Category: Environment

Best Foot Forward

By David Whalen

Ronnie Dickson changes his prosthetic before a climb in Alabama. Friday, March 5, 2021 (Photo by Dave Whalen)

Ronnie Dickson was diagnosed with Trevor’s Disease at age five. This rare congenital bone disease stunted the growth in his left leg and caused intense discomfort that led him , at the age of 17, to opt for total limb removal. 

Two years after his above-the-knee amputation, Dickson found comfort and interest in the sport of climbing and took to the vertical world where legs weren’t always necessary.

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The Untold Story of Native American Activism in Chattanooga

By Virginia Campbell

Tom Kunesh stands on the Chickamauga Mound. Saturday, November 13, 2021 (Photo by Virginia Campbell)

What was once a thriving advocacy group for Native American preservation work in Chattanooga has slowly fizzled over time, but it’s cause still stands. The Chattanooga Intertribal Association (CITA) has existed for twenty years, and Tom Kunesh, the former Public Relations Chairman, tries to maintain the spirit of their work to this day.

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Green Racers

Written By Maggie Weaver

Hamilton County schools race their electric cars in the Chattanooga Green Prix. The race put on by Green Spaces Chattanooga was a part of a STEM learning project for over 40 schools in the Chattanooga area. Saturday, November 20, 2021. Photo by Maggie Weaver.

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.

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The Field Below

Written by Jerrod Niles

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.

Jars of Amanda Brazier’s homemade paint sit and settle at her studio. Saturday, September 11, 2021(Photo by Jerrod Niles)

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.

Amanda Brazier creates paint from dirt for her next mural. Saturday, September 11, 2021 (Photo by Jerrod Niles)

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/

Mama’s Llamas

Written by Madison Van Horn

Maryann Marsh, owner of TMMA Farms located in Trion, Georgia enjoys a moment with her llama, Shaggy. September 14, 2021. (Photo by Maggie Weaver)

What do 75 abandoned chihuahuas and a blind alpaca have in common? They have each been rescued and cared for by Maryann Marsh, owner of TMMA Farms and Sanctuary.

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Birdwatching in Chattanooga

Written by Elise Steele

Members of the Chattanooga Ornithological Society pause along a trail to spot a bird in the distance. Photo by Elise Steele

A small cluster of binoculars and pointed fingers aim excitedly toward a skyline of trees on the Reflection Riding nature walk as members of Chattanooga’s Ornithological Society search for a cawing American Crow.

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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.

Sustainable Fashion: Flip It & Reverse It

Story by Stephanie Swart

Written by Elise Steele

Video by Stephanie Swart

Aisy Nix, sophomore at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, operates a personal business, reworking thrifted and vintage clothes. Nix creates colorfully patched, embroidered, and acid-washed masterpieces out of the “tired” clothing someone else decided to ditch. 

Aisy Nix browses the clothing racks at America’s Thrift in Chattanooga, TN. Nix, a sophomore at UTC, buys second-hand clothing for her small business, A.Z. Thrift, in an effort to combat fast fashion through creating unique pieces out of pre-owned clothing. Photo by Stephanie Swart

Her mission is to offer a sustainable clothing option for people in her community.

“Fast fashion [in larger clothing corporations], utilizes child labor without taking into consideration the environmental impacts,” says Nix.

Nix started selling acid-wash reworks in the summer of 2019. Thanks to self-taught sewing lessons, her success and creative progress has grown significantly since. 

Throughout her business and creative endeavors, Nix has learned, “the more chances you take, the more likely there’s going to be a positive outcome.”

Check out Nix’s work and business profile on Instagram, @a.z.thrift.

A Rising Rock Production

Stephanie Swart

Stephanie Swart is a Senior Innovations in Honors student pursuing a BFA degree in Photography & Media Art, with a double minor in Art History and Communication at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She is the Photo Editor for UTC’s newspaper, University Echo, and the Managing Editor of UReCA: The NCHC Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity. Swart is a storyteller and truth seeker, and she plans to continue these pursuits beyond her time at college.

Brian’s Buzz-worthy Bees

Written by Meagan Alford

Story by Jenna Yates

Multi-media produced, shot, and voiced by Jenna Yates

Jenna Yates brings a heart-warming story of a man who is working to help hives of bees along in their journey, to help them thrive and give them a home. His name is Brian Workman, and he says that bees are very important. He says, “one of every three bites you take is made possible by the bees,” as they pollinate 80% of the world’s crops and plants. Workman prides his work in being a helping hand to these bees to do what they were put on earth to do, which is to protect the hive, feed the hive, and make honey for the hive. He sees them through times when food is scarce, and gives them medicine when they need it. One summer, Workman took care of 30 hives that have roughly 50-60,000 bees per hive. As numbers decrease through the fall and winter, he patiently and steadfastly sees them through next spring, while the bees slowly triple their numbers in size. He says, “If we did not have them, life would be completely different as we see it today.” 

Produced by Rising Rock Media

Thrifting Mom

Liz Holliday, owner of the Thrifting Mom poses with packages she is going to send out to customers. (Photo By Kelly Kindle)

Liz Holliday, the owner of “Thrifting Mom”, is not a mother, but she will wear and sell your mother’s clothes. “It’s your mom’s clothes. I sell clothes that your mom probably used to wear,” says Liz. Liz has had a passion for thrifting ever since high school and since then has developed her passion into a business. “ I ship nationwide, and most of my customers are regulars who always come back”, Liz says. Liz’s account has a current following of 1,542 and her items are sold within minutes of being posted. The process of making posts for her thrifty finds is simple; having her models rep her latest finds stand in front of a linen bed sheet hung by two paperclips.  Liz gathers clothes from local thrift shops as well as from shops all over that are not the average Goodwill.

Thrifting Mom’s Instagram account. (Photo By Kelly Kindle)

“Thrifting is important to me because it helps reuse and recycles clothes that will more than likely just end up in landfills and ultimately damage the environment”, says Liz.  When individuals thrift, it helps boycott against supporting fast fashion.  “Fast fashion is brands such as Forever 21 and H&M, that overproduce really cheap clothing by means of cheap labor,” explains Liz. Many fast fashion brands have factories in foreign countries that do not pay their workers adequately, make them work in unsafe conditions, and place their waste in landfills.  “ I like to wear clothes that I thrift, because it’s sustainable fashion”, says Liz, “clothes that were made in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s were just made differently than the clothes that are made today. I like the durability of the clothes I go for and the stories that are behind those individual pieces.” Liz helps raise awareness of fast fashion through her posts on her Instagram “@Thriftingmom”. Liz has an end goal of having an official online store. “ I didn’t think that this would continue for this long, but I definitely want this passion of mine to continue with me through the next chapters of my life”, says Liz. 

You can see her latest posts and thrifts you can buy on Instagram “@Thiftingmom”

Meet the Storyteller

McKenzie Carver

McKenzie Carver is a junior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and pursuing a degree in Communication and Spanish. McKenzie is passionate about traveling and the people she meets along her travels. For inquiries or more information, contact her at dxy429@mocs.utc.edu.