarpenter101@gmail.com.
In 2017 green|spaces Chattanooga started a hands-on program to encourage STEM learning in Hamilton County students through designing and building race cars. The Chattanooga Green Prix, this year held at the Bend in downtown Chattanooga, allowed hundreds of students from 40+ schools to put their full-sized, functioning electric power race cars to the test.
Across the greater Chattanooga area lies fertile soil which farmers nurture to cultivate life. Their soil is the vehicle to meet many beyond their own sphere — even the art world.
Local Chattanooga artist Amanda Brazier has been painting solely with pigments pulled from soil for the past 14 years. Holly Martin, owner of Gaining Grounds Grocery saw the potential to connect Brazier’s unique art medium with her mission to create a sustainable grocery alternative for Chattanooga’s food desert.
As soon as it was proposed to Brazier, she had an immediate and organic idea. “When [Martin] approached me about the idea of a mural connecting all these ideas, I mean it just came to me immediately.”
Brazier knew she could take the soil from Chattanooga farmers and create a beautiful mural for the grocery store.
The idea was to create a mural that is made of pigments from local sources as well as farms that provide inventory to Gaining Grounds Grocery. Then began the rush to gather soil from Chattanooga farmers, community gardens and other local means. Brazier and Martin gathered a list of over 10 farms that supply the store with their produce and took to the fields to gather soil.
Brazier interviewed the farmers about the history of the lands they work and what connects them to the soil under their fingernails.
“It’s a life blood. Without the soil and beautiful greenery and forage it provides, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do,” explains Mack Haynes of the Ocoee Creamery, one of the many farms Brazier visited.
Creating the paint for the mural was one of the toughest parts of the process. Brazier usually creates her paint to be water based, but needed to change her medium to fit the project. To create a durable and long-lasting mural, she chose to use acrylic paint.
“I’ve learned from this experience and most of what I’ve learned is that making acrylic paint from these soil pigments is tricky. Every dirt is different and requires lots of time to understand how much of each [ingredient] is required.”
To engage the community in this process, the first day of painting began with a community paint day at Gaining Grounds Grocery store. Many members of the local area joined and got the base layers on the mural laid down, but it left Brazierwith plenty of work to finish up in her studio. Luckily, she has two assistants and two bright-eyed sons to lend a hand.
With the mural finished, the final piece was revealed at Gaining Grounds Grocery. A reveal party was held at the Saint Andrews church where the grocery is located. Garnished with vegan foods and local dirt experts, the event was lively with new faces and like minded individuals.
The two-piece mural project hangs currently in the entrance hall of Gaining Grounds Grocery and inside the store itself. Alongside the mural is a key that associates each paint color with the location of the dirt that created that pigment.
The goal of The Field Below project was to connect the community with the local farmers that supply the grocery with produce. At the unveiling, community members, Brazier and the people who bring Gaining Grounds Grocery’s mission to life mingled and gathered to share a meal.
This artistic rendition of the connection between community, agriculture, and food reignites the appreciation of the substance we all walk upon.
Jerod Niles is a multimedia producer who specializes in camera operation and post-production. Niles has over 5 years of experience in media production and is always looking towards the future. He is currently working on multiple freelance jobs as well as a media internship for Wanderlinger Brewery. You can find more of his work as well as contact information on his portfolio here: https://www.jerrodniles.com/
In the heart of Chattanooga, one man strives to create a safe and united community through spreading kindness, one yard at a time.
Fred Holland is a Chattanooga native who is known and loved by many in his neighborhood for always lending a helping hand. On any given day, you can expect to find Fred somewhere on Flynn Street or East 8th Street mowing his neighbors’ lawns free of charge, chatting with community members or volunteering at the Salvation Army. No matter what, Fred always boasts a smile on his face and love in his heart.