Peachtree Corners Life
Scott Hilton and Ruwa Romman on Current Legislation and Issues of Today
Join the conversation as representatives Scott Hilton and Ruwa Romman discuss the latest legislative decisions impacting the lives of Georgians. From a $1 billion tax rebate to an increase in teacher pay, they dissect the financial bills shaping the state’s future. But the conversation doesn’t stop there. They also dive into the issues facing the education system in Georgia, reducing standardized testing and the state’s high turnover rate for state offices. With thoughtful and bipartisan discussions that extend to sensitive issues like gender-affirming medical treatment, the Peachtree Corners Life podcast provides an insightful window into the state’s political landscape.
Scott Hilton’s Website: https://www.scotthiltonga.com/
Ruwa Romman’s Website: https://www.ruwa4georgia.com/
Timestamp (where in the podcast to find it):
[0:00:00] – Intro
[0:01:58] – About the Representatives
[0:04:52] – Passing a Balanced Budget
[0:09:32] – Consumer Protection
[0:19:37] – Education Issues
[0:34:59] – Gender Dysphoria Treatments
[0:42:59] – Scott Hilton Shares His Views
[0:46:29] – Closing
[0:00:00] Rico Figliolini: Hi, everyone. This is Rico Figliolini, host of Peachtree Corners Life here in the great city of Peachtree Corners, largest city in Gwinnett County. So we have some two great guests. This is going to be a sort of legislative session, politics, a little bit of recap of what’s going on in the State House. Let me just quickly introduce Ruwa Romman on the left. Hey, Ruwa. Good morning. Thanks for coming. Ruwa is a Fresh State House rep. She represents District 97, which includes Berkeley Lake, Duluth, Norcross and Peachtree Corners. Life here in Gwinnett County. She’s the first Muslim woman elected to the Georgia State House, which is interesting as well. I come from New York, so being in the south is a little different. It’s good to see firsts on things like that. I also want to introduce also Scott Hilton that everyone, people know. Hey Scott. Good morning.
[0:00:49] Scott Hilton: Hey, Rico, how are you doing? Good morning.
[0:00:51] Rico Figliolini: Good. Yes. We had some issues, technical issues before, but we’re good now, though. Scott’s, a State House Rep. District 48. Actually. This is his second rodeo, if you will. He was State House rep once before and had some break between and is back again. He represents now a little different than the district before, which is Pastry Corners, Johns Creek, Alpharetta and Roswell. So, welcome. Before we get into discussions and all, I just want to introduce our sponsor, corporate sponsor, supporting our journalism, our podcasts, and the magazines that we produce. And that’s EV Remodeling, Inc. And the owner is Eli. And Eli lives here in pastry corners. Great company. They do design, build whole house renovation and such. So check them out and you can go to Evremodelinginc.com to get more information about them now that we’ve cleared that. And technically, I think everything’s going good. So let’s do this rehearsal again, and we’ll have Ruwa introduce herself this time. Well, like we did last time, I guess. So tell us a little bit about yourself, Ruwa, and how’s your first session, by the way? Your impression of it as well.
[0:01:58] Ruwa Romman: Hi, everyone. My name is Ruwa and I represent House District 97, which includes parts of fishery Corners, all of Berkeley Lake, parts of Duluth, and parts of Norcross. And I am a freshman state representative. I got elected last year, and this was my first ever session, and it was an incredible experience. I think, as I’ve told people as a freshman, it always feels like you’re drinking from a fire hose. And I was incredibly thankful that there were other freshmen that had come in with me. Almost 30% of the chamber this year were new members. We also had new leadership, which meant that everybody was kind of learning along the way. And even, for example, when we didn’t have offices, we kind of all navigated the area together, and we worked really well together, and it gave us an opportunity to build some really good relationships for the session.
[0:02:43] Rico Figliolini: Cool. Yeah. That first session of being a freshman could be a horror story sometimes, I guess, but I’m glad that you all are doing well and had time to spend with each other life. That scott, tell us a little bit about yourself, what you’ve been doing lately, and how that first session went to you.
[0:03:00] Scott Hilton: Yeah. Rico, good morning. Great to see you. Thank you for hosting us. I know when you and I talked about doing this, I thought it was so important that both Ruwa and I do this together. Our districts are divided essentially by 141. Got the forum side she’s got the bush road side but together, we jointly represent these street corners. And I consider Ruwa’s a good friend of mine, even though we’re on opposite political sides. What’s neat about working at the State House is that we do create those friendships and we do work closely together. You hear about DC. Politics all the time. I think it’s very different down at the Georgia State House. We do have our differences, but it’s awesome to see us work together. As you mentioned, I’ve lived in Petrie Corners 13 years now we live over in Amberfield and raising three kids here. Wife is a small business owner right across the street from Wesleyan. And we love live, working, and playing in Peachtree Corners.
[0:03:55] Rico Figliolini: Yeah. And I appreciate when you first contacted me a couple of weeks ago about bringing on Ruwa as well. So I appreciate you putting that out there. That’s very good. I don’t see that too often in politics, bringing on an opposing party with you to talk about what’s going on in session. So this is great to have two political point of views, I guess, but let’s get right into it. There’s a few things, and this started really with that legislative recap that you sent out that I ended up posting online. I’d like to invite Ruwa to be able to do the same thing for me. By the way, just to let you know. I’d like to be able to share your point of view as well within the week or two. So I’ll get back in touch with you on that. But, Scott, tell me, out of the half a dozen legislative more than that, probably legislation that you’ve highlighted in your newsletter, which one do you want to start with? What’s most important to you at this point?
[0:04:52] Scott Hilton: Yeah, what’s most important is really the only constitutional responsibility we have is passing a budget and passing a balanced budget. So we could go down there, do that, and adjourn and get on out of there. But that’s one of the biggest responsibilities that we have. And if you’re a taxpayer in Georgia, specifically Gwynette this year, this is a very good year for you. In particular, three things. Number one, we passed another $1 billion tax rebate for Georgia taxpayers, upwards of $500 for joint filers that you’ll see coming back into your pocket. Number two, we did another billion dollar property tax relief grant. So a lot of us that are watching this podcast here are property owners. And we’ve seen property taxes skyrocket over the last couple of years. And so giving much needed relief there. And then finally, third, worked very hard to introduce and pass a Gwynette property tax rebate. So that not a rebate, but we’re going to be able to vote in 2024 to double our current homestead exemption. So providing Gwynette taxpayers more tax relief here in the state.
[0:06:02] Rico Figliolini: Cool. Wow. Awesome. Yes, I noticed my property tax bill, when they assess it, and you know how that works, right? You get the value of the house, the assessment is much lower or well, supposed to be lower. They’ve raised it right. So I guess that’s life almost like a tax increase without voting for a tax increase when they do that, right.
[0:06:22] Scott Hilton: See what’s been happening. So this is the first time we’ve cut it in this major way since 1988. So we’re doubling the homestead exemption, assuming that the voters pass this, and we also provide another $2,000 homestead exemption for teachers, first responders, and active duty military. So really trying to attract the best and brightest to Gwinnett County with really trying to keep the American dream alive. We hear how it’s so hard to buy a house these days and a lot of that property taxes are so expensive at the same time.
[0:06:52] Rico Figliolini: Yeah, for sure. I think there’s only just saw a friend of mine that just bought a house in Peachtree Corners Life a year ago, and there were only two houses for sale in Peace Corners at the time, and I don’t think it’s that much different now, actually. So, Ruwa, what about you? I know you’re a freshman, but what legislation are you out there with?
[0:07:13] Ruwa Romman: I actually was going to say we always start out with a budget because that’s the biggest thing that we pass. And we actually technically two budgets. There’s an amended budget that we passed for the previous fiscal year and then the one for this upcoming fiscal year. What was really unique about the process this year is we had a $6 billion surplus. So we had an opportunity to really backfill some of the things that we’ve had to cut over the past ten years, which was great because we got to see some things like funding for various grants for nonprofits. We got to see funding for breakfast and lunches, particularly for kids who live in poverty because a child that’s hungry is not going to be able to learn. One of the things I was really sad about, and I don’t understand why and this wasn’t our chamber, this was the other chamber was we cut $66 million from the university system this year. So that’s what I want to learn a little bit more about is what went into that decision. Why did it happen? Because that tends to impact smaller colleges and universities a lot more than the bigger ones. And so this year, being able to see that budget process from the inside rather than somebody could advocate for a specific big piece of it was really great. And so it’ll be interesting to watch how some of that plays out. The other thing that I thought was very important was to finally give our state employees right now, our turnover rate for state offices is insane. It’s like anywhere from 30% to 40% turnover rate. And unfortunately, that’s really hindered a lot of our programs. And I was actually really happy to support the governor’s priority in making sure that we the resources that they pay for through their taxes.
[0:08:51] Rico Figliolini: Yeah, the process could be interesting. Right from the inside, you see competing interests. It’s not like someone lobbying for something, a nonprofit lobbying for a budget and not knowing what the competing aspects are on the other side of that. Because you can’t pay for everything, even with the $6 billion surplus. Because I could see paying one time capital expenses and stuff, but then putting it into a budget where it’s going to come back around again in operating budget like the next year, will you have that surplus still or will you have to cut it then? So, yeah, interesting. Scott, aside from the budget, where are you on some other issues?
[0:09:32] Scott Hilton: So I had a great session. It was fun being back the second time because you were a little bit dangerous. You actually knew what you were doing. And so I managed to pass three bills, introduced nine total, sponsored a number of bills, but yeah, managed to pass three House bills that I directly authored, and then three Senate bills that I sponsored. The one that I was kind of most passionate about this time around that did end up passing was involved with financial fraud. So we’ve all gotten the email, right, hey, I’m a Nigerian prince from wherever, and then all of a sudden your money is gone. Prior to House Bill 219, which I authored, we would have to refer that case, that criminal case, to wherever the criminal is, wherever the assets are that he stole. Now we can prosecute that case here in Georgia, delivering much needed justice for the victims of financial crimes. I’m in the banking industry, so it’s all too prevalent. We see it all the time now. So giving victims the tools they need to get justice here in the state was big. So, yeah, excited about Housebook.
[0:10:39] Rico Figliolini: It’s interesting. The Nigerian example is an extreme example, but I’ve seen phishing emails that just look like real emails from companies that used to be how did they even send that out? Even I can make a better looking email, like, closer look into the real thing than I was getting. But now it’s just unbelievable. You really have to be careful where it’s coming from. And those things can be hidden even in the email. So you might think you see the right address, like Apple, but the hyperlink inside it could be different. So it’s just like a mess out there just giving out your password and payments.
[0:11:20] Scott Hilton: Fortunately, it’s our seniors and elder community that typically lead as primary target or victims. And so to provide them with these protections, I think was so important.
[0:11:28] Rico Figliolini: Oh, cool. Yes. Because I could see that happening. So that would work even on things like where I get an email, I get an email, I get a text message. Looks like it’s from Amazon, says, you’ve been charged for this. You may want to check the link and double check it. And most people will probably click that link, which is not what you should do. Right. So will that legislation also cover those types of things as well?
[0:11:52] Scott Hilton: It will, yeah. So previously what would happen is we would investigate, or police would investigate, find out who that person was. Unfortunately, they would live in California or New York or wherever. We’d have to refer that case to the local jurisdiction. The locals would get it and kind of file it away and nothing would happen. Now we can actually begin to prosecute that person here in Georgia, so we actually see some justice going toward them. So cool. That was exciting. Also, bills that I serve as vice chair of the Education Committee, and we did a lot of work, the Education Committee, this year, two bills in particular to highlight the early literacy bill, moving us back to kind of the science of reading. Mississippi passed the same bill, and they’ve seen dramatic improvements in their reading levels. And so that’s something here in Georgia we’ve got to get back on track with. Kids have got to be on a reading level by third grade here in Georgia. So that and then the Safe Schools Act was important. Included in the budget, another line item we had was for school safety grants, each school getting upwards of about $50,000 per school in our state to keep our schools safe. And so that’s something from an education standpoint, we want good policy, safe schools, and good reading, good literacy in our state. So priorities for all the education committee.
[0:13:12] Rico Figliolini: Cool. Ruwa, I saw you nodding a lot there as far as the Early Dorsey Act.
[0:13:18] Ruwa Romman: Yeah. So on the consumer protection piece of it, there was a great bill that came through along those same lines called SB 73, which is meant finally crack down on Telemarketers. But what this bill does, a lot of these companies will outsource their calling. They’ll have a different company either here in the United States or overseas, do a lot of their marketing, and it’s become very spammy. I mean, we would be hearing this bill during committee hearing, and at least three or four of us would get a spam call in the process of hearing. And so we finally installed last year, but they’ll finally pass this year, that fine company close that loophole to say you’re also responsible for whoever you contract work out to and we’re hoping that we’ll mitigate some of those calls. So it’s exciting to kind of see when things complementary happen that way, where it’s a protection piece and we’re also even looking at the process. And same thing on the literacy bill. I was stoked to see that on the list of things we’re going to talk about today because I always tell people when I learned English here in the US. You start out by looking at pictures and then you kind of piece the pictures to the word. And if you’re dyslexic, you don’t catch that until you pictures away at that point, citizens, third grade, fourth grade, wherever it might be, and they’ve lost out on years of education where somebody could sat down and said, here, let me help you. And the parents that advocated for that were really awesome and they were really fun to talk to. And I always tell people that’s why it’s important to us, because sometimes we don’t realize either something has or an issue that’s there. Those are really great bills.
[0:15:11] Rico Figliolini: Yeah, a lot of good legislation there. The security grants and stuff as well, I think works out. I guess the schools can depending on the school. I think sometimes social media, really. I mean, there have been a lot of school shootings or at least highlighted more in the past year. Right. And that maybe makes people feel like it’s happening more often and maybe it is, but it’s such a small percentage compared to the schools out there. It’s interesting how you want to protect your kids. I have three kids. It’s not an easy thing. You send them out into the world and you expect that they should come back. Good to see that. What about other legislation that you’ve been looking at?
[0:16:00] Ruwa Romman: Yeah, so another one that I looked at this year that really helped me understand the process, kind of see the importance policy conversations in all of this is House Bill 73. So along the same so it’s in this case a House bill, not a Senate Bill 73. When we talk about consumer protections, one of the growing industries is the solar industry. And what we’re finding is sometimes some of these will try to sell something and unfortunately they don’t give their terms up front. And so somebody might end up scammed. They might have these solar panels that don’t work or they don’t have I said on energy, utility, telecoms, which is why I know so much about this. But one of the bills was a consumer protection bill and unfortunately the third section of that bill was going to stand up a whole new office for these companies to purchase. The problem is we already have that. The Secretary of State’s office. People register their businesses through that. The Attorney General has an entire oversight board. And so one of the conversations we had this year was instead of paying for branding office and having redundant spending and all of that, this should be moved under one of these two agencies. And it was really interesting because you don’t really hear about this sort of like bipartisan conversation that happens. And it did pass the House because we wanted to signal that this was an important bill. But then on the Senate side, we started working through to fix that provision so that hopefully next year we can fully pass the bill. But I always tell them, watch the process. Even if you take one bill each year to watch, you’ll learn a lot from this process. And that was one of them.
[0:17:39] Rico Figliolini: Yeah. I mean, even though the House may pass several bills, it’s really the Senate. Then they have to go back and then write change.
[0:17:47] Scott Hilton: Yeah.
[0:17:48] Rico Figliolini: So it could go the other way. Yeah. Talking about those calls, I use T Mobile. And the interesting part is they have a scam likely thing, so they silence calls as it comes in. Sad part is, if it’s a call I need, it goes to voicemail and never makes it to me unless I put it in the address book contact list, rather. But yeah, so that could be a dozen calls like that.
[0:18:11] Scott Hilton: Rico, I’ll jump in. It’s funny, we have a consumer protection theme to the call here today. One of the neat bills we passed was dealing with online renewal transparency. So House Bill 528 basically said, life, listen, it’s so easy to sign up for an online subscription online, and then they make it so difficult to cancel it, right? Like, think about you have to call in, you have to go through all these and so it’s the transparency act that says, listen, if you make it easy to sign up online, you also got to make it easy to cancel online. So I think that’s going to provide a real breath fresh air for a lot of folks from a consumer perspective.
[0:18:47] Rico Figliolini: You know what, I appreciate you saying that, because that just reminded me of my daughter whose membership I was paying at a gym in Johns Creek because she wanted to go up there. It’s only five minutes from here, right? At some point, she ended up going to school and stuff, and I had to cancel it because she wasn’t around. They forced me to come up there in person to cancel the membership, and I said that’s like crazy. I would never have to do that in any other business. Why are you forcing me? And they said, that’s the only way we do it. And they would no matter what I said, they would not let me cancel it on the phone or online. And I had to go literally in person to cancel it, which is crazy.
[0:19:30] Ruwa Romman: Yeah.
[0:19:30] Scott Hilton: I mean, that’s the kind of deceptive stuff that we’re trying to protect people against. Yeah, it’s a very good bill.
[0:19:37] Rico Figliolini: I like that personally. All right, so we’ve been talking consumer protection and stuff. There’s been a few other and we talked a little bit about education. I noticed that in your email, Scott, you also talked about a couple other things like cold case justice and reopening cases. God knows I think we all anyone that’s on social media to any extent or watch certain news programs see, sometimes these cold cases open and DNA prove that that 20 year conviction was an innocent person or that cases are not solved. And because there’s just more cases right after that, everything’s whatever. If the parents if it’s parents, they have to scream the loudest to be able to get any attention. So tell us a little bit about that and what that means to families.
[0:20:32] Scott Hilton: Yes, we have one that did not go through that we’re still working on. When someone is wrongfully convicted and it’s proven that they were, we actually have a compensation program to compensate them for that time they spent. Right now, it’s a very laborious process for that person to receive compensation from the state. We’re streamlining that process, passed the House, got hung up in the Senate. I think we’ll probably get it through next year. Yeah. Victims of cold cases. That bill allows families to petition to have cases reopen when there’s new evidence, again allowing them to receive justice on cold cases there. You touched on education. I did want to highlight one of the cool things we did this year in the budget was we passed yet another $2,000 increase for our teachers. We are in a war for talent right now, just like every other industry. And Georgia now after the last four years, I think we’ve increased teacher pay by about $7,000. So we are now one of the highest states in the Southeast in terms of teacher pay. So really kind of putting our foot forward to say teachers are important and they need to be paid that way. And so really proud of the work we did there. One of the education bills that did not pass that we found to chat about here on the call, ru and I were on opposite sides of this, dealing with school choice.
[0:21:52] Ruwa Romman: We had away with it. Look, I was going to let you go through this whole you know what.
[0:22:01] Scott Hilton: She was super passionate about the other side. This bill would have allowed parents to keep the state portion of their education spending so equivalent to $6,500. This impacted if you had a child in what’s called a failing school. So we rank all our schools. If you’re at all school here in the state, you would have been able to opt out, take your child to either home school, a micro school, a private school, basically an education savings account. And essentially, I view it as a lifeline. The program only kicks into place if our schools are fully funded or our traditional public schools are fully funded, and the local schools get to keep the local portion of their tax digest while not having to educate the student. So, again, critical lifeline to those that are trapped in failing schools.
[0:22:54] Rico Figliolini: I think that legislation, or at least the way you headlined it, was school choice. The Georgia Promise Scholarship Act. Was that the one? I guess. And interesting because I always felt life there was never enough money for someone to actually go to private school, let’s say to choose. But knowing how the school systems work, actually there’s a lot of scholarship programs in private schools and charter schools. So 6500 actually go a long way in some private or charter schools to.
[0:23:24] Scott Hilton: Pay for you’re not sending a kid to 6500. We live in a big state, though, and what we found was private school on average runs, you about 10,000 short. But yes, you also have programs that many of the schools have kind of help bridge that gap, and even the parents themselves can help bridge that gap. We heard there was one parent who literally knocked doors in her local community to raise money to send her kid to private school. So folks are desperate. They want to get out. They want to have and this is something we worked very hard on, fell just a little bit short. I think we’re going to try to get it through again.
[0:24:04] Rico Figliolini: See, Ruwa jumping here. She wants to get right into the.
[0:24:11] Ruwa Romman: I’ve become the unintended consequences queen of the House floor because I’ll go up and I’ll talk about why a bill is bad, but specifically implementation. We talk a lot. I tell people all the time I had an incredible public experience, particularly in Foresight County public schools. You literally have your pick of programs from culinary school to IV program to tech, and they’re all publicly funded. And I didn’t have to pay a cent growing up to choose between those options. What we’re seeing is the culmination of all public education. And rather than saying, you know what, it’s time to reverse course, we’re saying, let’s just take that money and put it somewhere else. And that’s going to leave a lot of people behind. And there are co provisions within this bill in particular that give me pause. The first is that piece about how we’re only looking at the bottom 25% of schools. No matter what list you make, there’s always going to be a bottom 25%. So even if they meet basic standards, even if these schools do meet the thresholds we’re asking them to, they could still be the last 25%. The other piece to this is, as we mentioned, there is actually a gap for that funding. So even if you covered half of it with this scholarship and then the other half of the scholarship from the school itself, there’s still other factors that would prevent somebody who’s trying to get out of that low income area from going to that school. And that includes things like transportation, which is why a lot of studies have found that unfortunately, private schools are not the answer to some of the woes that we’re seeing in public education. And they’re very real. Don’t get me wrong. They’re very real. And there’s a reason a lot of people voted against this bill across the aisle. It’s because we knew that either our districts didn’t qualify for this, so it meant money going out of our districts for this or that. They didn’t have a private school that qualified within a span of area that was feasible to get to every day for their child. And so I always urge people, I say, things sound good, they might have a good title, a bill might look great on paper. But when you think about the actual implementation, the flow of money, I’m actually worried that this bill is going to take away from students. And the last piece I tell people is, on average, we spend half of that per pupil from the state. And that’s just like pupil to people. I’m not talking about everything else that we spend. I’m talking about the spend per student that we’re talking about here is almost half of that $500.
[0:26:42] Rico Figliolini: You’re talking from the state side versus the county.
[0:26:46] Ruwa Romman: And I think a lot about what that could mean in terms of potentially taking more money up than you’re putting in, and the fact that private schools don’t have the same standards that requirements in terms of entry as public schools, that gets fixed. And I’m hoping we get a fiscal note to figure out how much fully this will cost. So in the meantime, I’m a pretty hard no on that bill.
[0:27:12] Rico Figliolini: Let me ask you something. I know that charter schools is a big thing that people look at too, and there was a movement to stop charter schools, let’s say stop funding them, and charter schools actually become good ones. At least there’s always a bad actor in anything, right? So you always get the bad example in these types of things. But they’re really good charter schools in neighborhoods that could work, in poorer neighborhoods, let’s say, where maybe the school is not performing the way they should be. And the charter school puts it into a different light, a different way. And some people may look at it and say, well, it’s still a school, it’s still same teachers, maybe, but there’s a different mission in the charter school, right? You want to give these children the opportunity. I’ve seen, I’ve done sometimes career days at middle schools, for example, and it’s like unbelievable, the difference in the kids and who’s paying attention and who’s not. And it’s a shame because I could pick out out of class of 30, maybe two or three that are excited about what they’re seeing. And I could see that they’re going to go far, and then you could see the five or six kids that totally just not learning. And it may just not be their fault even. It may just be the way things are taught.
[0:28:30] Scott Hilton: So the beauty of charter schools is they get more flexibility. So they’re publicly funded, so they are public schools, they get more flexibility in how they’re able to operate and teach, but along with that comes more accountability, right? So if a public charter school is failing, they’re closed, whereas a traditional public school, if they’re failing, we give them more money. There’s the beauty in that fight to survive and be excellent in everything they do. And on average, our charter schools far exceed our traditional public schools with less money. They receive less money than traditional public schools. So it’s proven the model, the model works. We have thousands of Georgians on waitlist across the state to join charter schools. We actually have one, I believe they’re still here in Peace Corners, right off Spaulding version. Their students come and they learn Japanese. That’s how they have that flexibility to do that. And they’re doing amazing things, producing great scholars.
[0:29:33] Rico Figliolini: They have over 240 kids, I think, there, and they’re doing a great job. When I first heard about the Japanese immersion school, I was like, really interesting to go that way, but they’re doing phenomenally well.
[0:29:46] Ruwa Romman: We’ve talked about this previously, but I think once before, where honestly, to me personally, I think one of the places that we can absolutely save costs and be able to retain better talent within our school system is to reduce the amount of standardized testing that kids have to take these days. Because the reason kids aren’t able to learn in a flexible, critical thinking type of way is they spend sometimes up to 45% of their time on testing and preparing for testing and doing the testing. And I understand that we need to have metrics, but now it’s becoming redundant metrics. And if we want that flexibility, if we want to be able to bring some of that overhead out and reduce some of those administrative costs that we’re seeing that are ballooning across the board, that’s one way we can do it. And I always urge people, and I say, look, it’s easy to build something new and shiny and it’s easy to tear things down, and it’s a lot harder. There are people making decisions about education that have never set foot in the classroom and have never taught before, and that’s a mental element of education, is that we are teaching students. The basic premise to my stance is, if this takes an opportunity from another child, I can’t in good conscience vote for it, because then I’m just helping perpetuate the spiral downward. Now, that doesn’t have out of whatever school that they are assigned to. This is, can we find a way to help that school rather than building a whole new one with all that money and then bringing in brand new talent? No, we should just bring that talent to the school that’s already existing and bring some of that work in house rather than outsourcing it kind of interesting.
[0:31:40] Rico Figliolini: I think any parent that’s gone to the PTAs and schools and stuff over the years can see. I think if you’re intelligent enough, you don’t necessarily have to be an educator to be able to see when something’s not working. To me we all talk about. I think we all can agree that the formative years are the early years of a child. And I just wish that there was more money spent in that early part and that the classrooms are smaller even. Because once you get past, like my life says, sometimes they pick up from you what they’re doing. And I said, well, they’re past that eight year mark, so they’re not picking up anything more from me at this point. But it’s that example that leadership, not just from the teacher, but from the students themselves. And it takes work, right? It takes work to do that. The standardized testing is a lazy way. It worked at one point, I think, nationally, when we had no testing, when a kid in California applying for a college, with a kid in Georgia applying for a college, there needed to be some sort of standard way. But I agree with you. I think what it comes down to now is money. Who’s getting the multimillion dollar contracts to do these tests? It’s just ridiculous. At some point that the money that’s spent to test on kids, they’re not teaching well enough. The obvious thing is to spend the money there. I agree with that.
[0:33:14] Scott Hilton: One of the things we worked on in education, kind of outside of the school a little bit, I became kind of a de facto swimming guy this year. I had a couple of swimming related bills. One of the leading causes of death of children under the age of 18 is swimming accidents. And so I sponsored two bills, one that both have passed, one that uses our schools to disseminate information out to the community. Hey, here’s local resources where you can get for free swimming lessons. I think about Petrie corners, particularly the YMCA. If you want to go and get a swimming lesson, we offer it, and so a lot of people just don’t know about it. And so schools now, at the beginning of the year, will give out the parents, either a flyer electronically, information on where they can get free swimming lessons near them, and then also pass Izzy’s Law, which deals with private swim instruction. We had a case here in Georgia, private swim instructor was teaching 25 kids. One of them got loose, and you know what kind of happened from there. So it puts definitions around. Okay, when you’re doing private swim, what’s the ratio? Teachers to students and all that to kind of avoid that situation moving forward.
[0:34:24] Rico Figliolini: Yeah. More regulation sometimes is needed. I know people say sometimes we over regulate, but that type of thing you really do. There’s just too many people that just do their own thing irresponsible. We just assume people are responsible when they offer those lessons, but we don’t know. Right. There’s no way to grade them. Like going to a doctor that might have gotten a C at Columbia versus someone that got an A somewhere. We’ll never know that.
[0:34:52] Scott Hilton: It’s one of those industries we just didn’t have any kind of guardrails around. We’re getting close to summer here. That’s one of the important things here.
[0:34:59] Rico Figliolini: I’m glad you brought that up. Thank you, Scott. Ruwa. I know we’re getting a little long here, so I don’t know if I should introduce this subject, but I’m going to anyway. So there’s the gender thing. I say the gender thing because it depends who you talk to and what part of that subject, what part of that topic, whether it’s young kids under 18 I know you were involved with SB 140, I think you mentioned that, which bans gender dysphoria treatments for kids under 18. I have my opinion. I’ll leave it to myself. But I’d like to hear what you would say, Ruwa, about that, what that means.
[0:35:41] Ruwa Romman: Yeah. So, again, going back to unintended consequences, you’ll hear me say this a lot. What we’ve seen is this movement targeting particularly those who identify as trans. And we have a finite amount of time every session. We’ve got 40 days between January to March. There are a lot of bills that end up not passing. And for whatever reason, this has become the topic of the day. And the reason I’m particularly sensitive to it is last year, one of the bills that was passed was to enable the High School Association board, sports association board, to ban students who identify as trans from playing in the sport as their identified gender, instead of the gender that they were assigned at birth. And the reason I’m sensitive to that is, I’m not trans. This is not something that I ever experienced. But that bill was written in the same way that allowed the schools to ban hijab wearing girls from playing sports. So I’ve always been particularly attuned and sensitive to any bills that talk about a minority group when that minority group is not present within those that are making those decisions. And so this was one of those bills. We had a long committee hearing on it, although it had to be truncated because we were running out of time at that point. And I took that as an opportunity to listen, because this is not something that I’m familiar with. And the thing that there was a moment where those who had ever experienced any sort of gender dysphoria as under the age of 18 and had received treatment, whether that’s hormone replacement therapy or surgery after 18 if they regretted their decision. And then they were also asked, is there anybody that falls within that category and does not regret their decision? In the span of the process of this bill moving through, they have not found a single person, especially within the state of Georgia, that regrets receiving that treatment, particularly starting under the age of 18. I was sitting in that committee hearing. We waited for quite a bit of time to allow people to come to committee room to come testify on this. But the people who did not regret their decision were overall present in that room. To me, as a legislature who doesn’t have experience on this issue, that signals to me that I am trying to deal with something that I do not understand. There’s been, frankly, quite a bit of graphic conversation about what this means with gender reassignment surgery for those under 18. And I have to remind them that we do not perform those surgeries in Georgia. Adults are unable to find the treatments that they need because it is so rare in our state. But one of the unintended consequences of this bill, not only does it ban something that doesn’t exist, it bans hormone replacement therapies, which do have long term impacts, but it’s not surgery. And there was a provision within the bill that was struck out that would have prevented essentially a new crime from being created against doctors. That provision that would have had a safeguard within the bill was removed. And there’s a reason there’s unanimous consent within medical professionals opposing this bill. We had one endocrinologist come and testify, saying that she does not recommend formal replacement therapy for those under 18 after doing something. She does not treat people with gender dysphoria. She refers them out. And she has kind of gone on the speaking circuit on this. So for me personally, obviously, I’m not trans. It doesn’t impact me personally. I don’t have siblings who are trans or family members who are trans. But I’m incredibly suspect when people who are not impacted by something create laws about that thing.
[0:39:24] Rico Figliolini: Scott, how do you feel about that?
[0:39:27] Scott Hilton: Great question. We talk a lot about on this call, protecting children and the innocence of childhood. For me, this is a very simple issue. We should not be performing irreversible treatments on prepubescent children. For me, again, it’s pretty black and white. This was one of the easier votes we voted on. I think it’s sad what’s happening to some of these kids. I was on that committee hearing, served on the healthcare committee. We had a mom testify at four years old. Her daughter started exhibiting, and then at seven, I think they started some form of treatments. Again, as a dad of three kids, I can’t imagine what’s being done to some of these kids.
[0:40:17] Ruwa Romman: That’s actually very unfair, because I know that parent, and she and I spoke after because I really wanted more information from her. They did not start treatment at seven years old. What they did was they had the child meet with therapists and psychiatrists and an extensive team of both mental health and physical health professionals to understand if there were any other underlying issues before as they neared puberty, which was twelve to 13 years old, they then began discussing potential treatments. The child is not old enough to even receive hormone blockers, let alone hormone replacement therapy. Her conversation was this bill would prevent the child, if they reach that point, from being able to pursue the next step in their care should they need it. And I think again, this is why I say if you’re able to see something that’s a medical issue in black and white when there are so many degrees of gray, that gives me one of the things I hadn’t even thought about is was brought up during the committee hearing was that sometimes younger women, even under the age of 18, require breast reduction surgery because it creates intense back problems. It literally can create scoliosis, it can be paralyzing, and this bill could potentially impact that. And again, my question is, we have so many things we need to worry about. You’re talking about twelve families in the entire state that this could apply to just past the $32 billion budget. It’s guaranteed that we’re willing to use State Farm.
[0:41:47] Rico Figliolini: That’s what I was going to ask also in that committee meeting, how many people actually are affected by this legislation? In the state of Georgia, you would think there are hundreds of people impacted by this. The same way I think when it comes to gender and sports, how many people in school are actually impacted by that legislation? Yeah, sometimes I think our priorities get a little mixed up. That’s my opinion as far as what should be at the top and stuff, but I get it. Listen, we all have things that we want to discuss. Talk about this 300 plus. How many legislators are they now?
[0:42:25] Ruwa Romman: We’re 176. There’s like four empty.
[0:42:33] Rico Figliolini: 300 number I think is counties, then Georgia or something like that.
[0:42:41] Scott Hilton: 180 in the House, 56 in the Senate. I cover about 60,000 folks. Roughly about 40,000 voter or people registered to vote. Yeah.
[0:42:51] Rico Figliolini: Interesting. We were talking a little before about.
[0:42:53] Ruwa Romman: I need more people voting. Not enough of you. Vote local election, please.
[0:42:59] Rico Figliolini: Yeah, but if you’re going to vote, please look at the issues, read the stuff. Don’t just vote just because you think it’s like, I want educated voters also someone that knows what they’re doing. At least we’re out of time almost here. So what I’d like to do is we can keep going on, but I’m sure that if our listeners have any comments that would be putting it in the comments section once this is streamed out there, and certainly to the tail end of this. So I’m going to ask both of you to give me like one or two minute recap and then how people can reach either one of you. And I’ll make sure those are in the show notes as well. So why don’t you put you guys on and tell me what you need to tell us. Let’s start with Scott this time.
[0:43:47] Scott Hilton: Thank you, Rico, for having us. When I ran for office, you heard me say over and over again, I was laser focused on three things our economy, public safety, and education, and so fulfilled those promises this session. Look forward to continuing to fill those next session. Really focused on keeping our community safe, our schools strong, and doing what we need to from a financial standpoint to help you and your family navigate this economy. I’m going to continue to be effective for you, but most importantly, I’m going to continue to be accessible for you. You can reach me on all the social media platforms, ScottHiltonGA. ScottHiltonGA is where we are on Facebook, twitter, and instagram. If you go to my website, Scotthiltonga.com, you’ll see my cell phone number. And really, it’s not just from a policy perspective. I have folks reach out to me who need help with medicaid, with department of transportation, anything you might need from a state perspective, department of revenue, secretary of state, let me know at the second time. We’re out of session right now, but I have families reach out to me, Scott. I got a break in the summer. I don’t know what to do with the kids. Let me take them down the capital, give them a tour, give them behind the scenes look, all that stuff, I love doing all that stuff. I want to be as engaged as possible for you and our community, and you’ll see me about doing town halls and things like that. But whatever you need over the next nine months until we go back in January, you can find me. I’m out there and would love to help you out. It’s truly an honor to serve you in our community.
[0:45:23] Rico Figliolini: Cool.
[0:45:24] Ruwa Romman: All of that. Although we’re in session January through end of March, it’s actually the best time to set up meetings with us, talk to us about policy issues that you care about, because then we could dig really deep into them and prepare ahead of the next session. I’m actually wrapping up a round of town halls now. We’ll probably be doing them throughout the year as well, so be on the lookout for those. You can find me at Ruwa, the number four, Georgia on all the social media handles. For our website, there’s a form you can submit that will email my phone directly. And my team and I are always here to help in whatever way that you need. I’ve got really hit it on the head is that one of the things that people don’t realize is we can help you on the department level. We can support you if you’re not hearing back from somebody, if you’re not getting what you need, use us. And please come down in the Capitol. Whether it’s during session or outside of session, I’ve loved taking people and telling them about the process and showing them how they can have an impact. Anyone can come and testify before committee. Anyone can be in this. It is called the People’s House for a reason, and I really hope to see you there and around the district.
[0:46:29] Rico Figliolini: Cool. I want to just let people know also that you both have newsletters, so they should certainly sign up for those. This way they can see what’s going on. I know you send them out regularly. That’s why there’s no reason anyone should be ignorant about House bills and such and certainly constituent efforts. Like you both have said. If you need any help with state agencies, these two will be able to help you.
[0:46:55] Scott Hilton: Let me slide this in real quick. I failed to mention my biggest accomplishment this session. The Atlanta Journal had the listing of the best dressed legislators. Truly was named. One of them, Ruwa, was robbed. She should have been on that list. So next year she’s going to be on it. It’s fun being down there representing our community.
[0:47:13] Rico Figliolini: It’s fun. It’s good to have you guys on the podcast too. And I love it when Scott gets red faced. He’s almost like basketball. It’s so it’s great to have you guys on. Thank you again. And Scott, thank you again for suggesting that this would be a great podcast to have the three of us together like this. Everyone, leave your comments in the comment section and reach out to these two. They’ll be more than willing to help. Thank you again and have a great day.
[0:47:48] Ruwa Romman: Thank you.
[0:47:49] Rico Figliolini: Bye.
On Topic: City Budget, City Marshals, FAA and Drones and Dog Parks [Podcast]
Brian Johnson, the city manager of Peachtree Corners, Georgia, shares exciting updates and plans for the city’s technology and community development. From the successful Curiosity Lab Criterion Road Race to the construction of a new dog park and housing redevelopment, this podcast offers a glimpse into the innovative projects and partnerships that are transforming the city. Johnson’s insights also shed light on how Peachtree Corners invests in its residents’ safety, well-being, and quality of life.
0:00:00 – Intro
0:01:11 – The Curiosity Lab Criterion Road Race
0:12:34 – Pickleball Feasibility Study
0:16:46 – The City Marshall System
0:20:44 – Budget, Housing, Dog Parks, and More
0:31:50 – FAA and Drone Programs
0:33:59 – Closing
Rico Figliolini 0:00:00
Hi, everyone. This is Rico Figliolini, host of Peachtree Corners Life. And today we have Brian Johnson. Hey, Brian, thanks for showing.
Brian Johnson 0:00:05
Rico, how are you?
Rico Figliolini 0:00:08
Good. Been a busy week for you, I’m sure.
Brian Johnson 0:00:10
A lot of them are lately.
Rico Figliolini 0:00:12
Yes, seems to be. Before we get right into it with Brian, city manager here at Peachtree Corners, let’s just say thank you to EV Remodeling Inc. for being a corporate sponsor of ours. Eli, who is the owner of the company, lives here in Peachtree Corners. They do great work, check them out. They’ve been a great supporter of our work as well. We appreciate them for doing that. You could check out EVRemodeling.com and see all the great work that they’re doing here in the City of Peachtree Corners as well as throughout the metro area. So, Brian, it’s been weeks leading up to the event. Last night we’re recording this a day after the Curiosity Lab Criterion Road Race, which was a big event here in Peachtree Corners as part of that speed week that Atlanta is holding and midweek on what started out as a rainy day. But I understand everything went well and phenomenal stuff. Why don’t you give us a little detail about how it went?
Brian Johnson 0:01:11
Well, as you remember, when we’ve talked about this was a result of a conversation and a meeting that we had here at the city when we were at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas. And we met with a company called Spoke Safety that has created a device that can allow for enhanced safety for what are termed vulnerable road users, and that are essentially anybody who is on a roadway that’s not in an automobile. So this would be everything from motorcycles down to people who use E-Scooters to bicyclists and even pedestrians. But this device, which is about the size of a pack of cards, allows for there to be two way communication between where this device is and an automobile. And so it’ll basically be telling cars, hey, here is where this vulnerable road user is, and it can receive signals as well to where a car is like, fine, well, this is where we are. And so it can create basic safety messages to where in the case of bicyclist, if you had this device with you and you were approaching a car from the right, the driver of the car would get an alert saying, bicycle approaching on the right. And this company had come up with this technology and they wanted or needed some location that had the infrastructure in place to facilitate the deployment and the demonstration of this technology. And they already had a relationship with Audi and with Qualcomm. And we started talking and I said, well, we have proper city streets to be able to support this at Curiosity Labs. The streets inside of Curiosity Lab can do it. And they got excited. And so then there was talk about, all right, if this is going to be the world’s first deployment demonstration of this technology. We make this into a significant event. How can we make sure that when it’s deployed, it’s done well? And I had some experience both as a participant back when I did a lot of cycling, and as the city manager of a community that had a long standing Criterion event every year, the Sunny King Criterium in Anniston, Alabama. And so I said, what if we did a Criterion here in Peacetree Corners and use that as an opportunity? And they loved it. So the result was, in a very short period of time, we were able to secure a date right in the middle of Speed Week, in between the two weekend events of Athens Twilight and the Sunny King and get a midday event. And we had a Criterium here that was part of the official USA Criterium annual calendar this year. And we had all the racing teams come out here and we created this Criterion. And in between the pro women’s and pro men’s event, we officially unveiled this technology, deployed it on a public street, did it live streaming. This event was live streamed internationally, and the result of it was a successful deployment. We now have an official partnership with Audi Phenomenal. Yes. We will now be exploring the enhancement of this vulnerable road user technology in a way that we can make it better, make it easier to use and to help scale it up so that we can improve the safety of those vulnerable road users that are on the roadway. Maybe one day, if this technology works out, and the theory behind it is sound, but so if it works out, look back and think that we played a small part in helping improve the safety on our roadways.
Rico Figliolini 0:05:14
Yeah, it’s amazing. It’s just the fact that the city is able to do that and provide this atmosphere, this environment, to be able to do that type of testing. I mean, everything starts out with the device. I can actually see this device becoming smaller or maybe even morphing into being able to use it as an app on phones already with GPS locations and stuff. But it has to start somewhere. I’m glad the city is able to provide that environment. And that’s just crazy that Audi is now an official partner in this stuff. There aren’t that many car companies out there, right? So to have to be able to have Audi come and say, we want to be an official partner here, that’s just awesome.
Brian Johnson 0:05:56
It has to go all the way to Germany. It’s Volkswagen Group is who owns Audi. So I had to go all the way over there for them to bless off on it. But they did because we have an environment that they’re really not finding elsewhere. Audi, like the big other Big OEMs, has their own private test track for their vehicles, sure, but this is to do testing with this vulnerable road user technology. And you need public streets and you need the public. So we’ll play a small part. We’ll put some of these devices on our public works vehicles. We’ll put them in our city Marshall vehicles, and we’ll even have our public works employees who are mowing the lawns or the mowing out like Peacery Parkway. Now, you may brought up a good point. This technology is great. And Audi’s testing was for the messages that there’s like a cyclist approaching from the right or whatever to come up on the dashboard of the car. So that’s where Audi is really wanting to have cars coming off the assembly line with the ability to receive these messages. Just where you would where if your check oil light came on or whatever, and it could even be audible if you want it to be. But as we know that even if every single brand new car coming off the line had this, it’s going to be 25 plus years before we flush out most of the existing cars that don’t have that technology. How do we scale this sooner? And you hit it right on, and that is through an app. We talked about it once before. Even if I am going somewhere, somewhere in town, especially closer to Atlanta, where it’s getting more dense, even if I know exactly where I’m going, you know what I will still do? I’ll pull my phone out and I’ll pull the up or Google Maps for the traffic because I want to know, all right, I know how to get there. But is traffic bad? Do I need to take a different route? If you can get we can get this technology to come up messages inside of like Waze or Google.
Rico Figliolini 0:08:11
Brian Johnson 0:08:12
Everybody will be able to use this. So that’s how we scale this. So again, we’re going to do our small part of making our ecosystem available for this type of technology to hopefully become and everything.
Rico Figliolini 0:08:27
Yeah, that makes sense. I can see the applications even if it doesn’t get into ways. Although small companies like this that start off get bought out by larger companies, right, because they get absorbed into their environment, like you said. So this way Waze can be able to provide that information to the driver. I mean, sometimes I’ll put on Apple Map and stuff like that, always just because I may be on the phone and I want the system to be able to tell me, remind me.
Brian Johnson 0:09:01
That’s exactly right.
Rico Figliolini 0:09:02
Yes. My wife says that I don’t even. Have to think of where’s my next turn, because I’m just a good point. Because otherwise you have to be aware of everything around you at every single minute, which I’m not a bad driver, I think a good driver, but it’s like auto assist, right? So I think that’s where we’re going. So, yeah, if it can be in an app like that or I can even see Uber let’s say a lyft looking at that and saying, you know, our drivers this is a propensity maybe, I don’t know what the data shows, but they don’t want the drivers hitting people and having problems too. So I could see a big company like that looking at this also and saying, you know what, that’s not a bad add on to what we’re doing.
Brian Johnson 0:09:52
Yeah, that’d be great points. But at the end of the day we had a pretty cool event. Had a couple of hundred people here as spectators, especially near the end of the evening around seven to around 945 when it ended. And that was with being a first time event. Wasn’t great weather and isn’t in our downtown. I was a little bit worried that the turnout would not be there but was we had food trucks here, we had some companies showing off some other types of technology. The racing teams were out here big and pro racers loved the course. They thought it was very technical and very unique and we had racers from all over the world australia, New Zealand, Europe, all over the country. It was a pretty cool thing. Puts us on the map. It gave our community a unique event go to and we were putting Curiosity Labs ecosystem to use. So all in all, a good event couldn’t do it without rock star staff that put it on. And when you surround yourself with smart people and the tell you the resources they need and you get it to them and get out of their way, it can do some great stuff. So I got an unbelievable staff and the obviously mayor and council the support us, they are open to new things like this. They well attended throughout the course of the day because it started with amateurs 03:00 we even had the small kids race. Five to seven year olds and then like eight to ten year olds and they got on their bikes and the had started here and then at the starting line. And it’s always cool to see those kids, everything from the kids who don’t pedal yet, they just use their feet down with training wheels and others bike and so that was cool too. So it was a good event.
Rico Figliolini 0:12:02
It takes a lot of logistical work to get this put together, especially in that short amount of time that you guys had.
Brian Johnson 0:12:09
Early February is when we decided to do it. Yeah, pleased with it. So I think right now we’re probably leaning forward in the saddle on doing it again. I don’t really have a reason not to so other than just the time and energy it takes to set it up. But anyway, good things happening here. Never a dull moment.
Rico Figliolini 0:12:34
No, for sure. And we should hit upon a few of these things as some quick bursts because there are quite a few things well, not quite a few things, but there’s always a lot of things, but there’s four elements that we just want to hit real quick on. We’ve dove into them in more detail before, but just to give an update on it. So we discussed at one point about pickleball looking at possibly a 40 or 50 court facility here in Peachtree Corners. And I think the largest is what I found the largest in the metro area was 25, I think, or something when I was checking stats on that, of what was available. So feasibility study happening, not happening. Where is that going?
Brian Johnson 0:13:18
Yes. So we talked about it. Yes. For us to do this right, to not shoot too high, too low, we brought some professionals in. So it’s a sports facility consulting firm that does feasibility studies. So we’ve commissioned this firm to do one. It’ll take about a month and ultimately they’ll come back and they’ll tell us what is the market we’re competing with, what’s the demand out there? What can we expect as far as special events and how much economic development activity? What about ongoing, what size does it need to be? Are we going to cannibalize something if we do it? All of the things to consider and then based on that, mayor and council can look at it, make a decision on does the city want to facilitate doing something? Maybe we do and it’s smaller than we thought because of whatever. Maybe we shoot for the stars and we want to do it, who knows? But got about a month and when they present the results, I’ll end up organizing a meeting and invite kind of the people in Peachtree Corners that are involved in Pickleball and care about it. Everything from even you as you’ve gotten more interest in it, to people who play it a lot, to companies who are looking to maybe even be involved in managing it if we do it. Just kind of get everybody together and let them hear the results and we’ll see where it goes from there.
Rico Figliolini 0:14:48
Cool. So we’ll see that study sometime after that. Four weeks probably at a city council meeting, I guess, or a public meeting.
Brian Johnson 0:14:57
To be honest with you. I’ll probably have the results presented before that at a different meeting and then go in front of council because council is going to need to make a decision based off of it. That would be more of what they do at the city council meeting is say, all right, we heard the results, we’ve had a chance to digest it. This is what we’re going to do about it. So I’ll probably just have schedule an evening one night or maybe a lunch one. And it’s going to be inviting the people who have reached out to me and are involved and have been like, man, I played a lot, what can I do? To whatever people who care about it? Those are the ones who are going to want to hear the results so maybe we do it over lunch one day and have some pizzas or whatever and do something like that. But yeah, sounds good. End of May. Beginning of June.
Rico Figliolini 0:15:54
We’ll have the yeah, I mean, there’s quite a few. It’s amazing how many businesses in the metro area and certainly there’s a few in the corners that are pickleball oriented within the industry and coaches, registered coaches and stuff like that.
Brian Johnson 0:16:10
Just announced the Pickleball League. Now I’m sorry, Atlanta just created a pickleball league.
Rico Figliolini 0:16:16
Yes, I heard that. This is the Atlanta law and tennis.
Brian Johnson 0:16:24
Yeah. So clearly there’s a demand. The question is, is it enough for the city to end up putting any time, energy and is what usually happens, money into facilitating something. And we want to make sure that we are shooting at the bullseye that we need to and it’s not too big, too small, whatever.
Rico Figliolini 0:16:46
I love the fact that the city not only looking at cutting edge technology, but they’re looking at other areas that might be great for our citizens and also the impact that it gives to this community. So got to love that. We also talked about city marshall in a couple of podcasts, the city marshall system. So it finally sounds like we’re starting to move on it. And you were saying that May 1. What’s happening?
Brian Johnson 0:17:10
May 1, beginning of May. So it’s in the budget. Council seen the rough draft of the budget and as we talked about before, they supported it. So we’re going to stand up a city marshall program and it’ll start with three. And so I’m going to start putting out the job announcement out there with the requirements and sometime beginning of May they’ll go out and the the June time frame is when we’ll be doing the interviews and job offers and July 1, when our next fiscal year starts. Now there’s the money in the budget to start standing it up. So sometime in July we’ll start having actual uniformed city marshals here and they’ll start filling in those gaps that we talked about before that we kind of feel the need to have filled. So the step in council feeling like they’re doing everything they can to try to make the city as safe as we can and they’re going to be post certified. We talked about just like Gwynette police. Duluth police, they will have the same exact authorities as any other police officer. Where they will be limited is by policy. So policy that we adopt, mayor, council adopt will end up being the one that keeps establishes their left and right limit. So for instance, by policy we’re not going to have them out on roadway shooting radar guns and riding speeding tickets. Will they have the authority to do that? Absolutely. But we’re not going to have the do that because that’s not going to be in their job description as the city marshal is defined by policy. So that’s how we’re going to orient their activities through those policies.
Rico Figliolini 0:18:55
So the city has already gotten all the logistics down and stuff. Do you know where they’re going to be? Sort of office out of, if you will.
Brian Johnson 0:19:03
Yeah, it’ll be out of City Hall. We actually, because of the lead time, purchased the vehicles. We purchased one truck. F 152 Ford Police Interceptor Explorers. They’re hybrid. They’re all hybrid vehicles.
Rico Figliolini 0:19:20
Oh, cool. Okay.
Brian Johnson 0:19:21
Not all EV. Trying to get like what’s the Ford pickup truck? All EV? What is that? The, I don’t recall anyway. But they have an all EV pickup truck. The lead time was like a couple of years. That wouldn’t work. We got hybrid. The truck will be outfitted in a way that we can have a drone take off from the back. We will be integrating a lot of drone stuff with the city Marshals as a technology asset for them to use to maybe do things preemptively. Maybe they fly them over problem areas helping to prevent hopefully, but if not solve criminal activity or do certain things. We’ve gotten some of those. They’ll be housed in City Hall. Okay, so got renovation going on to reconfigure some of the interior spaces of the building to facilitate their activity. And they’ll have a room here where they’ll be able to pull all the images off of all of our flock cameras and all the other video cameras and the fūsus system.
Rico Figliolini 0:20:40
So we’ll be connected to the fūsus system.
Brian Johnson 0:20:43
Rico Figliolini 0:20:44
Excellent. Good deal. Talking about budget, that’s coming up, right? Because it’s the June budget, the annual.
Brian Johnson 0:20:51
It is the May City Council meeting is when we’ll officially present the budget to council and community will be able to comment on what they hear. So that will be at the May Council meeting and then in June is when council will adopt it budgets. There’s not a lot of surprises. Obviously one of the big ones would be the City Marshall program. One of the other byproducts of that is we’re bringing the city attorney position in house. No longer be an employee of a separate law firm just because when you combine what additional municipal court activity we’re going to have in addition to all the Curiosity Lab stuff, we just need to have legal counsel here all the time. There’s just too much going on. And so it doesn’t make sense to always try to pay the overhead to a law firm when you’ve got somebody who’s here all day every day anyway. But yet they’re not here. They’re an attorney of another firm. So that’s a byproduct of it. There’s no financial hit. It’s just moving. Instead of paying a third party, it’s.
Rico Figliolini 0:22:05
Bringing yeah, probably better. The cost probably be a little better anyway.
Brian Johnson 0:22:11
Yeah, there’s a little bit of now you’ve got the cities having to pay health insurance and other things. So we don’t pay the overhead for that to the law firm. We’re doing it in house. So it’s a wash for all intents and purposes. A couple of things in there maybe of note, definitely got we’ve increased the amount of money we’re putting towards street resurfacing. We’ve got more money in there for multi use trail activity. Trying to do more of that. Really focusing on some of the bigger sections like Crooked Creek down the south side of the city. We’ve got a couple of projects that we’re looking to do on the south side we’ve talked about. One is some trailheads and public amenities along Peachtree Corners circle in between Holcomb Bridge and PIB. That would be part of that. We’ve got money there. We’ve got some money. A couple of million dollars set aside to do some housing redevelopment in the south part of the city to look for properties that are in foreclosure and in a state of disrepair. And the city may end up looking to acquire property and then turn around and have call it starter homes built to help with some of the housing.
Rico Figliolini 0:23:40
So we’re talking about affordable starter homes versus three quarter of a million dollar homes.
Brian Johnson 0:23:45
Correct. That’s what I’m saying. We would end up because we’re involved, we’ll be able to make it to where it truly is a starter home and it’s an equity it would be equity product. It would still be home.
Rico Figliolini 0:23:57
Brian Johnson 0:23:58
But yes, there would be some sort of a home value control set on it so that the market doesn’t push it to a point where it’s another example where it’s unachievable for.
Rico Figliolini 0:24:13
So would it be similar to like, I don’t know how Habitat for Humanity works, but would it be like a lottery system in a way because otherwise the market will push that. Right.
Brian Johnson 0:24:23
Well, you use one of the best examples is one of the partners we would look to work with is Habitat.
Rico Figliolini 0:24:28
Brian Johnson 0:24:29
That’s exactly, Gwinnett Housing Authority has programs where they’ll come in and they’ll build houses and it’ll be specifically oriented to a particular demographic. It’s an equity product, it’s a new home. But you control the purchase price through the agreement you have with the entity building it’s saying you can’t sell this for a value above X because that’s not the intent of why we’re doing this.
Rico Figliolini 0:24:58
Yeah, otherwise that would just fail at that point. Right. For being what you exactly.
Brian Johnson 0:25:03
We’re not filling a housing demand in that particular income strata in this way. We have some of the money set aside from the ARPA funds.
Rico Figliolini 0:25:15
I was going to say. So there’s federal funds also for that.
Brian Johnson 0:25:18
And so the intent would be remove substandard housing stock from our roles and replacing it with new stock, but that it’s got to control so that it doesn’t get out of hand price wise. And so now we’ve, in a small way filled the demand for starter homes in an area and at the same time we’ve removed some cases squalor or vacant homes or foreclosed on homes. And so it’s a win win. So there’s money in there to do some work there. On the south side, we’ve also got there’s going to be a dog park constructed at the Town Center.
Rico Figliolini 0:26:01
I heard that. That’s cool. A small dog, big dog, or are they going to be like.
Brian Johnson 0:26:09
There are going to be two separate halves to it. It’ll all be Astroturf inside there. So it’s not going to be like just a fence around woods, but it’ll be there at the Town Center in the woods. Probably the best way to get there would be to walk in from the side parking lot, that’s surface parking lot next to Cinnabistro. Yeah, it’ll be down there in the woodline. That’ll be about the area.
Rico Figliolini 0:26:37
That’ll be interesting. Artificial turf for the dog park.
Brian Johnson 0:26:43
Well, if you don’t do artificial turf, you start getting into dogs digging. It can get muddy. If it’s rain, it starts to defeat the purpose. So it will be Astroturf on the inside, and there will be a separation. There’ll be two different ones, one for bigger dogs, one for smaller dogs. There’ll be shade structures inside, seating areas for the owners in there so that’ll go in over the summer.
Rico Figliolini 0:27:10
Brian Johnson 0:27:11
Then right after the last event on our summer event calendar, I think it’s the last weekend in November, we will do two things. One is we will be removing and relocating some of it. The very first three playground pieces of equipment that went out to the Town Center was the slide. And then you’ve got those two playground pieces. That area will be relocated in a tot playground, like oriented for four years, and younger will go in that area. So you’ll have the call it the succession of age where you have four and under will be in that area. Then if you go five to whatever age you’ll go to where the Qantas is and the big stuff. And then theoretically, if you outgrow the Qantas and everything as like my 14 year old son would tell me that’s kid stuff, he’ll go want to go to the fitness trail? And him and his buddies like to see who can climb the ropes, navigate some of those obstacles the fastest or whatever. But for a kid, if you adhere to the rules and the ages or whatever, you have kind of a succession of difficulty, if you will. So that won’t start until after the last one because that’ll be a little bit of a mini construction area, and we don’t want to do that. The other thing we’re going to do is at the same time, after the same event is we will be closing the inside of the sidewalk that forms the big circle there for the Town Green.
Rico Figliolini 0:29:00
Brian Johnson 0:29:00
We’re going to be removing all the soil and replacing it with a drainage field. Because if you’ve been out there, you can tell that when it’s lumpy. And the reason is that way is because when it was put in. Originally our private partners just put grass over what was existing. And what was existing is the clay that we have here in Georgia. And when you put a lot of weight on the clay, when it’s wet, what will happen is it’ll squish down and then when it dries out, it hardens so it doesn’t go back to where it was. And then there’s no drainage that’s been placed in there. So we’re going to remove all the bad clay soil we’re going to put back in. It’s kind of like the French drain type of underground drainage field to allow it to drain away and then put good dirt, no clay, and then put sod back. We’re going to try one more time with the good soil and drainage to actually have real grass. Sod otherwise putting Astroturf into it. But it’s got a different feel. It’s always nice to sometimes have grass we’ll see, but we’re not averse to if we can’t keep it, we can’t keep the grass. If it’s being used too much, trampled on too much. We may have to go to the artificial turf, but right now we’re going to put back sod but that’ll happen in December, January time frame.
Rico Figliolini 0:30:33
Brian Johnson 0:30:33
And hopefully that so we’ll have one more season where it’ll still be a little lumpy and everything.
Rico Figliolini 0:30:41
I think people will be fine.
Brian Johnson 0:30:45
Those two things are not going to happen until after the concert series done. So we don’t interrupt any the dog park is not interrupting anything. So that’ll happen. So, yeah, more stuff with the Town Green. And then of course at the time of this recording, a couple of hours from now, the Forum North American Properties is having the groundbreak. Yeah, they’re groundbreaking on the first phase of the Forum’s redevelopment and they’re going to removing the first section of interior parking spaces and put in the first section of the Linear Park. And then they’re going to put in the food hall and the outdoor seating there at the north end of the Forum. So that’ll be happening. The parking deck will be start construction on it sometime later on this 2023 season. And so once that is finished, they’ll then be able to remove the remaining three quarters of those parking spaces and finish the Linear Park. So the Forum is moving ahead as well. So we got some stuff going on still.
Rico Figliolini 0:31:50
Yeah. Interesting. Well, lots of stuff to probably keep going. I know you were in DC a few weeks ago about with the FAA, and so I know that you were talking about more drone activity projects probably coming. Why don’t we make that the last thing? What quick hits can you tell us about that, about the FAA, the drone programs that you think might be coming here?
Brian Johnson 0:32:12
Based on a visit that we had from the deputy administrator of the FAA who is in charge of drone regulation. He had been out here at Curiosity Lab once he invited us back to DC to meet with the entire drone regulation team for the FAA to talk about what Curiosity Labs ecosystem might offer to the FAA as it looks to figure out how to regulate this type of thing. And they’re in the business of needing more data and data in certain areas. And so we discussed and have come up with some areas where we can really help them out. Areas partnering with T Mobile, Deutsche Telecom and their 5G wireless environment here. FAA is very interested in how well it can handle multiple drones using the same wireless signal, especially when it gets beyond visual line of sight where the drone operator can no longer see directly drone. We’re going to do some stuff in that space and then our city marshals are going to end up doing some things around law enforcement and the use of drones, which is a different area of regulation that they’ve got to get into. So we’re going to be doing some things to help them ultimately come to a point where they can feel like they can start issuing regulations on some of this stuff. It’s the wild west to think about it. There’s a lot of regulations have to be created for private drones. One day they just become so common that everybody walks out, throws up their own drone and starts doing the thing. Well, if everybody’s doing it, how do you keep becoming a problem?
Rico Figliolini 0:33:59
And it’s been out there a while, so it’s interesting how long it’s taken to get that regulation place. People are talking about AI and how long regulation will be in place for that. Who knows? It’ll be another decade before we say, that cool. Just a lot of stuff going on in the city of Peachtree Corners. You guys are busy and have a vision and I’m just excited to see these things happening. So Brian, I appreciate you coming out every month giving us all thanks for having me.
Brian Johnson 0:34:28
Again, thanks for providing us this opportunity to let everybody know of the cool things that our great community has going for it and what we’re doing to leverage to make it even better. So appreciate it.
Rico Figliolini 0:34:39
Yeah, no worries. Thank you again and thank you to EV Remodeling Inc. For being a great corporate sponsor of ours and the work that we do in both in print and the podcast. So check them out. EvRemodelingInc.com. Brian, thank you so much and we leave your comments if you have any, in the comments below. And stay safe out there. We’ll see you next time. Thanks, guys.
Arts & Literature
Wesleyan Artist Market, Student Artists 2023 [Podcast]
On this episode of Peachtree Corners Life we take a deep dive into the world of young artists at Wesleyan School, featuring three talented individuals: Freddie Reinhard, and Anastasia and Juliana Lamas. From digital art to painted oyster shells, these artisans have created unique, inspiring pieces that showcase their creativity and passions. We explore their inspirations, hobbies, and future aspirations, as well as their involvement in academics and extracurricular activities. With the Wesleyan Artist Market approaching (on April 28,29, 2023), this podcast is the perfect sneak peek into the exciting works these artists will be presenting. Don’t miss this chance to discover the next generation of artistic talent.
Wesleyan Artist Market Website
Timestamp (Where to find it in the podcast):
[0:00:00] – Intro
[0:01:48] – About Anastasia and Juliana
[0:02:58] – About Freddie
[0:05:40] – Other Interests
[0:06:19] – The Creative Process
[0:10:50] – Presenting at The Artist Market
[0:12:34] – Inspiration
[0:14:35] – Difficulties of Mediums
[0:19:32] – Art Courses and Extracurricular Activities
[0:23:50] – Closing
[0:00:00] Rico Figliolini: Hi, everyone. This is Rico Figliolini, host of Peachtree Corners Life. And I have some special guests today. We are a sponsor of the Wesleyan Artist Market, and the guests I have here are student artists that are going to be presenting at the show this April. So let me introduce Freddie first. Hey, Freddie, thanks for joining us.
[0:00:18] Freddie Reinhard: Hi, how are you?
[0:00:19] Rico Figliolini: Good. Anastasia and Juliana, left and right, respective. Thanks for joining us.
[0:00:26] Anastasia Lamas: Thank you.
[0:00:27] Rico Figliolini: Appreciate it. So before we get right into it, I just want to say thank you to our corporate sponsor, EV Remodeling. I say corporate, but they’re a neighbor of ours, right? They live in Peachtree Corners. Eli is the owner of the place, and EV Remodeling does design to build and renovation work, and they’ve been around for a while, and they do great work. So check them out at EVRemodelingInc.com. They’re our sponsor and a great supporter of ours, so we appreciate them. So let’s hop right into it. You girls are exhibiting at Wesleyan Artist Market this April. I wish I had the dates in front of me, but do you remember the dates, Freddie?
[0:01:07] Freddie Reinhard: Yes, April 28 and April 29.
[0:01:10] Rico Figliolini: Great. Thank you. Just testing you on that one. Right? So we’re featuring it in the upcoming issue of Peachtree Corners Magazine as well. So we have three adult artists that we profiled in the magazine. So check that out. That’s coming out. Hitting the post office, I think Thursday. Mailboxes this weekend, hopefully. So check that out. But let’s get right into it. Juliana and Anastasia do artwork on oyster shells and a little different medium, right? They’re in 8th grade and 7th grade, and they’re working together on this project. So why don’t you two tell me a little bit about what it is that you do.
[0:01:48] Anastasia Lamas: So we take oyster shells from where we vacation at Hilton Head Island, and we paint them with a lot of different designs to be used as trinket dishes and decorations and gifts.
[0:02:04] Rico Figliolini: We’re going to flash one on. So when you paint these, I’m assuming you paint the background white, and then you use colors. What mediums, what actually are you using to do this?
[0:02:15] Anastasia Lamas: So first we bleach them to get any sort of, like, black spots off, and then we use acrylic paint. We do a few coats of that.
[0:02:25] Rico Figliolini: So what got you into that?
[0:02:28] Anastasia Lamas: We really loved the style, and I actually used them as nutcracker gifts for my dance friends as well, originally. And we thought that they would sell really well at the Artist Market.
[0:02:38] Rico Figliolini: Cool. Here’s another one that let’s pop that one in there too. So how many varieties do you have actually, that you’re using?
[0:02:46] Anastasia Lamas: Probably at the moment, probably seven. Like, seven-ish.
[0:02:49] Rico Figliolini: Cool. Freddie, you’re doing different stuff, so tell us a little bit about some of your work.
[0:02:58] Freddie Reinhard: So I have a button right here, like college buttons. And this one happens to be for Wesleyan. So they’re for, like, game days, and whenever you just want to support your team. They’re very popular at big SEC schools, especially. And then I’m also doing dorm room prints, so you can put, obviously, your dorm room, bathroom, wherever you want to show your team spirit. And I’m also making sweatshirts that have, like, a teddy bear design on them, wearing jerseys for Ole Miss Alabama.
[0:03:29] Rico Figliolini: So what medium? I know you said I believe you said before we started rolling on this that you use digital. So it’s digitally done? So what programs are you actually working in?
[0:03:39] Freddie Reinhard: I use Fresco. It’s, like, from Adobe, and it just is great. Definitely my go to. It’s pretty simple. I have, like, a button machine, and you just print out your pictures, and a pretty easy job to get done.
[0:03:55] Rico Figliolini: So some of the stuff, like, for example, Auburn, this would be on a button I’m assuming .
[0:03:59] Freddie Reinhard: Yes, that would be on a button.
[0:04:01] Rico Figliolini: Excellent. So leave that up for a minute. Freddie, have you done the Wesleyan Artist Market before, or is this the first time, or how long have you been doing it?
[0:04:16] Freddie Reinhard: No, this is my first time doing it.
[0:04:18] Rico Figliolini: Really?
[0:04:18] Freddie Reinhard: I thought it would just be a fun way for people to wear my art. I thought it would just be cool to see people wearing it. And I’m going to college next year, so I’m like, what better time to make college pins? I can even make some for my friends next year. And I just thought it was something unique that I knew would probably sell well.
[0:04:35] Rico Figliolini: Cool. Now, you’ve been, I understand correctly, you’re an AP art student at Wesleyan School?
[0:04:41] Freddie Reinhard: Yes.
[0:04:42] Rico Figliolini: And you’ve done about three and a half years of art in high school, I’m assuming. That’s a lot of years of art for a high school kid.
[0:04:48] Freddie Reinhard: It is.
[0:04:49] Rico Figliolini: Is this something that you want? Where do you want to take this when you go to college?
[0:04:54] Freddie Reinhard: Well, I’m hoping to do something in fashion, and so all this art is definitely helping me just kind of know my style in general, and I just love art. In the first place, I would like to do fashion, and I’m sure that if these buttons sell well, I’ll probably sell them in college. Yeah. It’s just something I’ve always loved.
[0:05:16] Rico Figliolini: Do you want to do a career out of this? What do you think your major would be in college?
[0:05:22] Freddie Reinhard: Well, currently I’m majoring in Southern Studies, which is, like, I can study the art of the south. So I really would like to tie in my Southern culture with my fashion. Hopefully, I could go into something fashion related would be my dream. All of this definitely helps out.
[0:05:40] Rico Figliolini: Absolutely. All right, let’s go to Anastasia and Juliana. I mean, middle school, 7th, 8th grade. Is that middle school? Yeah, that’s middle school. You’re way before college, right? Why don’t you share some of the interests that you two have? I mean, is art part of that, or do you have other interests besides that?
[0:06:00] Anastasia Lamas: I’m a dancer. I really do enjoy making art outside of dance and school. And Juliana?
[0:06:08 ] Juliana Lamas: I’m a gymnast, and so I really like that, and I really like just being creative and thinking of new ways to make something.
[0:06:19] Rico Figliolini: So when you’re doing the oysters and that artwork, are you both working on it at the same time? Do you collaborate? Does one of you say, no, I don’t think I like that, or how does that go? And do you sketch it out before you actually put it on the oyster?
[0:06:35] Anastasia Lamas: Yes, we have designs that we know we’re going to do on the shells, and we’ll put on the shell and do them together.
[0:06:44] Rico Figliolini: Cool. I guess there’s always someone a little bit more creative than the other right in a pair. Does anyone want to raise their hand? Which one’s more creative?
[0:06:55] Anastasia Lamas: I think we’re both creative in our own ways, like, different parts.
[0:07:01] Rico Figliolini: And where do you get your inspiration for what you do? Like, the artwork that you put on the shells, how do you come up with that?
[0:07:08] Juliana Lamas: For some of them, so we play the piano. So for one of them that we made, we put piano notes on it. I actually have it with me. And then Anastasia really likes flowers, so we made some with flowers on them, and then we wanted to incorporate something from Wesleyan into them. So it says Joy on it. It’s the joy motto. And then we have the ones that have the crosses on them.
[0:07:32] Rico Figliolini: Okay. Got a bunch of them up there now. Okay, so let’s go back to Freddie a little bit. So, Freddie, where do you find your creative process, your creative space, physical space or mind?
[0:07:53] Freddie Reinhard: Yeah, honestly, I do a lot of my drawings during class, which isn’t a good thing. I call it the doodlebug. My friends know it as that, and it’s just like, I’m in class, I can’t think of anything but just, like, drawing something on paper or my laptop. So, sadly, to my teachers, it’s definitely in class. And then also, I’ll draw when I get home from school, or if I just have some downtime, I’ll do some drawings then, and I get a lot of my inspiration from Pinterest. I see all these cute dorm room stuff, and I’m like, I could do that, but I want my Freddie spin on it. So I’ll do bows often. A lot of people know me for my bows because I just have bows in all my artwork. I just have practiced my handwriting for probably, like, four years now.
[0:08:47] Rico Figliolini: All right, well, the Pinterest, I’m surprised, actually. My daughter uses it. She’s 24. So is that something that you use a lot of? Do you create boards and put up your stuff that way too?
[0:09:07] Freddie Reinhard: Normally I’ll just go on there. If I need a pattern for this cherry background, maybe I saw something with cherries, and then I was like, that’s pretty cute. Or if I just see fun colors that I could incorporate in my art, I’ll do that. Or if I just need inspiration for something, I’ll definitely go there, because obviously it’s Pinterest. They have everything under the sun.
[0:09:30] Rico Figliolini: Okay. All right. Juliana, how about as far as inspiration? I think you said your family goes to Hilton Head, or is that correct? So when did that start? And I guess do you beach comb? Do you go searching for the shells on the beach, I’m assuming?
[0:09:51] Anastasia Lamas: Well, our grandparents owned some condos up at Hilton Head, and they’ve been going there since before we were born, definitely since my dad was a kid.
[0:10:00] Rico Figliolini: Okay.
[0:10:01] Anastasia Lamas: And so we kind of got the inspiration for the shells there, and we ordered them from a lady who cleaned them for us, actually, at Hilton Head. And we also sometimes when we go to restaurants there, we’ll ask the cook if they can give us some of their old oyster shells.
[0:10:21] Rico Figliolini: That’s ingenious. That’s a good way of recycling. That’s good. I would never have thought of that. My creative process runs a little different, but that’s cool that you did that. Okay, so now that you have your process and stuff, do you know where you’re going to be doing it at Wesleyan? Where you’re going to be presenting your products and stuff? Whoever wants to go first.
[0:10:46] Freddie Reinhard: Where I’m presenting them, do you mean, like, in Yancy?
[0:10:50] Rico Figliolini: Yeah, at the show. Well, at the show. Well, I guess people can find you when they go to the show. But will you have a variety of things at the show, I’m assuming?
[0:11:00] Freddie Reinhard: Yeah, I’m going to have my stand is going to be very obvious, I think. My mom’s trying to plan, like, a huge pink bow above my stand. So if you need to look for it, just look for the pink bow. And I’m going to have about 400 buttons there, 100 prints, 100 sweatshirts, I think, so there’s definitely going to be a variety. And I’m also taking commissions for the, I obviously can’t do every college I wish I could, but commissions for smaller colleges like Sanford and wherever else, I’m going to do commissions. So whoever’s going there, they can get buttons or prints or whatever they want.
[0:11:36] Rico Figliolini: Cool. So they can order from you, and then you’ll ship it. You can ship it later.
[0:11:40] Freddie Reinhard: Yes.
[0:11:41] Rico Figliolini: And Juliana and Anastasia, obviously, you’re going to have tons of product too, I’m imagining.
[0:11:47] Anastasia Lamas: We’re trying to do maybe ten to 20 of each design, but we’re definitely going to have made more by the time of the artist market. So far, it should start. I don’t know about you, but I want to keep selling them after the artist market when she goes to high school. Keep doing them.
[0:12:09] Rico Figliolini: Do you have an Instagram account? Do you have a place where you show off your artwork online?
[0:12:16] Anastasia Lamas: Not really. We all have just our personal Instagram account.
[0:12:20] Rico Figliolini: Got you. Freddie, the same for you, I’m assuming.
[0:12:23] Freddie Reinhard: I’ve decided that if these sell well, I’m going to make an Instagram account. So however well this art market goes, will decide if I post these on an Instagram account or not.
[0:12:34] Rico Figliolini: Got you. Okay, so a little bit about you all personally? A little bit, I guess. Let’s start with Freddie. Do you have a favorite artist or filmmaker or author that you’d like to share?
[0:12:51] Freddie Reinhard: Well, I have, like, fashion icon who I’m just obsessed with, and she really inspires me. Just so creative and so cool. Her name is Rebecca Cohen, and she’s the owner of this brand that I love called Love Check Fancy. I’m sure they probably know what that is. And she’s so girly and feminine, and I just admire it so much about her. And she just made this huge brand that everybody my age and around my age loves, and I just want to be her when I’m older, and I just love her distinct style.
[0:13:28] Rico Figliolini: And that’s called love. What is that called? Love Shack.
[0:13:30] Freddie Reinhard: LoveShackFancy.
[0:13:34] Rico Figliolini: Cool.
[0:13:34] Freddie Reinhard: She’s the queen of the world in my eyes.
[0:13:37] Rico Figliolini: Really? Okay. I haven’t heard of that one yet. My daughter tries to keep me abreast of things, but that one I haven’t heard. What about you two? Julianna, Anastasia. Do you have any artists or brands or styles that you follow that you like?
[0:13:54] Anastasia Lamas: Nothing in particular. I’m a giant bookworm, so I read, like, a lot. And a variety of genres.
[0:14:02] Rico Figliolini: What’s your favorite genre? Top two genres, I guess.
[0:14:08] Anastasia Lamas: Probably right now, fantasy and romance.
[0:14:10] Rico Figliolini: Okay. And your sister Juliana?
[0:14:14] Juliana Lamas: For me, probably someone I really love and look up to is Selena Gomez, because I’ve been seeing it on Instagram recently. I think she’s really inspirational and stuff.
[0:14:26] Rico Figliolini: She was the actress in Wednesday, right? On Netflix? Or am I thinking of someone else?
[0:14:33] Anastasia Lamas: Yeah, Jenny Ortega.
[0:14:35] Rico Figliolini: Yeah, that was Ortega. Sorry. All right, cool. So what do you want to share that we haven’t talked about yet, related to the artwork and stuff that you do, process or anything like that? What’s the most difficult thing? What’s the thing that you’ve done that you thought was great and all of a sudden you’re like, yeah, let’s try something else, and you start from scratch again. Let’s start with Freddie. She looks like she already knows something.
[0:15:05] Freddie Reinhard: Well, I think you’re probably asking something a little different, but through this button process, I thought it was going to be so easy. I thought I would just be, like, clamp and it would be done. My palms were sore after I was doing it. It’s actually hard work. And my mom kept trying to show me how to do it. We failed at, like, ten buttons in a row. So that’s definitely a lot harder than I expected. This whole artist market, I’m excited for it, but it’s definitely a lot of work.
[0:15:33] Rico Figliolini: But I know, yeah, the button machines are definitely I’ve done that before for political things, it’s not easy. What about you girls? Have you had stuff during your process that you found difficult or had to start all over again on?
[0:15:55] Anastasia Lamas: I think it’s just a lot of time to paint the shells with so many layers and just letting it all dry takes hours. Just keeping on going and going and going. And we’re trying to make all of them perfect. So that just takes a little bit of extra time. And then also, since we’re kind of working together on this, we both have our own different styles, so we kind of intervene and we both like, oh, but I think it looks better like this, better like that, or whatever.
[0:16:32] Rico Figliolini: Did you ever decide to okay, this shell is mine. I’m going to put my initials on it because do you do individual shells like that? This one’s my creative thing.
[0:16:43] Anastasia Lamas: Not really. I really enjoy doing the cross oyster shells, though, so I usually stick to those.
[0:16:46] And I really like doing the notes, the music notes and the joy one. So we each have our shells that we work on.
[0:16:59] Rico Figliolini: Okay. All right, Freddie, when you’re doing the work that you’re doing, I know you’re using digital, so is that easier to do that? I mean, when you’re creating patterns and all that? I imagine some of the process is easier, but also that gives you a little bit more creative space, maybe.
[0:17:15] Freddie Reinhard: Well, I prefer doing lettering on paper. I still enjoy it because it’s easier to just erase things and clear. But if I could, I would definitely prefer paper for just doing my lettering. But for the pattern and such. Like the cherries, I just have to draw one and then just duplicate a bunch. So it’s way easier than if I had to do every single cherry. And then for these prints, it’s so much easier when I can just kind of just fill this hat in with one click instead of, of course, drawing in the whole thing. So in some ways it’s easier. Other ways I feel, if it was all handmade, if it was all made on paper, I think it would have more of like I don’t know, I feel like it has your hand more in it. As my art teacher would say, you could tell it’s from me because you could tell it’s drawn on paper. So that aspect I kind of miss, but definitely easier for math, product, to do digital.
[0:18:16] Rico Figliolini: Have you ever thought about I know 3D printing is like, the big thing now, and I’ve seen artists use 3D printing, actually. Have you thought about that?
[0:18:25] Freddie Reinhard: No, I haven’t. I know we have a few at Wesleyan, but I didn’t even get into consideration. That is a really good idea, that would be really cool. Maybe I will start trying to figure that out.
[0:18:36] Rico Figliolini: It doesn’t take much on some of that. Some of that is just fed these templates. But you can feed your creativeness into that template. You can customize some of these templates. So that’s just another avenue of art. Same thing. I guess for that you could 3D print shells, but then what’s the point, right? I guess those shells might have been out in the ocean for like, 100 years before they got to you or whatever. However long. So there’s some history to that, maybe even that’s unknown to anyone. Have you ever thought about doing your work, girls, on other materials besides shells?
[0:19:20] Anastasia Lamas: We haven’t really. We’ve mostly just stuck with the oyster shells.
[0:19:26] Rico Figliolini: Okay.
[0:19:27] Anastasia Lamas: Yeah, it would be interesting to see how it would work on other mediums.
[0:19:32] Rico Figliolini: Yeah, probably. Well, I’m assuming you’re taking art courses or you’ve taken art courses at Wesleyan?
[0:19:41] Anastasia Lamas: We were both in digital art last semester, and we both really enjoyed that.
[0:19:45] Juliana Lamas: I took it in fifth grade and 6th grade. Just normal art. And then I did digital art, and now I’m in technology class.
[0:19:57] Rico Figliolini: Cool. And are you liking it? Is it everything you thought it would be? What about Freddie? Freddie, what about you? I mean, you’ve been in three and a half years of AP Art course. Because of that, you probably have done different mediums, different subjects and stuff. How’d that go? And did that help with what you’re doing now? Any of that?
[0:20:18] Freddie Reinhard: Yeah, I’m going to have to think back to freshman year. I think it was 3D art, and I got stopped midway because of COVID. But I like that, it’s not my thing. I enjoyed it because it’s fun to do, but I don’t know, I just prefer doing things too deep. And then I’ve been on digital art as well, which I love. That was like so much fun. And so from then I was like, yeah, I think this is my thing. So I started getting into that. And I do some digital art on my AP Art stuff now. I don’t know, I’ll doodle on some of my pictures and I do a lot of mixed media, so that also helped with my creativeness, I guess. Too much to count.
[0:21:04] Rico Figliolini: And doodling in the classrooms. That helps, too, a little bit.
[0:21:09] Freddie Reinhard: Yes, definitely does.
[0:21:11] Rico Figliolini: Let’s make sure the teachers don’t hear that. I’ve covered quite a bit with you three. If you want to share anything else with the audience that will be listening to this, want to start that with Freddie and we’ll go the other way.
[0:21:29] Freddie Reinhard: I don’t have too much more to share, but I’d say to you two girls that you should definitely take AP Art because it is just such a great way to really learn your style and just do so much stuff you’ve always wanted to do. And it just helps with who you want to be as an artist, definitely.
[0:21:47] Rico Figliolini: Have you done any, the girls do dance and gymnastics. Have you done anything along those lines? I mean, that’s one creative aspect. Right. Have you done anything similar?
[0:21:57] Freddie Reinhard: Well, this year I actually did the musical for the first time. I’ve never done musical theater, but it was just me and my two best friends, and so that was just a great experience. Overall, we had the best time, and I’ve never been in an environment like that, and it was just so much fun. And then right now, I’m doing lacrosse, and in the fall, I do cross country.
[0:22:16] Rico Figliolini: Wow. Okay. Busy schedule. Sounds good. What about Juliana and Anastasia? It’s gymnastics and dance?
[0:22:28] Anastasia Lamas: Our main things are gymnastics and dance, but we do other sports too. She’s in the musical, and I do lacrosse and cheerleading and all that stuff.
[0:22:41] Rico Figliolini: It’s amazing how much activity girls have. I don’t know how, so what do you do to unwind then? I mean, you have schoolwork, you have artwork, you have sports. What is it that you do that’s not associated that way, to sort of do something different? Anything?
[0:23:03] Freddie Reinhard: For me, it’s honestly just, like I really get my energy from my friends, so I’ll definitely try to hang out with my friends in the little free time that I have, because they just bring me so much joy. And also hanging out with my parents since I’m going to college next year. I know I’ve got to savor these last few months, so I just make sure if I’m home during a school night, I’ll definitely go and just hang out with them and talk with them.
[0:23:31] Rico Figliolini: That’s cool. That’s a good daughter. Thank you. My kids do that. What about you girls? Juliana? Anastasia?
[0:23:39] Anastasia Lamas: Well, we try to do stuff as a family. Like family movie nights and stuff on weekdays and weekends when we aren’t super crammed schedule.
[0:23:50] Rico Figliolini: Yeah. Wesleyan kids, Great Atlanta Christian, The kids that I’ve interviewed and stuff always busy. Norcross high school. I don’t think any kids that I’ve interviewed have had more than a night or two free because of academics and sports and everything else. They’re there. But you know what? Your future is secured when you do that. I think you develop a different way of looking at life and become more successful that way. So glad you three were able to spend some time with me. This took a little time to get this together. Mostly my fault on the scheduling, but I appreciate you three showing up and doing this interview with us.
[0:24:32] Freddie Reinhard: Yeah, it was awesome.
[0:24:34] Rico Figliolini: Thank you. Hang in there with me for a minute. I just want to say thank you to everyone that’s been watching this. So the Wesleyan Artist Market is at the end of this month, and you just Google Wesleyan Artist Market, and you’ll be able to find the schedule and everything else from there. Follow them on Instagram there are going to be 75 artists from around the country there as well, besides the student artists. So there’s a lot of stuff, a lot of mediums. Check out the latest issue of Peachtree Corners magazine. You’ll see three of the artists of the 75 that will be there. It’s some good feature stories. And there’s a podcast interview also with Jennifer Keim, another adult artist that is going to be showing there. So thank you. And thank you to EV Remodeling for being a sponsor of ours. So thank you all. Take care.
Arts & Literature
Jennifer Keim Loves to Play & Explore the Beauty of Exotic Animals through Art
The Wesleyan Artist Market is back and celebrating its 25th year. On this special episode of Peachtree Corners Life, Rico Figliolini is joined by artist Jennifer Keim, one of the many artists featured at the Wesleyan Artist Market 2023. Jennifer shares her story, her inspiration, and a behind-the-scenes look into her creative process.
Jennifer’s Website: https://www.jkeim.com
Jennifer’s Social Media: @JKeimStudio
Wesleyan Artist Market: artistmarket.wesleyanschool.org
[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:02:20] – About Jennifer
[00:04:36] – Preferred Mediums
[00:12:53] – Using Wildlife and Travel Experiences
[00:16:55] – Creating Daily
[00:18:15] – Capturing a Moment
[00:20:13] – The Fly Guys Series
[00:24:39] – Textile Art
[00:28:11] – Jennifer’s Art at the Wesleyan Artist Market
[00:30:15] – Closing
[00:00:30] Rico: Hi everyone, this is Rico Figliolini, host of Peachtree Corners Life. I do want to introduce you to our show and our special guest today, all the way from Hawaii. Jennifer Keim. Hey Jennifer. Thanks for joining us.
[00:00:41] Jennifer: Hi. Happy to be here. Thank you for having me.
[00:00:45] Rico: Cool. I heard you were on the waters on the ocean before. Everything okay? Took some Go Pros?
[00:00:49] Jennifer: No, it’s just gorgeous.
[00:00:53] Rico: Sure.
[00:00:53] Jennifer: It is gorgeous. The whales are active. And I had the chance going yesterday to an out rigger where we paddle out and we’re just right there with the whales, so.
[00:01:04] Rico: That’s amazing. Yeah, and we’ll get into some of that. I mean, some of your artwork is animal related. So we’ll talk about that inspiration. But before we get there, let me just introduce our sponsor for the podcast and our corporate sponsor for everything that we do. And that’s EV Remodeling. Eli from EV Remodeling lives here, right here in Peachtree Corners. Great guy. He was just featured in one of our issues recently. He does home renovation, remodeling, from design to build. Just a great guy, great family. Check them out. EVRemodelingInc.com is where he’s at. So check him out and let’s just get right into it. Hey, Jennifer.
[00:01:39] Jennifer: Okay, great.
[00:01:40] Rico: So you’re, we’re gonna call you, I mean, I’ve checked through it, done my research a little bit, so I have some stuff about you. It’s amazing what’s on the net. You’re a fine artist and lifestyle designer.
[00:01:52] Jennifer: Yes.
[00:01:52] Rico: A global design brand. In fact, the reason that we’re interviewing you is because you’re going to be one of 75 artists being showcased at the Wesleyan Artist Market here in Peachtree Corners April 28th and 29th. So I’m glad that you’re gonna be there. And you’re gonna be actually one of the three artists that we’re featuring in our print magazine in the upcoming issue. It’s just fantastic. But I want to know a little bit more about you. What makes the artist Jennifer Keim? So tell us a little bit about yourself.
[00:02:20] Jennifer: A little bit about myself. Well, there’s a lot.
[00:02:24] Rico: I’m sure.
[00:02:24] Jennifer: And lots of layers, but really it all started fourth grade. My parents were really good about having me try new things and see what my niche was. And so they put me in an art camp. And I’m from Columbus, Georgia. And they put me in an art camp at the museum for a week long. And the instructor said she has something, Jill Chancey Phillips. And she from there on, she’s like, keep her in it. She needs to be in the art world and I can give her private lessons. And so I had private lessons with her all the way through until I went off to school. So she was my mentor and I mean she is my special, so.
[00:03:03] Rico: Wow. And interestingly enough, I mean, you’re displayed in the museums and galleries all over the country. You’ve been on, featured on HGTV as well. You were also at Columbus museum, right? How old were you when your art was exhibited there?
[00:03:18] Jennifer: Well, I mean, I was very young, actually. And yeah, very young. And then there was a moment in high school as well, so, for one of the little exhibits. It feels so long ago though, a lot’s happened since then.
[00:03:34] Rico: I’m sure. What about HGTV? How did that come about? How were you featured there?
[00:03:39] Jennifer: Well, I was actually featured twice. Once there was an interior designer in Atlanta and she commissioned me to do a piece to go in her theater room. And I can’t even pull up in my head what year that was. I think it was probably 2007. And then my most recent one, my Protea, which is one contour line paintings. It’s one continuous line without lifting your pen, were featured through a designer for the Bargain Mansion Show with Tamara Day.
[00:04:13] Rico: Cool. It’s great exposure, I’m sure. The artwork that you’ve done, I mean, the mediums that you work in, there’s several different mediums it sounds like that you work in. Watercolor, you work in textiles, you do canvas work, oils, pastels. How do you come about choosing, or what do you feel most comfortable in expressing your inner artist? What type of medium do you like best?
[00:04:36] Jennifer: That’s a really good question because I feel like every medium has their own personality. So you’ve got your drawing technique that’s, you know, you can do quick gestural, And then you have your painting where you can just layer, layer, layer. So there’s just so many different personalities that happen when you’ve got the different mediums. And a lot of times it’s just the subject kind of craves a certain medium. So, you’ve got your line drawing and certain subjects, like the contour line paintings that I do, like just to have the simple shapes of the subject versus really getting into the layered paint of like a floral, like a mountain view. They each all have different personalities that you kind of play off of. But one of my main reasons too where I jump around, like I’ll play in oils for a while. And I mean, I’m a messy one, so like it’s all, it’s in my ear. It’s all over. And I try to keep it as clean as possible, but it just kind of happens. With the oils, you know, I love to use the pallet knife and work with the coastal scenes and see the layer of the marsh. And just kind of play off of that. But the oils and pastels after a while, and I didn’t realize this until it just kind of happened, it was a buildup of episodes that were happening with my body that I became, I realized I was, my body was toxic from playing and being in all the oils and pastels for a long while.
[00:05:57] Rico: Oh, wow.
[00:05:57] Jennifer: So I would work then I, it took a year to kind of clean up and not have any more of my episodes. Where then it just connected, what was the issue that I, there was just a common ground of the toxins. And I had to then be more aware of my surroundings and how I actually use these materials safely. So the awareness of using these subjects, or these mediums. I’m better now about keeping it safe.
[00:06:25] Rico: That’s a bit horrible if it’s like someone that loves cats, but is allergic.
[00:06:29] Jennifer: They’re allergic, yeah.
[00:06:31] Rico: That would be just bad, right? I can’t imagine that.
[00:06:33] Jennifer: Well, I have this really, really nice air purifier now, and I make, I wear gloves when I, and when I’m in the oils just to help one less thing to kind of get into my system.
[00:06:45] Rico: Sure, sure. So when you’re doing a piece, because you do series of pieces. And we’ll show a couple of these things. Has it happened when you started in a medium and then you decided that’s not the right medium and you shift and use it different? Or does it, once you decide watercolor?
[00:07:02] Jennifer: I’m always playing and exploring and I feel like if you’re not, if you’re not doing that and you’re not challenging yourself, then you’re stuck. But I always like to explore. I work with my off to the races too, and then some of my animal series with gouache. So that’s just, that’s basically like an acrylic and a watercolor, if they had a baby, it would be gouache. So you have the opaqueness, but then the transparency that can happen with watercolor, but the opaqueness of an acrylic, that’s gouache. Yeah, that’s gouache for you, yes.
[00:07:33] Rico: So tell us about the lion.
[00:07:35] Jennifer: Yes. Yes. And that’s all about just layering of color. There’s lots of layers.
[00:07:41] Rico: Was this a sketch or was this a final piece?
[00:07:44] Jennifer: This is a final piece.
[00:07:45] Rico: Okay.
[00:07:46] Jennifer: And so I start off with like that neutral color to draw it out. And there’s nothing forgiving about a water gouache piece. I mean, once you put a stroke down, it’s there. There’s no way of lifting or recovering from it. So, I always start with the eyes, because I feel like you’ve got to land the eyes or the piece won’t be as impactful. And then I’ll put down the base coat, walk away, maybe start another piece until the other one’s dry and start playing at the color.
[00:08:17] Rico: So is it the same techniques that you’re using, that you use here as well?
[00:08:22] Jennifer: So that’s the interesting part. The lion was a gouache and now we’re looking at the ostriches, and that’s my pastel on wood panel. And this is a drawing medium versus the lion is a painting medium. And so with this, this is one of my favorite techniques right now because it’s the vulnerability that happens with the whole process, I am dependent on how the resin reacts to the wood and the pastel. And my whole climate’s got to be good, dust-free environment. I draw it on first with the pastel. Also pastel, once it’s touched the wood, like not forgiving, like I’ve tried to lift it up. But because of the really deep blues, those always will, you’ll see like a ghost line if I had to erase. But I’ll do the pastel and then I will pour the resin in. And I don’t know if anyone’s familiar with resin, but you mix these two concoctions, stir, you mix for three minutes. And then you pour it onto the pastel resin or a pastel board. And I have 15 minutes to relieve the bubbles, and then I have to walk away for three days.
[00:09:32] Rico: Wow.
[00:09:32] Jennifer: And then the resin, the chemistry that happens most of the time, like I’ve finished drawing the ostrich’s with my pastel, and most people would be like, that’s a finished piece. And it is for, in that case, but for my process, that’s halfway through. So my next step is the resin which could change the whole game of this piece. It could make or break it basically.
[00:09:58] Rico: It sounds similar to, I interviewed last year, I think it was an artist that works at pottery, right? And glazing and using kilns and stuff to fire up. And it’s similar to that. They could be using a color that looks blue. And then once you’ve done the process and you’re, you have to really be careful when you’re baking, if you will, that you stop it. Completely stop the oxygen from allowing further the work because the colors will shift to completely different colors.
[00:10:25] Jennifer: I know. It’s so, it’s crazy. It is so crazy. And you have to level the board out too, where, I mean this, but I’ve been working with resin for 21 years. So I’ve learned and I’ve learned and I’ve learned. And every, because I used to build my boards, but now I actually have them built for me and do this nice beveled edge, that just kind of shows through once the resin is poured. But you learn these things. Like I have to make sure it’s really level because if it’s shifted somehow, the pastel that basically melts with the resin will then kind of just bleed through and then it’ll just move down in the direction of the gravity. So I’ve got to learn to manipulate that and make sure it stays up to where it’s not spilling off to the bottom of the panel.
[00:11:10] Rico: Wow. I can’t even imagine. You spend the time creating it and then you put the resin on and God forbid something big goes.
[00:11:17] Jennifer: I know. Yeah.
[00:11:18] Rico: You just throw it out and just start again?
[00:11:21] Jennifer: Yes. And there was my most recent pour, I did my largest pour in my whole career. Eight gallons of resin.
[00:11:28] Rico: Oh my God.
[00:11:29] Jennifer: And 13 pieces. And I always like to kind of challenge myself too. But I could have gotten myself in trouble, but.
[00:11:35] Rico: It all turned out okay?
[00:11:36] Jennifer: It did. I poured it and it turned out great. But there was one panel that was giving me a fit. And the bubbles just kind of kept coming up and up and up and up. And it was almost like it was just drink ing. The wood was drinking the resin, the way that it just pushing out all the air and oxygen and everything from it.
[00:11:54] Rico: Wow.
[00:11:54] Jennifer: I finally got it to work, but it gave me a fit. So there’s always, always, it’s something’s gonna happen.
[00:12:02] Rico: Yeah, it almost sounds like you have to heat up the wood or do something to the wood to prep it before you do the water.
[00:12:08] Jennifer: Well, it needs to be like regulated with the temperature.
[00:12:11] Rico: Okay.
[00:12:11] Jennifer: And the humidity’s got to be just right for it to dry and not get tacky.
[00:12:18] Rico: I’m sure.
[00:12:18] Jennifer: And no kids or dogs or cats or husbands could come around after. Like right after the pour, so.
[00:12:25] Rico: Yes. How old are your kids now?
[00:12:27] Jennifer: My daughter, Jane, is 10.
[00:12:29] Rico: Okay.
[00:12:30] Jennifer: And she’s in fifth grade. And then my son, Charlie, is six, in kindergarten.
[00:12:35] Rico: Alright. Old enough to know not to put their hands on the artwork as it’s seemed curing.
[00:12:39] Jennifer: Well, they know mommy’s pouring. Like when the big sign says, do not open.
[00:12:43] Rico: Okay, alright. That’s like my handwritten sign on the door. It says podcast recording.
[00:12:50] Jennifer: Yes, yes.
[00:12:52] Rico: It’s funny. Just to back step just a little bit, when you started wanting to become an artist in fourth grade or four years old. You did do that double major as a vet and art. I guess you wanted to become a veterinarian at some point, but microbiology wasn’t working for you, I guess.
[00:13:09] Jennifer: Yeah.
[00:13:10] Rico: But animals seem to inform a lot of the stuff you do, or at least wildlife does. And I know that at one point, for example, you went to South Africa where the exotic animals are. Did that inform any of the other work that you’ve done? I mean, how do you, how do you use trips like that? Like that or like Hawaii where you see the big whales in the ocean?
[00:13:31] Jennifer: Yes.
[00:13:32] Rico: How do you use that?
[00:13:33] Jennifer: Oh man. Well, so already having an intrigue for the animals, wanting to be an exotic vet, save the lions and tigers. I was already drawn to the, just the massiveness and just the larger, I mean, these guys are just, I just find ’em so beautiful and just so intriguing, being so large. But then going to South Africa and seeing them like right there how their circle of life works. And then seeing how much bigger they really are in person, right on their trek to go kill the water buffalo and all the things. It, I get chills. Like it just, it lights my fire. I mean, it livens me up. And I find that even if I’m in a rut, like what’s my next, what’s my next move? What’s my next series like? What do I want to do? Do I even want to do art anymore? Like when I’m in my, like, my moments of, oh, woe is me. Like, what do I do with myself? I find that I just go back to the animals to help me break out of that rut, if you call it.
[00:14:30] Rico: Okay. cool.
[00:14:31] Jennifer: But they just, they just make my heartbeat differently.
[00:14:34] Rico: I would think that seeing, I’ve been to Cairo some years back and seeing the pyramids, seeing the sphinx, way, way different than seeing pictures. Seeing the sand blow up onto the edge of Cairo, edge of the city. I mean, just so totally different. So I can imagine why you’d get inspired when you’re right there in the midst of seeing a giraffe. It’s different from a zoo I would imagine being out there on a safari or something like that.
[00:15:04] Jennifer: Well, the smells, and the breeze, and the sounds that happen. I mean, I remember one night we were out in the Lapa area. This was like considered the social spot and then all of a sudden the guy said, okay, you hear that? And we’re like, what? They’re like, well, you don’t hear anything. The bullfrogs that stopped croaking, which mean the hippos are on camp. So the way that all of the nature talks to each other, I get chills again. Like, it just really, it’s fascinating. Absolutely fascinating. And then just, we were out there and the lion that you’ve see just recently, his name is Zero. And I met him in South Africa. They had just killed a water buffalo and were chowing down and their bellies were full. And it was just nap time, yes. So that’s right before Zero took a nap. I’ve never seen a line with, dark, dark, dark mane and then a golden red body. I mean, he was just a stunner. And I actually do not use, so one of the things too is I do not use black in my artwork. The only time I use black is if I’m doing a charcoal portrait. Or if I’m using my India ink for my fly guy outline. So all of my other pieces that you see with you know, ostriches, and then the lion, I use either the deep blues or the really deep maroons and purples and things like that. I feel like there’s so many other colors than just black. And if you look at black, like you don’t just see a black, you see like a really deep blue. red.
[00:16:35] Rico: Interesting, interesting. Because life is like that a little bit, right? I mean, the only blacks you see are like in zebras and specific animal stripings and stuff.
[00:16:43] Jennifer: See, I see deep blue in the zebras.
[00:16:46] Rico: Okay.
[00:16:46] Jennifer: And then I see like the light purples in their white. The pink, the light flesh pinks. Well, that’s just where my head goes.
[00:16:55] Rico: So let me ask you this. I know writers that they write every day, right? Most writers like to write every day. Whether it’s two hundred words or a thousand words or four thousand words, or even one sentence. I mean, their feeling is they need to write every day. And sometimes it’s garbage. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it makes it, or a whole chapter goes away from a book. Or a character disappears because it’s not working the right way. Do you find yourself as an artist that you have to sketch all the time, that you have to draw? Or do you find yourself doing that even in the most complacent places like, just somewhere where you might be. Do you do that? Do you, is that something?
[00:17:30] Jennifer: 100%. I mean, there are definitely times that I like, have a break when, and I will go probably two days. When I’m out of town. But when I’m at home, I’m painting every day.
[00:17:41] Rico: Okay.
[00:17:41] Jennifer: Even like, I’ve even brought some of my little sketch, just something I can carry with me. But on our trip here, like I’m going to be whipping this out probably somewhere. Somehow I’ll find a way to maybe sketch the mountains and maybe some greenery. It’s just almost like a creative energy that you have to kind of get out. And then there are times that my husband’s like, you might need to go downstairs. You might need to go to the studio. Like, you get a lot of energy. Like go down and release that.
[00:18:09] Rico: Yes, yes. Before you explode, I guess.
[00:18:12] Jennifer: Yes. While you still have your moment.
[00:18:15] Rico: There you go. It is what you need for that tension to go somewhere else, into your brushes or something. When you are in a place like South Africa and you’re seeing Zero or something, or animals like that, do you also take photos? I mean, do you, how do you keep that memory in there to be able to do the art later?
[00:18:35] Jennifer: Well, right now I can see them and I can see that I can, it’s almost like you can take it back to the smells too. Well, for instance, one of our vehicles broke down in the herd of elephants, and that’s how my elephant charge came about. Because they were coming over and when they flapped their ears like this, it’s just like a threat. Like I’m a big boy. Like you’ve crossed the boundary. You need to move on. So he came over and that’s how my elephant charge came. If you look, you’ll see some of my paintings have the elephant that’s with the, with his ears out.
[00:19:04] Rico: Yes, I saw those. Yeah.
[00:19:05] Jennifer: And so there were pictures taken there. I think, I personally was wanting to just be there, be present and take it all in. I did bring my sketchbook, but I never touched it because I just wanted to be there, right there in the mix of it.
[00:19:19] Rico: Okay, okay.
[00:19:20] Jennifer: I think my next trip I will definitely want to bring the sketchbook out every day and like maybe do a blind contour with them right then and there. Because I do have books of just blind contours from trips that I’ve gone on. So they end up being like these, this small like sketchbook full of just blind contours. And a blind contour is one continuous line without looking at the paper. And I feel like that, sometimes when I’m also in my rut, I will go and do blind contours. Because it helps you just break that barrier of intimidation too, of putting pen to paper on a blank piece and just get loose.
[00:19:57] Rico: Right. So artists as well as writers get intimidated by the blank page.
[00:20:01] Jennifer: For sure.
[00:20:02] Rico: Or blank canvas. For sure.
[00:20:04] Jennifer: And so I took pictures for all the Africa, for that one, but then I have the memories and the colors in my head. The smells and things.
[00:20:13] Rico: Yes. I would think, yeah, I would think the smells and sounds actually inform a bit about what you do too. Let’s go from wild animals to something a little smaller. Something that takes a little bit more patience, I think. Not my cup of tea, I don’t like doing this type of fishing. But the fly guy, is a series of art that you’ve done. Tell us the medium you use, why you chose to do this and how it came about.
[00:20:37] Jennifer: The fly guys, they came about, and this is so simple, but my husband’s grandfather had this tie box that someone had done these flies fly tie box for him.
[00:20:50] Rico: Oh, okay.
[00:20:51] Jennifer: And it was in my studio. And so when he passed away, Danny got this box and I thought it was so cool just to have a little piece of Grant’s. And so it was in my studio and it was late one night because I am naturally a night owl. I like it when the world is quiet. That’s my special place, is when the world is quiet and I’m in the studio and can just go. And my alarm’s not going off to keep me on track and things like that. But I was in the studio and I was looking at them. Oh God, those are so interesting. And they’re so tiny. And the art of fly tieing is, I started to do more research on it, and it’s incredible. Like there’s so much, there is a specialty and an artwork in those little guys right there. Of the materials used and what they’d catch. I mean, I still have a lot to learn. I still have to go to my buddies who fly fish, and I’m like, who will we catch with this guy? And have I been true to the art? Am I accurate on my colors? I mean, I want to be able to speak to the people, you know that the niche that really loves fly fishing.
[00:21:54] Rico: Right. But these are actually fly bait? Fly, how would you?
[00:21:58] Jennifer: Fly lures.
[00:21:59] Rico: Fly lures, sorry. So these are actual real ones that you’ve created art from?
[00:22:04] Jennifer: Yes. But they are tiny.
[00:22:07] Rico: Yes.
[00:22:08] Jennifer: Those pieces are nine by nine each. So, and I tear the paper down, so you’ll have like the deckled edge. And then I use gouache and acrylic ink, and then I use my India ink pen to have that black outline detail.
[00:22:24] Rico: Wow. That is cool. I know you sell them individually, but have you ever sold them as a group like that?
[00:22:32] Jennifer: Yes. So this is what I love about these guys, all the personalities that happen with the fly guys. I have sold them unframed and then the client has gone to do their own framing. Or I actually, one of my favorites is I sew them onto a linen, a 12 by 12 by three linens. So it, to me, it’s feeling a little closer to the art of the fly tie. So I’ll sew them onto the linen and put them in an acrylic shadow box. And so they can either sit tabletop or hang. And I’ve loved to see people, how they have fun with either just one solo, or do a group of nine, or a group of twelve, or a group of three or two. Like they just have fun with the colors and the characters and creating a gallery wall of them.
[00:23:20] Rico: You know, I guess the sad part is with art like this, is that when you sell it, you don’t always see, you almost never see, I guess, where it actually ends up. What room, what wall that it lives in. Does that sound kind of sad when you sell? Because all your work is original work. It’s all custom one-offs. Do you ever think about, wow, I wonder where that is. Does that ever like come into your mind?
[00:23:45] Jennifer: For sure. No, definitely. There’s some shows that you don’t know who ended up buying the piece and then you just wonder where it is.
[00:23:51] Rico: Okay.
[00:23:51] Jennifer: And so you do have that question. But then there are some that I actually have a chance to see them hanging and it’s really rewarding to be able to see them kind of shine in their new home. So I do have some pictures of, that clients have sent over that it, it is really rewarding to see that.
[00:24:08] Rico: That’s cool. Or if you end up doing an exhibition or a gallery, I guess. It’s kind of neat to see when you walk around to hear what people might be saying about the art piece on that wall or being home.
[00:24:19] Jennifer: That makes me nervous.
[00:24:22] Rico: Does that make you nervous? Yes. I know, no artist likes to hear the reviews.
[00:24:27] Jennifer: Well listen, I have been in the critique world for, you have to have a certain thickness that happens with being in the art world. I mean, just take it for what it is. Great. And then move on. If you don’t like what you hear.
[00:24:39] Rico: Yeah, that’s true, I’m sure. Some people don’t like fantasy, but they like YA novels. It’s like that, right? So artwork is like that. Some people like sculptures versus paintings. It just depends. We’ve touched upon a little bit about textile work that you’ve done. Textile high art. There’s two thoughts of it, right? You could do textile painting or textile work that’s high art, or at the point that that particular textile has a function, then it becomes a craft, right? An interesting way of looking at something like that. But, you’ve done textile work, maybe pillows and fabrics and different things, right?
[00:25:16] Jennifer: Well, I’m actually wearing one of my, now my eyelash scarves.
[00:25:19] Rico: Eyelash scarf, okay.
[00:25:20] Jennifer: And one thing that’s fun about this one here, is I’m at, right today, I’m wearing it as a kind of a scarf to just actually add flare and color, but then to also cover my shoulders. It was kind of chilly in the lobby earlier. But I’ve been wearing this as a beach coverup too. So you have it nice with the air dry and then it just, the flow. But, so the textiles all started when I was pregnant with my daughter Jane, and she’s 10 now. But I couldn’t get in the oils and the pastels and I needed to have an outlet. I needed to figure out, what was I going to do? I had to create. But I started to play around with this material, the paint, the textile paint. And then it just started off, I started giving them as gifts as like little tea towels or whatnot. And then I think I did like some onesies and painted her some cute onesies. And it just evolved and it just led to sarongs, pillows, cocktail napkins, scarves.
[00:26:13] Rico: Are those also one of a kind or do you design it and then have it produced?
[00:26:18] Jennifer: No, I hand paint every single one of them.
[00:26:21] Rico: So cocktail napkins, if there’s 24 of them, you have to, you’re hand painting 24?
[00:26:26] Jennifer: Every single one of them, yes. But what I’ve found, because I do this leopard pattern, some people doodle or whatnot. It ends up being my think space. Like that’s my thinking time.
[00:26:37] Rico: Okay.
[00:26:37] Jennifer: There’s something about that repetitive motion.
[00:26:40] Rico: Yes.
[00:26:41] Jennifer: I have some of my best ideas when I’m doing those.
[00:26:44] Rico: That’s funny. You probably see different shapes on them as you’re creating those shapes. Or patterns and stuff.
[00:26:49] Jennifer: Well, they could come across as a leopard or they could come across as a horseshoe. So depending on which, what region you’re in.
[00:26:56] Rico: Right, right, right. As you’re doing it, that’s interesting. It’s like I hear writers say that, yeah, my character took me there. I didn’t even know I was going there. Or it’s like that.
[00:27:07] Jennifer: This material is very loyal to me and I’ve learned to, I have to iron every one to set it. However, if you look at my studio clothes, you might see that it probably doesn’t have to be ironed all the time, but they’re a certain color because it’s just very colorful studio clothes. But I have to iron every piece to set the ink, the paint into the textile. And not every textile reacts the same. So I have to learn how to either manipulate it. Or to where, if you put down the paint and it will expand. And if it does expand, like I have to make sure that my strokes are really smaller, so where it doesn’t end up overtaking the fabric. So you kind of learn the fabric and you then you just kind of get in sync with each other.
[00:27:50] Rico: It’s just amazing. Every form of art has its own little details that people don’t even think about, that aren’t familiar with the process of the art and what you have to think about and what goes into it. If they knew, then they could see the hard work and the inspiration that you got out of it.
[00:28:05] Jennifer: And I think that’s why I’ve, right now I’m in the middle of trying to tell that story for the pastel and wood panel. Because when you first see the piece, you probably don’t even understand what’s happening. Like what the process was prior. And there’s about 20 steps before the final piece. And so I’m trying to, I have a videographer helping me tell the story of that.
[00:28:26] Rico: Excellent, excellent.
[00:28:27] Jennifer: And we’re working on that together.
[00:28:28] Rico: I was going to say, you have to do video on that. They have to be able to see the drama and the tension of like, you did this beautiful piece, now I’m going to pour this resin on it. It better turn out right.
[00:28:40] Jennifer: Yeah. Right, right. And every time still, like with, I use the same pastels. I use the same resin, but every batch is different. Every wood’s different. Every like environment, temperature, all of it’s so different that I’m still surprised with this technique to the day. And certain colors just disappear. Certain colors blend. And that’s the thing with pastels, it’s all about a layering technique. So you can’t blend pastels. It’s a layering. And so with the resin it just melts.
[00:29:11] Rico: Geez. Well, we could go on and on about this. Art is a tough, tough world. It’s tough to be creative and it’s actually tough to produce it apparently. But you’re going to be showing your work at the Wesleyan’s Artist Market. That’s going to be end of April. Around April 28th and 29th, Friday and Saturday. 75 other professionals from around the Southeast will be there. Here in Peachtree Corners. Do you wanna share with us in brief what type of art? I mean some of the stuff that we’ve seen already during this podcast. What other stuff are you bringing? What can people expect?
[00:29:47] Jennifer: Well, first off, I love this. This is such a great show. I mean, really last year was my first year joining and I was blown away. They’re a great collection of artists. A lot of creativity under one roof. Fantastic people all around. I’ve been, the campus, just the vibe there is just all very happy and just a good heart. Big, big, good, big hearts. And I have a collections of the animals and then I’ll have the fly guys. And then I’ll have the off to the races, which are like my three go-tos.
[00:30:22] Rico: Right.
[00:30:23] Jennifer: And so I’ll have a variety of those, all new works. And I’ll have some of my newest pastel and wood panel off to the races, which I’ve just did for the first time about three weeks ago. So that was a fun experience. Because I’m used to painting those and that, so I used the drawing pastel and then the resin. So I’ll have a variety. All new works though. All hand painted, all original. But I will probably have my wallpaper, which is, this is my only thing I’ve ever printed. I have my fly guy wallpaper and my animal wallpaper. I’ve just finished. Now I just am trying to figure out how to talk about it and promote it, so.
[00:31:03] Rico: Right, right, right. Wow.
[00:31:05] Jennifer: Maybe I’ll send you a picture of it. Maybe you can add it in. It’s so, it’s so neat.
[00:31:09] Rico: Yes. I’m waiting for some high-res photography from you.
[00:31:13] Jennifer: And I’ve got that coming for you.
[00:31:14] Rico: Excellent. So if people want to follow you, where can they find out more information about Jennifer Keim?
[00:31:20] Jennifer: Okay. They can find more information on my website, which is www.JKeim.com, and that’s J-K-E-I-M.
[00:31:28] Rico: Okay.
[00:31:29] Jennifer: Or you could find me on my Instagram, which is @JKeimStudio.
[00:31:33] Rico: Cool. And Facebook, I think?
[00:31:35] Jennifer: Yes. On Facebook too.
[00:31:37] Rico: Cool. Great. Check her out. Lots of stuff on there. I was just on there. I saw her dive with her GoPro, not dive herself, but into the waters, the blue waters of Hawaii. But you can follow Jennifer on social media and see what’s up with her and what she does and stuff. It’s kind of interesting to see the behind the scenes of what an artist has to do to create the stuff they bring to these shows. So check that out. Check her out. To find out a little bit more about the Wesleyan Artist Market go to, just search Wesleyan Artist Market. Google that and you’ll find the place. And it’s being held at the Wesleyan School, which is a private prep school here in Peachtree Corners. Great school and a great supporter of ours as well. And we’re a sponsor of the Wesleyan Artist Market. So, great stuff. Great artist. Jennifer, this was a pleasure talking with you about art.
[00:32:24] Jennifer: I really enjoyed having this time with you.
[00:32:27] Rico: Yeah, no, same here. I appreciate you spending the time, especially from Hawaii. So, and the wifi seemed to work out just fine. So we’re all good.
[00:32:35] Jennifer: And no kids barged in wanting to go to the pool.
[00:32:39] Rico: And my cats didn’t show up on my desk either this time.
[00:32:42] Jennifer: Yes.
[00:32:44] Rico: So hang in there for a minute while I just sign off. Thanks again for being with us. This is Peachtree Corners Life. My name is Rico Figliolini. You can find out more about our publications at LivingInPeachtreeCorners.com. These podcasts, and we’ll be sharing three artists profiles and then upcoming issue of the, I think it’s our April/May issue of Peachtree Corners Magazine. And Jennifer will be one of them. So, check that out and have a great week.
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