Category: community

One Year of COVID-19

The class of 2020 sit on Chamberlain field for their socially distanced graduation. Photo by Billy Weeks

Campus is beginning to look the way it did before COVID-19 pushed students, faculty, and staff to return home and begin learning and teaching classes online. The students of Rising Rock Media were tasked with a project for UTC’s Student Government Association: A Year of COVID-19. The class was split into three groups and covered the past, the future, and a general overview of life in the pandemic. Our hope is that this series helps our friends, classmates, and teachers to feel stronger about the challenges that we overcame together, and provide a light into an unknown, but brighter future.

The Future of COVID-19

Written by Chandler Elkins

The future generations that are currently being impacted by COVID-19 share their thoughts on the pandemic. Video by Jerrod Niles

Over the past year, educators and students alike have faced unprecedented changes in how they go about their education. No one has been able to keep Coronavirus out of their mind over the past few months, but when the next generation thinks about the future, they’re more worried about doing times tables than getting sick.

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Reflecting on The New Normal

Written by Meagan Alford

The world is now over a year out from the devastation of COVID-19, the novel Coronavirus that swept through the Earth in 2020, touching and changing every hemisphere. Though we are moving and looking on to a newer normal, our world is still recovering from the ways that COVID-19 has impacted our lives, and there is an opportunity to reflect, and to begin to make sense of the chaos around us, and how students have found new ways to cope.  

From virtual graduations to missed concerts and weddings, there is no person left untouched by COVID-19 a year later. Video by Nessa Parrish
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Making Meaning Out of Struggle

Written by Elise Steele

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the city has seen drastic changes in protocol and culture, but the light is at the end of the tunnel as vaccines and routine testing have rolled into the community. Video by Logan Stapleton
Photo by Stephanie Swart

One at a time, students roll up their sleeves and take a deep breath to receive their COVID-19 vaccination shot from the UTC Health Department, a process most of the community found inconceivable a year ago when the University first shut down for the pandemic.

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More Than Grades, A Student Teacher’s Relationship With Her Students

Story by Meagan Alford

Kalani Cannon’s refrigerator at her home is adorned in several drawings, doodles, and notes from her students at Soddy Daisy middle school. It’s called “Miss Kalani’s Fridge of Fame.” One amongst several students whose artwork is on display drew a rainbow with them and Miss Kalani standing underneath. To its left is a mermaid with blue hair, little hands that have been made into a camel and a dinosaur, and a note that reads, “Miss Kalani is fun, kind, helpful, cool, sweet, loving, outgoing, weird, funny, crazy, awesome, amazing, and kid-friendly.” 

Kalani Cannon shares details about maintaining the balance between being a college student and a student teacher. Video by Nessa Parrish.

Cannon is twenty-one years old. She’s an artist, sitting in front of a colorful backdrop that she created herself in her basement. She’s a skateboarder, kicking her Vans back and forth underneath her seat. And now, she is in the second phase of her residency as a full-time student teacher for sixth-grade science at Soddy Daisy middle school.

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Area 61: Hosting Local Art, Exclusively

Written by Ben Greenwell

Keeli Crewe, director of Chattanooga’s art gallery, Area 61, discusses how her business has helped keep downtown locally oriented. Her gallery helps give local artists a platform to share their work. With the recent lack of foot traffic and increase in rent prices, Crewe discusses how Area 61 continues to fight for local culture.

As soon as you set foot through the door, one’s senses are tested with a wild, colorful array of paintings and sculptures. After a few seconds, the soft jazz starts to reach your ears and by this time, Keeli Crewe, gallery director at Area 61 is probably excitedly showing you her new favorite piece.

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Ordinary Heroes of Chattanooga

Written by Meagan Alford

Video by Nessa Parrish and Dewayne Bingham

We are Rising Rock Media, a dedicated and curious team of multi media content creators, journalists, audio engineers, and photographers. We have found that when we listen and look towards our community, that there is a seemingly never ending spring of stories, unique experiences, and important people who call Chattanooga home. We have collected and compiled a series of stories throughout the semester that remind us that we need one another. To learn from one another, to feel seen and represented by one another. Heroes. Those that we look to in times of grief and uncertainty to laugh with, be inspired and supported by. The year is coming to a close, and the devastation that 2020 has held causes us to peer inward, and pour outward toward our community — towards artists, dancers, local business owners, and creators of the like. One thing is for certain — people are fascinating, and these stories, we hope, will fascinate you too. Please enjoy these stories as we explore the heroes of our beautiful home, Chattanooga. 

Click the story buttons in the next section of this page to learn about the hometown heroes that you may not know about.

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Divine Comedy

Written by Sierra Wolfenbarger

Photo by Donnie Marsh

The Ancient Greek comedians Aristophanes and Plautus were known for their focus on satire and farce. In modern times, comedians have developed into a budding community of satirists and artists of the laugh. Of those in the Chattanooga community, Elijah Craan is the comedian’s comedian. 

Craan’s attention to detail and affinity for satire began in early 2014, when he did a stint of three comedy open mic nights at an eccentric laundromat in San Francisco, CA. He says, “I bombed. I knew I always wanted to do something creative, but I never had the discipline to learn an instrument or how to draw. But, as soon as I tried comedy, even though I bombed, I loved it. Since then, my comedy has evolved into what it is now.”

Even though his jokes had a rocky beginning on stage, his style now has developed into a myriad of poetically structured misdirection and sarcastic “it’s funny, but…” material. As his material covers many topics he touches on like politics, racism, and popular culture; his best work comes in talking about the absurdity of everyday life in the modern world.

What makes Craan different from the rest, though, would have to be the response his jokes have on the other comedians within the Chattanooga community. As the audience roars with cackling and screams of affirmation at open mics at locally owned businesses like JJ’s Bohemia, it is easy to understand how much the community admires him. These mics, mind you, are populated almost entirely by fellow comedians — the hardest crowd to impress.

Craan says, “I have a whole bit solely focused on elevator brands that I did for the first time recently. I do a bit of crowd work and ask ‘which is better, Otis or Thyssenkrupp?’ and if they say ‘Otis’ I tell them they’re wrong. This community of comedians has always had a great response to me. Even in more mainstream venues like the Comedy Catch, they often have more southern crowds and I get a good response from them as well.”

So, of all the comedians in Chattanooga who are also hilarious, why is Craan the hero featured in this segment? Because, he is a comedian who hones his craft while also reaching audiences and breaking social boundaries for comedians and those who need to laugh. In a time like this, someone who can do this is a hero. 

To laugh some more, follow @ElijahCraan on Twitter.

An interview between Sierra Wolfenbarger and Elijah Craan. (Audio by Sierra Wolfenbarger)

Heroes of Oddstory

Story by Kelley Kindle

Bryan Boyd, owner of Oddstory Brewing Company, stands in what has become his creation. Boyd and his son, Jay Boyd, created Oddstory as a brewery meant to be a place of comfort. (Photo by Kelley Kindle)

On the corner of Martin Luther King Blvd. and Foster St. is a brewery that feels like a home-away-from-home to many Chattanooga locals. Oddstory Brewing Company opened its door to the city of Chattanooga after a son sparked up an idea to his father while drinking a beer.

Photo by Kelley Kindle.

Jay Boyd, co-owner of Oddstory, graduated from Covenant college and was determined on opening up a brewery.  He then went on to work for four different breweries, and also went to a brewing school up in Vermont.  After three years, his father Bryan Boyd, owner of Oddstory, felt like they were in a good place to open Oddstory Brewing Company.

“We started with six taps when we opened, and we now have 18 taps,” says Bryan. Oddstory is growing more and more with their variety of beers as the years progress. 

Along with having an array of different brews, Bryan mentions that they intentionally made the brewery an environment for people to feel comfortable in. “We wanted to create an atmosphere where people talk,” says Bryan. “We kind of always felt like beer and talking went together, opposed to beer and isolation.”

In a place that encourages the comfort of having conversations with your friends and family, along with enjoying a beer that is unique, Oddstory has become a place that many have grown fond of. 

“What Oddstory means to me is the ability to create this environment where family—my actual family is real important—but also I think we created an environment where at least our employees, and some of our customers, they feel like family,” says Bryan.

Oddstory not only started with family but grew the family with the Chattanooga community.

An interview with Bryan Boyd, owner of Oddstory Brewing Company, and Kelley Kindle. (Audio by Kelley Kindle)
Photo by Kelley Kindle

Empowerment Through Movement

Written by: Mckenzie Carver

Sarah Yvonne displays her pointe shoes while practicing different ballet techniques at the bar.  Yvonne is the director of Ballet Esprit that is housed at The Spot Venue in downtown Chattanooga, TN. (Photo by Kelley Kindle)

“The revelation that exists within art is, to tell the truth. You have to be able to be expressive, to be able to project but also to be vulnerable. Good artists can’t be cagey and have walls up. Being vulnerable is the revolutionary heart of every art form, says Melissa.” 

   Melissa Miller is a professional dancer, choreographer, and teacher at the dance studio located in Chattanooga Tennessee named “Ballet Esprit”. Growing up, Miller played soccer for some time, however, women do not have their own soccer league in Europe. That is when she decided to partake in something that women could have as their own, so she became a dancer at the age of 11. Miller danced all through middle and high school and traveled back to the states to earn her degree in dancing. She then moved to New York where she danced professionally for 5 years. After having her daughter, she came to the south where her husband’s family is from, thus landing her at Ballet Esprit. 

  “I grew up in a very artistic family.., so I always knew that my path would be in arts in some way,” says Miller.  “ I think the reason I connect the most with dance is that it is an all-encompassing experience; it takes your mind, spirit, and body. It is also a relational experience, it requires an ability to project and communicate with people,” says Melissa.  Miller says, “ I try less to share a message, but to ask a question, as honestly, humbly and with as much humanity as I can.”

Melissa Miller and Sarah Yvonne stand proudly side by side each other. Miller and Yvonne’s passion for dance has inspired them to express their art to the world through Ballet Esprit. (Photo by Kelley Kindle)

                History reveals that dance has always been a form of protest. “Dance is the only form of art that is directly tied to our bodies and physicality. This is important because as women, we can protest with our bodies against the social norms of how we are supposed to move and how our bodies are supposed to look,” says Miller.  The studio Ballet Espirit’s, next appearance will be The ALTER- Nut, their annual winter benefit. All proceeds go to their “ Hold Our Space SPOT Venue Covid-19 relief campaign”. The event will be held on December 5, 2020, at 5:30 P.M. at Lookout Lake, 3408 Elder Mt. Rd.

Decorated, pastel ballet costumes hang along ballet bars at Ballet Esprit. These costumes are waiting to be showcased in the company’s annual winter benefit called The ALTER-Nut. (Photo by Kelley Kindle)
Audio by Mckenzie Carver
Poster by Kelley Kindle