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City Manager: City Marshal Regs and Policies, Pickleball Feasibility Study, Weather Preparations and More



What’s the function of a City Council Work Session that is open to the public? The upcoming meeting will see a discussion of proposed City Marshal regulations and policies and the presentation of the Pickleball Feasibility study. We also discussed with the city manager the construction of an innovative EV charging station and the ongoing city commitment to sustainability, public safety, and community well-being. Plus, the latest updates on infrastructure improvements, the ongoing programs to address stormwater issues and power outages, and housing initiatives.

[00:00:00] – Introduction
[00:02:15] – Explanation of Work Session and Its Purpose
[00:04:18] – Parking Deck Design
[00:09:18] – City Marshal Regulations and Policies
[00:15:02] – Discussion on Pickleball Facility Feasibility Study
[00:20:10] – Preparing for Hurricane Season and Power Outages
[00:31:48] – Protecting Power Lines and Using Underground Lines
[00:34:47] – Solis Development and Its Start Date
[00:35:50] – Broadstone Development and Its Progress
[00:37:00] – Other Ongoing Construction Projects and Improvements
[00:39:48] – Trailheads and Affordable Housing
[00:43:16] – Peachtree Corners Festival and the Electrify Expo
[00:44:44] – Park Improvements and Housing Initiatives
[00:46:15] – Closing

“Where we run into a problem is when trees are into live power lines, we can’t cut those trees and remove them by blocking roads until the power company shuts off the power. So it all depends on how many crews they have out and how many trees that are still laying in live power lines is how fast we can clear the road and how fast you get power. The best way to alleviate this, they remove those limbs hanging over a power line… But it’s also controversial.”

BRian johnson

Podcast Transcript

Rico Figliolini 0:00:00

Hey everyone. This is Rico Figliolini, host of Peachtree Corners Life. I thank you for coming and joining us for Prime Lunchtime with the City Manager. Hey, Brian. How are you?

Brian Johnson 0:00:10

Good. How are you?

Rico Figliolini 0:00:11

Good seeing you again. It’s been a while. I know we’ve been sort of a week past our normal stuff, so I appreciate you making time for me. I do want to share with everyone our sponsors and thank them. So we have EV Remodeling, Inc. A company that does a lot of design and build and a lot of renovation work here in the City of Peachtree Corners and in the metro area. Eli. The owner lives here in Peachtree Corners. Great family. They do great work. You should check them out. We do appreciate the support of our podcasts and our advertising in our magazines. So go to Evremodelinginc.com and find out a little bit more about them as well. Our other lead sponsors, Clearwave Fiber, they do a lot of Internet. All of it is internet for business and residential. They do a lot of work in the City of Peachtree Corners. In fact, you’ll find some of the highlighted businesses that are clients of theirs that have taken on their service for their work and their businesses. You’ll find some of those profiles appearing in Peachtree Corners magazine over the next few months to learn a little bit more about how those companies work here in the city. You may not even realize they exist here and also see how Clearwave works for them. So check them out. Clearwave Fiber. If you Google them, Peachtree Corners, you’ll see exactly what they’re doing here. So I want to thank them also for being a sponsor of these podcasts and our magazine. OK, now that I’ve done that and thanked everyone, there’s a lot of stuff that I just want to get into. But the biggest part is the upcoming work session, Brian and people may not realize what that is, so work session is the session that’s held prior to a city council meeting which is held once a month. Both of them are held once a month. And that work session is really to work through the process and seeing proposals and presentations prior to that city council meeting. So this way the city council can probably have their questions during that session answered during that city council meeting.

Brian Johnson 0:02:15

And in addition to prepping council for what’s going to be put in front of them for formal votes, it gives council opportunities to provide input and staff has time to make adjustments from the time between when I present council stuff at the work session and then the two weeks later the city council meeting. So we make tweaks to certain things. No votes are taken at a work session. It’s kind of the sleeves rolled up type of discussion. I also put stuff in front of council that don’t actually require formal action, but I want their guidance on things or I’ll take their temperature on stuff. It’s an informal meeting, but it’s a public meeting and council is there in their capacity as members of the governing body. And they’re getting ready these issues, ready for formal action at the subsequent council meeting.

Rico Figliolini 0:03:14

So there’s no obviously this is a work session, so there’s no public comments here, but anyone’s welcome to come visit and listen into these work sessions.

Brian Johnson 0:03:23

That’s correct. They’re public meeting, there is no public comment. So there’s no interaction with council. There’s no votes taken by council.

Rico Figliolini 0:03:31

Right. And just so then people know, I think originally there were two council meetings, I think a month when the city first started or something like that.

Brian Johnson 0:03:39

No, there was still only one. But they did the work session on the same night as council meeting. They would do it persona. The problem with that is when you go a month between getting council together, it can be problematic when you sometimes need I need interaction with them. And so I split that out. And so now it’s every two weeks they get together. One is the work session and then one is the council meeting. So it makes it to where I get them in a room often enough that I can get the answers I need or get them prepared for the votes I need.

Rico Figliolini 0:04:18

Right. So this is happening September twelveTH, Tuesday, and it may happen a little earlier than normal, it sounds like, because it’s going to be a packed meeting. So that’s what I want to talk about. I want to talk about what’s going to be going on in that meeting a little bit. Let’s start with so for example, the parking deck is going to be brought up. It’s going to be the design of the parking deck is going to be presented. Talk a little bit about correct. I’m sorry, I should have been more clear. And this is the parking deck that will be built behind Belk’s, if I’m correct.

Brian Johnson 0:04:52

Right next to Belk. Yeah. That big open surface parking lot that they have there is where the parking deck will go in. And the parking deck’s purpose is to replace the parking stalls that are being removed on the main boulevard of the Forum for those public spaces and the jewel box stores that are going in, well, they’re taking up parking and we need to replace it. So the design of that parking deck and how it’ll screen itself from the neighboring residents is the last piece of the Forum’s rezoning that they needed to do. And that is council had to approve the design of the parking deck. So that’s one of the items that they’ll see, the renderings of it and they’ll make any comments.

Rico Figliolini 0:05:44

I’ve forgotten how many floors, how many spots will be roughly in that deck.

Brian Johnson 0:05:50

Think it’s going to be three floors, or call it two covered floors. And then the top floor is open to the elements.

Rico Figliolini 0:05:56


Brian Johnson 0:05:58

It’s 300 and some change spots.

Rico Figliolini 0:06:02

Yeah, that’s what I thought, because anyone that goes through the Forum now obviously can’t go through all the Forum because of near Jason’s Deli. That’s where they’re building that two story or two floors, I guess, jewel boxes back there. And hopefully that should be finished when they said that was going to be finished, but not too far into the future, I’m sure. A few more months. It looks like they’re really on their way to getting that done. And that parking deck, I think, if I remember correctly, one of the options was also talked about sealing the wall park facing Amberfield. So this way there’s no, like it’s a full solid wall on the back there versus open.

Brian Johnson 0:06:41

That is correct. It is a solid wall as it faces the neighboring residence, so there won’t be any light pollution of headlights as cars make turns inside or park. So that’s part of it.

Rico Figliolini 0:06:54

Anything special? Any special features like EV charging station? Anything special that will be done to it?

Brian Johnson 0:07:01

There are going to be EV charging stalls. It’s going to have security cameras. It has special lighting to keep the light pollution down that are built into hooded locations along the walls. So the purpose of it is just to provide a parking deck that looks good from the outside. It ties in architecturally with the rest of the form, so it’s going to look the same as the current architectural features. And it screens the neighboring residents so they don’t have to have their quality of life affected by the operations within the parking deck.

Rico Figliolini 0:07:42

Right. I would imagine there would be immediate access from that parking deck through between the buildings to get to the forum. I guess. I’m not sure how they’re adjusting that.

Brian Johnson 0:07:51

But there is there’ll be two ways to get to the parking deck. One is under the arch right there by the big fountain.

Rico Figliolini 0:07:57


Brian Johnson 0:07:58

The other would be coming around the backside by Ted’s Montana grill. That would be the other way to get to and from the parking deck. There won’t be any way to get there from the north side of the.

Rico Figliolini 0:08:14

Start. That construction is going to start probably, I guess, somewhere in first quarter.

Brian Johnson 0:08:18


Rico Figliolini 0:08:20

Do they know how long it’ll take to finish? Any estimate?

Brian Johnson 0:08:23

Nine months.

Rico Figliolini 0:08:24

Really? Okay. All right.

Brian Johnson 0:08:26

And once it’s done, they can start removing the remainder of the parking stalls in the middle boulevard, heading down towards and finishing up in front of Belk.

Rico Figliolini 0:08:36

Right. According to the plans, it looks like that’s where an entertainment stage would be built and some of the jewel boxes and a concierge area and stuff. Cool. So anyone that wants to come see, there will be plans presented of what this is going to look like, and then it’ll be taken up at the next city council meeting. And that’s where a vote would be. That next city council meeting.

Brian Johnson 0:08:59

Correct. September 26, two weeks later is when council would formally approve that via a vote. But they’ll see the designs in case they have questions and provide input. Yeah, have questions, and there might be some tweaking. They’re like, oh, we don’t like that. We like x. We like y better, or whatever.

Rico Figliolini 0:09:18

Right? All right, cool. So the other big thing that’s going to be happening at that work session will be discussion with city marshal and the regulations they’re going to be in place. Stuff like do you do car chases? What do you use it for? A bunch of things like that. But also the design of the vehicles. The vehicle wrap is going to be presented as well. So tell us a little bit about what type of regulations are going to be discussed and is there anything surprising along the way that you found, or tell us something.

Brian Johnson 0:09:51

So our city marshals are going to be post certified law enforcement officers. So they’re going to have the exact same authority that you would have as somebody who calls themselves a police officer. But when you have that, you’ve got to have policies in place to regulate how they use that authority. That come with being post certified law enforcement officers. So, for instance, use of force, what kind of guidelines are we going to give them to, say, the escalation of force or high speed pursuit, or when are they going to be authorized to chase a vehicle at a high rate of speed, turn on their sirens, things like that? You’ve got other little things like the vehicle use policy. Where can they drive the vehicle, how far? Because we’re letting them do use them as take home vehicles, which is very common the law enforcement community, and how far out do you let them drive? And then even the design of some of their uniforms and the wrap of the vehicles will be discussed so that, you know, this is all getting them in preparation for the November council meeting. And why that’s important is by November, I will have the chief marshal in place. I just concluded my interviews. We advertised for the position, and I just concluded last week my series of interviews of candidates. And I’ll start the negotiation of our first candidate to see about all the typical stuff, money and everything like that, right. We’ll have the chief marshal in place by November, and we’ll have the policies in place by then. We can have the vehicles wrapped by then, and all those things that you need. The intergovernmental agreements with some of the surrounding law enforcement agencies. And there’s a lot of know, like, how do we tie into the radios that Gwinnett County uses? That’s really important because they’re still our primary police department getting access to and set up so that our marshals can look at the entirety of our video surveillance system that we have in the city. We have a significant amount of cameras getting all those things accessed. I will be ready by November. And so the November city council meeting, we’re going to have a formal call it swearing in ceremony, where they’ll be sworn in as marshals, which theoretically is symbolic because they already have the authority. But that’ll be when we’ll invite the media. They’ll be available for interviews, we’ll kind of talk a little bit more about it. That is when they’re ready to start going out into the community and you’ll start seeing them out there doing their thing. Prior to that, I need to again have the policies that sets their left and right limit and we’re not quite there. So council is going to be fed policies over the next three work session and city council meetings in preparation for that November. So some of the ones on the September work session are going to be some of those policies like use of force and high school.

Rico Figliolini 0:13:22

When they vote on that, that would be in November, I’m assuming. Will there be public comment at that point on the regulations? How does that work? If citizens want to review it?

Brian Johnson 0:13:36

Policy would be adopted via ordinance, which has a public hearing component. So when it is presented, the public will certainly be able to make comment on the policy.

Rico Figliolini 0:13:52

And that would happen in November, I guess the public comment as well, or private.

Brian Johnson 0:13:57

Anytime, any of these, each of these policies requires a separate vote. Okay, so like use of force as individual officers, that’s a vote because that’s a standalone policy. Body cameras, when they’re turned on, when they’re supposed to be turned on, how long you store it, all that kind of stuff, that’s another policy and that’s voted on separately. So you’re going to have a series of these policies. It’s not just one amalgamation of all of these together, it’s individual policies that.

Rico Figliolini 0:14:29

So does that happen over time until November or in November?

Brian Johnson 0:14:33

Yeah, there’ll be a few over the next three council meetings.

Rico Figliolini 0:14:39

All right. So people should be aware of that. If they want to attend or put.

Brian Johnson 0:14:43

Up public, just look at, watch the website. The agendas go out no later than noon on Friday before the following Tuesday city council meeting. And if you see one of the policies on there that they’re voting on that’s of interest to you, then you’ll know that that’s the meeting that you should show up to.

Rico Figliolini 0:15:02

Got you. Cool. And the city wrap that design, the uniform design, that’s also all coming out at that work session on September twelveTH. Yes, I guess. All right, cool. These work sessions are great, like you said, because it just allows stuff to be discussed and get information or adjustments done before the actual city council meeting and vote. So that’s good. The city is doing that. The other thing, I guess, is with the hurricane season starting well, real quick, real quick, Rico. Sure.

Brian Johnson 0:15:36

One other thing you may want to talk about before we get off of the work session is the Pickleball study.

Rico Figliolini 0:15:42

Okay. All right. You’re right. That’s actually going to be presented prior to the beginning of the first thing of the work session.

Brian Johnson 0:15:50

Yeah, I mean, it’s part of the work session. We just may start the meeting early. Because that is the one thing that even though it’s a work session, I think council is going to open up the floor to anybody who’s there about the feasibility study. Because we had a lot of stakeholders that we invited to be part of this feasibility study. And we’ve invited them back, and we want them, as it’s fresh on their mind, the mayor is going to let if any of them have any comments that they want to make on it, they’ll do it there, which doesn’t usually happen at a work session, and it’ll only be that particular thing. But they’re going to open up the floor, buddy, make comments.

Rico Figliolini 0:16:33

So they’re going to make a presentation first and they’ll open up the floor. And if I understand correctly, is there anything you could say about that study prior to that meeting?

Brian Johnson 0:16:43

Yeah, what they’re going to do is they’re going to come back and they’re going to tell us how supportive our area, whether it’s inside of our corporate limits or the greater area outside our boundaries. But this part of north metro Atlanta, how much support there is for Pickleball, how big of a facility they think that should be constructed if we want to have a facility that’s hitting the sweet spot, it’s not too big, it’s not too small. And they’ve looked at really three different sizes of facilities and they’ll come back and they’ll tell us which one they think is the one that hits, that makes that tuning fork go off when it comes to use and support for it from the local community. So that’s the conclusion of the study as to which size would be that sweet spot for us to meet demand but not overbuild and not be able to fill it or don’t underbuild. Where is that, what number is that, how many are indoor, how many are outdoor, is there a food and beverage component? All of that is part of the study.

Rico Figliolini 0:17:57

Well, true. So, I mean, obviously a smaller ten quart place would really be more of an altar size, maybe going anywhere from a 24 to a 50 court or 40 court going from a regional to a national. They’re going to discuss, like you said, what that sweet spot is going to be for the city. And the city is going to be talking also about, or at least the proposal will talk about that private public partnership, what that could look like, I guess. Does the city take on the construction of it and then the rest of it is done by private industry? Or is it built with public private cooperation? That’s all going to be part of that discussion. I guess, or presentation.

Brian Johnson 0:18:40

Yeah, we can only go so far on that because one, I’m not going to have a private partner standing next to me saying we’ve already hammered out the details, we certainly can’t talk about location yet because we don’t currently own any property in which this would go.

Rico Figliolini 0:19:00

Will they make recommendations though, in the feasibility study as far as possible areas versus exact location?

Brian Johnson 0:19:08

Probably not, just because what it does is it makes it difficult for us to acquire it if somebody is like, oh, we heard that you’re interested because if a certain area of the city is conveyed to be a good place, you and I both know that you don’t have to know. There’s a lot of people that can then say, oh, they want this area of the city. Well the only place it makes sense is and then they can zero in on and so it just makes it difficult when you do that because when people think the city is the one or a city is the one behind a purchase, they’re like, oh, deep pockets, and then they start holding out for more money. So that’s why we can’t really I don’t want to get we certainly have locations that we have our eye on that we think it would work, but just if we talked about it yet, we could actually hurt ourselves and would have to pay more money than we might have to pay if we don’t.

Rico Figliolini 0:20:10

That also, I think if I remember correctly, that happened with the roundabout at Medlock Bridge when people found out that that’s where the roundabout was going to be before the property had to be purchased or parts of properties had to be purchased. Yeah, that was a bit of a problem at the time, I think. Oh yeah.

Brian Johnson 0:20:28

We had to ultimately condemn two of the slivers of property to get them to sell because their sale price was 300% higher than the appraised value.

Rico Figliolini 0:20:41

No doubt people want to make their money when they can, I guess. All right, cool. So people should be able to come, you should be able to attend and you should attend September twelveTH to find out more about these things. It’s going to be a heavy duty work session, probably a longer one than usual, I’m sure. So let’s also get on to a little bit about like I was saying before, the hurricane season is coming in. Some of these hurricanes are possibly going to be worse than usual. Certainly the category four that hit Florida and went through Florida, missed Peachtree corners. Really, we got some heavy rains, but it wasn’t bad. It had been worse and it skirted southeast of Georgia going up. But when I saw that, I think Bush Road got hit with no power at one point, I think during that or around that time. So a section of Bush Road, that area, those communities were without power for a few hours, I think. Does the city between power outages, possible floodings? We talked about this a little before and I didn’t even know this. I’ll admit that things are built based on a 50 year floodplain, a flood zone. I just assumed it was 100 or more. I didn’t realize it was only a 50 year mark. And people don’t even know. I think if you go to certain parks, you could actually see a 500 year mark of flood, a flood mark in some of the I saw that, I think it was Tilly Mill, one of the big parks. So we’ve been hit with major floods in certain parts of Gwinnett County at one time over the last 200 and 5500 years. Not to say that that would happen again, but how does the city look at weather, power outages? I know people sometimes next door say they say we’re a smart city, why do we keep when the wind blows, the power goes out or something? That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but sometimes I feel the same way when it’s not even storming and the power is going out or flickering. So how does the city address those things?

Brian Johnson 0:22:46

Well, let me unpack this and separate two components of what we really face in Peachtree Corners when it comes to severe weather and that’s flooding and power outage. Flooding, the city has much more of a direct role in that. So I’ll start with we’re part of the National Flood Insurance program with the federal government and FEMA, and we are also part of their community rating system, which is basically like ISO for fire, which is you get graded and the better you’re prepared for, say, fire, you get a better ISO rating. And the better ISO rating you get, the lower your homeowner’s insurance is, because insurance companies say, hey, we feel like that community is less apt to have a fire event destroy the property because the fire department and the water supply and everything is good. So we voluntarily enrolled in that program and we have a rating for the first time two years ago, I think we got, and we improved it last year, which helps everybody’s flood insurance, homeowners insurance, decrease the rate. But we have a stormwater management plan within the city and we do things and the stormwater user fee that you pay on your property tax bill every year, which is a fee based on how much impervious surface that you have in the city, which is surface that doesn’t allow water to percolate into the soil. So rooftop, driveway, sidewalk, things like that. What that goes to is the program of us managing the overall drainage infrastructure for the city. And we maintain, inspect and maintain and repair as needed. A lot of underground and even open drainage facilities, detention ponds, underground drainage lines, detention vaults, stream, bank restoration, keeping erosion from and we have creeks in the city, we have lakes in the city. We’ve got all this stuff that we have to manage because everybody’s water has to flow at some point into the public system. And that public system is our responsibility. So the city uses this money to both proactively make upgrades to our public drainage system and to make repairs. The result is we don’t necessarily have a flooding problem like a wholesale one. We do have isolated locations where you can get certain structures that are below grade and water flows kind of through their property, and we address it on a case by case basis, but we’re set up pretty well. One thing people have to remember is a lot of these subdivisions and homes were only designed back in the day to a 50 year flood event. And so that’s essentially like, handle rain that you would get once every 50 years. Well, weather has changed, and now we’re getting into 150 year flood events, and the standards have gone up on new builds. But we have a lot of subdivisions that were built 25 years older. And sometimes you just get a lot of water that hits in a very short period of time. And the drainage pipes can only handle so much water, and then water backs up until it’s like traffic. Rush hour is merely an example of trying to push so many cars down a road that has so many lanes all at once, and water is the same way. And so our flooding tends to be temporary when we have it in areas, and it just has got to let the system flush it out. But that’s the drainage part, the flooding part. Yes, it can happen when you get a lot of rain in a short period of time. Or I guess if we had a long rain, like days and days and days of it, where the water gets so soaked that it does not take any more water, that can also do it. But that is one now transitioning into electricity. As we all know, you lose electricity through a number of ways. Most of the time here, it’s due to falling trees or limbs into power lines. That’s how most of it happens here. Now, rain can actually, we could have an event. In fact, the storm, we had, what, two days ago? Two nights ago, we didn’t really have any high wind, we just had a lot of rain. And we actually had a really big tree fall into the roadway just because the ground got so saturated. It had been leaning just enough, and then just the roots were in ground that had become so that is one now when it comes to high winds, that can certainly wreak havoc. And when that happens, we react by having we had this, what, a month ago? Six weeks ago, we had the big.

Rico Figliolini 0:28:11

40, 50 miles an hour gust of.

Brian Johnson 0:28:13

Wind, not for long trees down here in the city. And our public works crews came in and started cutting trees that were blocking roads. Now, where we run into a problem is when trees are into live power lines, we can’t cut those trees and remove them by blocking roads until the power company shuts off the power. So it all depends on how many crews they have out and how many trees that are still laying in live power lines is how fast we can clear the road and how fast you get power. The best way to alleviate this, there’s the more inexpensive way, and that is Georgia Power goes through sections of the city, and they basically stand under the power lines. And they look up and they look at limbs that are hanging over the power lines and maybe a few trees that they feel are and they remove those. So a limb hanging over a power line falling doesn’t cut power because they’ve cut the limb back. And so that’s one way. And they have done that. We did a lot of that about a year and a half, two years ago in the Long Spalding Drive down at Neely Farm, gun and Road. There was a lot of it. East Jones Bridge. West Jones Bridge. They’re due to do another one of those. It’s also controversial. Sometimes people don’t like that, or sometimes the limbs that have to be removed are going to kill the tree. And so the whole tree has got to go. And some of those trees are actually not they’re on private property, and so some homeowners get upset about it. So that’s not without controversy either. So that’s one way to do it. And that’s the more inexpensive way to help protect the power lines. The best way is to what they call harden. And that is basically to bury and burying power lines is always the best way to protect and harden the system. But it’s very expensive.

Rico Figliolini 0:30:27

Has that been done and where has it been done in?

Brian Johnson 0:30:30

I mean, you know, you have know, Technology Park, all the power lines are buried, but in the neighbor residential neighborhoods, you oftentimes only have it inside the neighborhood. So, for instance, I live in Riverfield, inside a neighborhood, it’s buried. But where we tie in on East Jones Bridge is not. So if East Jones Bridge gets hit by a tree, we’re out of electricity. Now, power company also tries to do loop. They try to loop the electricity. So there’s a redundant or call it a secondary method to get electricity. So if you had a circle and there was a break in one part, you still have the ability to get electricity. The other way, that’s an expansion of the system. They try to do that as well, but it just comes down to money. And where Georgia Power is looking, there are other communities that have risks that are greater than ours. So I can’t speak on their process, but I do know that they use and we’ve loaned them or helped. Supplement their technology by using LiDAR to a form of radar to actually map where limbs were creating a risk to the lines. And so they’ve used technology to identify the more higher risk areas. But that’s the flooding and the electricity part and how it happens and how we address it. We certainly as a municipality are here when trees go down or blocking roads or people are stranded. We have an emergency response plan. We can stand up certain positions within the city. Our marshals will be another resource. When they start going out and work in the community in late November, they’re going to carry things like chainsaws in the trunk of their vehicles and they’ll be able to go out and do things like that. So it’s unfortunate. We all live with it. Weather is not getting any more calm.

Rico Figliolini 0:32:39

Yeah, for sure. Yeah. Since 95, I think, perceptibly I’ve seen more harsher weather happening here. Anecdotally anyway, I’ve seen it, it is not going to get better. And they’re even talking about a harsh winter maybe.

Brian Johnson 0:32:57

And then you can get ice on the power lines and they get too heavy and you get power poles that will fall because of that. Or power lines snap. Yeah. Burying it is always the best, but it’s expensive and it requires sometimes more property and people’s yards and front entrances of subdivisions. And I wish it was easy and inexpensive, but it isn’t. And so that’s where we’re at.

Rico Figliolini 0:33:27

I think people just, if they really are in need of electricity, for whatever reason, they should make sure they have a generator, a gas generator or generac, something that’s installed using gas or propane or something like that. If you really need it for some reason, that’s a good way of backing that up. I just want to go through a couple of quick things and then we could do a wrap. A couple of things I’m just curious about right at this point. Charlie Roberts, what we call the Charlie Roberts property, which is the property which is not Charlie Roberts property anymore. It was bought by a different company. I can’t pronounce the name right now. Thank you. And I could have if I had it written in front of me, maybe, but I think they’ve moved a few things. But when are they actually going to do you have any idea when they’re actually going to break ground behind Chase and HW Steakhouse there? I guess.

Brian Johnson 0:34:29

In November they’re going to start site work. The development is called solis. Solis. And they’re going to break ground in November or not break they’re going to start site work, prepping the pad for them to go vertical. But they’re going to start in November.

Rico Figliolini 0:34:47

Okay. And they’re probably going to take six to twelve months, I guess, to build it out.

Brian Johnson 0:34:51

Yeah, it’ll be a twelve month project.

Rico Figliolini 0:34:53

Yeah. So I mean, the other one that’s north of Racetrack and the wine store that Span, they’re already preselling. I don’t know if they finished any units yet. I think they might have some units finished, but they’re pre selling units there now. They’re actually doing tours. I think they actually have a complete unit or two. So they’re moving along, it sounds like.

Brian Johnson 0:35:16

Yeah, that’s broadstone. The apartment units. I do believe there’s a section that’s done, but the townhomes have gone vertical. You can see those ones closest to the liquor store there. And then they’ve got the office, the commercial building that was existing there, it’s being rebuilt. That’s going up right now, too. So I think most what they’re going vertical with has actually gone vertical.

Rico Figliolini 0:35:50

Lots of stuff going on. I think, obviously, intuitive, is further along where they want to be. Some of the building looks like it’s actually the outsides are actually a little closer to finish and they’re probably working on the inside as well. Quick trip demoing. There’s nothing that they have to they’re just going to build right on where they have it. They’re probably going to take up that same building pad, I bet, to be.

Brian Johnson 0:36:16

Okay because otherwise it’s a little bit bigger. But they’re basically building a newer store right on the very same location. But these kind of things, as you know, it’s a competition. Racetrack has their floor plan and their site plan, and QT has got to compete with it. They’ve got to have certain stations and a flow about it. So their store was showing its age. So they just said, we’re going to know it’s not uncommon. We had Chick fil A do the same thing. We had Wendy’s do the same thing, just upgrading their store. So, yeah, QTS is going down to the ground and building a brand new one on the same they do.

Rico Figliolini 0:37:00

You know, if they’re going to assuming they’re also going to take out the origin of the gas tanks underground or are they going to keep what they have there?

Brian Johnson 0:37:08

No, they’re going to keep it there. I don’t know if they may be going to more pumps, like one more additional pump on each of the islands. I don’t know that for sure. But tanks are staying underground.

Rico Figliolini 0:37:24

So they’re in good condition, I’d imagine. I just keep wondering why half the pumps are yellow bagged over there. But I guess that’s a question for them because maybe they’re not getting enough supply or something. The other building that I saw was the BB T building, which right across from CVS, part of the Forum, not part of that property, but an extension of it that they just gated that out and they’re pulling things out of it. It’s going to remain a bank, it sounds like.

Brian Johnson 0:37:55

Yeah, it’s a credit union of some sort. I don’t remember the name. I had not personally heard of this credit union, but I know they’re doing a renovation over there. I think they’re removing some of the drive in stuff. Nobody uses drive in really anymore.

Rico Figliolini 0:38:13

Right. ATM, probably.

Brian Johnson 0:38:15

Right? ATM. Or maybe they’re even removing some of the lanes completely because there’s just not enough because I think they have like four lanes that you could go into drive through.

Rico Figliolini 0:38:25


Brian Johnson 0:38:26

So, yeah, there’s some renovation of some sort, but it is staying in the financial it’s another financial institution.

Rico Figliolini 0:38:34

Anything new going on that we should be aware of? Revitalizing wise or redevelopment wise? Anything special that pops out over the last month and a half?

Brian Johnson 0:38:44

I mean, Redevelopment Authority has got two big projects they’re working on on the south side of the city. One is some trailhead locations where you’re talking about being able to drive your car and park it there with bathrooms and playground, picnic areas and it’ll tie into the multi use trail system. And then we’ve got some housing going on down the south side as well that we’re going to help try and facilitate the construction of what is oftentimes called starter home workforce housing. But equity product. These are buildings you purchase, you don’t rent. But to try to do it in a way that it’s affordable, meaning it’s market rate. But we’re going to try to help facilitate keeping it from the owners, from maxing out the amount they can get for it because that tends to price people right out of the market.

Rico Figliolini 0:39:48

There’s no way to keep it to one purchaser, someone that buys it, that lives there, versus someone picking up ten of these properties as an investment.

Brian Johnson 0:39:59

You mean owner occupied?

Rico Figliolini 0:40:01

Correct. Thank you.

Brian Johnson 0:40:03

Well, interestingly enough, we are looking at potentially an ordinance where we are going to limit the commercial purchasing of equity products in which some company buys, say, ten townhomes, and then they turn around and rent the townhomes. And that defeats the purpose of trying to get somebody who is an owner occupied tenant of the building, which we feel increases the odds that they put roots in the community. They own something here, so they’re like, you know what, I may want to stay here a long time. I may want to get civically active and get my kids enrolled versus sometimes not all the time. There’s always exceptions to this. Sometimes renters feel that they’re much more flexible in where they live and so they don’t get as involved in the community because they’re thinking, well, I can leave very quickly and I may not stay here, so I’m not going to get involved like I would if I own. So that’s generally the debate between two products.

Rico Figliolini 0:41:12

There’s more pride, I think, when you own it and more investment also that you take care of it because you do own it. It’s an investment in what you can sell later at a better price maybe.

Brian Johnson 0:41:24

Yeah, I agree with you there’s. Again, always exceptions, but I think if you own something and if it gets damaged, it’s on you to fix it. You tend to take care of things more than if you were a renter.

Rico Figliolini 0:41:36

Yeah, and I think I’ve seen it at least in the city of Atlanta and in some parts outside, like Habitat for Humanity, is that right? Yeah. And some other organizations that actually do these types of they’ll do ten or 15 home structures like that in an area. I mean, has the city thought about working with organizations like that? Because those end up for sure in the hands of people that could use them, that are starter homes like that.

Brian Johnson 0:42:07

Oh, they will be a part of this project. We’ve already oh, yeah, absolutely.

Rico Figliolini 0:42:13

Excellent. Do you know when that’s happening or when the regulation that you talked about, the owner occupied stuff, the limitation on that? Any idea?

Brian Johnson 0:42:23

We’re internally, city attorney, community development director and I are kind of looking at case law and other precedent to see how far we can push that. We’re probably a month or two away of presenting council, something for them to consider.

Rico Figliolini 0:42:41

All right, cool. All right, great. I think we’ve covered a lot of the stuff. Peachtree Corners Festival is coming up in September. I know that the second annual Electrify Expo is that what we’re calling it? Is happening during the I think during the festival last year. The second day, maybe. Yeah. Cool. And Jim Ellis is one of several probably dealerships that bring in their cars to it, and anyone can actually register to bring their own electric cars, vehicles to this event to show off.

Brian Johnson 0:43:16

Yeah, it is an EV car show of any type, and we’ve had everything from just your run of the know, off the line electric vehicle, Tesla, whatever, to very unique retrofitted vehicles, some vintage stuff that’s been, I mean, the Batmobile, just some interesting stuff. So, yeah, if it’s EV and you want to bring it out, or you want to come and see some of the unique EV options that are out there, come to that part of the show, I mean, it’ll be in the same parking lot as the vintage car show that’s associated with okay.

Rico Figliolini 0:43:55

And I think I remembered last year, even Paul Duke Stem had their electric race team there with their car that they built.

Brian Johnson 0:44:03


Rico Figliolini 0:44:04

And they’ve been racing around the region actually ever since then, I think, or before. So kind of kind of cool stuff. So if you have an electric vehicle that looks interesting that you put together, definitely go to the city’s website, register, and show up and show off your stuff. So that’s a good thing. Great. I think we’ve hit more than I thought we had. So it’s all good. Appreciate, Brian, that you join me every month to talk about these things. Eventually, at some point, I’d like to actually do this live. You all are watching this. If you’re watching it live, it’s actually a simulcast live stream, which means that we’ve recorded it, but we’re streaming this live on our Facebook pages and YouTube as well. But at some point we may be looking at TikTok doing some of this on there or on X or Twitter, do we call it that? I don’t know, space where we might be able to stream some stuff, take some live questions. So still working that up. Looking for a sponsor if there’s anyone out there that would like us to do that and just to share that. We’re also doing a sports podcast. So I have a former student intern that’s actually taking up and doing a sports podcast with student athletes and such. So that’ll be a video podcast, follow up with an article. We’re going to be doing that once or twice a month, so check that out when it comes out. And if you have any ideas that you’d like to share with us about coverage and stuff, certainly do that. I want to thank our sponsors again, EV Remodeling Inc. And Clearwave Fiber for stepping up, for supporting us for these podcasts as well as the publications and doing the things that we do. Journalism isn’t always easy. We try to get the facts right as best we can. This is why I do these podcasts also, and Brian does it with me to make sure that we’re putting out good, accurate information versus what you might see sometimes posted that may be totally wrong or inaccurate. So this is what we’re trying to do. And sometimes we’ll make mistakes on the print reporter side, but between me and Brian will clarify these things as we go. So thank you, Brian. Appreciate you being with us.

Brian Johnson 0:46:15

Thank you, Rico. Thanks for having me.

Rico Figliolini 0:46:17

Sure. Thanks, guys.

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Exploring Israeli Innovation in the Smart City Sector with Einav Gabbay [Podcast]



A brief interview at Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners

Exploring Israeli Innovation in the Smart City Sector with Einav Gabbay

In a recent segment of our podcast, we had the pleasure of interviewing Einav Gabbay, a Business Development Coordinator in the mobile and smart city sector at the Israel Export Institute (IEI). The discussion centered on the IEI’s role in promoting global Israeli innovations and its recent visit to Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners.

Role of Einav Gabbay and the IEI:  In her capacity, Einav Gabbay facilitates partnerships and growth opportunities for Israeli startups in international markets, particularly in the mobile and smart city domains.

Event Overview at Curiosity Lab: The brief interview delved into the recent event organized by the IEI at Curiosity Lab, which was chosen as a significant venue for the United States delegation (one of three cities.) This choice underscores Curiosity Lab’s commitment to pioneering transportation, sustainability, and smart city technology. The event featured one-on-one meetings between startups and key stakeholders from the public and private sectors, aiming to explore and expand the horizons of smart city technologies.

Highlight on Participating Startups: Einav provided insights into the innovative Israeli companies that participated in the event at Curiosity Lab, emphasizing their contributions and potential impacts on smart city technologies:

  1. Adasky – specializes in developing advanced thermal imaging technologies for automotive applications. More about Adasky
  2. Gallery IP – focuses on integrated smart city solutions that enhance urban infrastructure and management. More about Gallery IP
  3. Connvas – offers a unique platform that streamlines communications for better customer engagement and service delivery. More about Connvas
  4. GIV Solutions – provides comprehensive solutions for smart building and urban environment management. More about GIV Solutions
  5. ITC – innovates in the internet technology space, specifically tailored towards enhancing connectivity across urban areas. More about ITC
  6. Tondo – develops IoT solutions focused on improving environmental sustainability and operational efficiency. More about Tondo
  7. WiseSight – specializes in AI-driven analytics for urban data, optimizing city operations and decision-making processes. More about WiseSight

Conclusion: The interview with Einav Gabbay highlighted the synergistic efforts between the Israel Export Institute and Curiosity Lab, showcasing how international collaboration can foster innovation in smart city technologies. The event provided a platform for Israeli startups to present their cutting-edge solutions and opened doors for potential partnerships that could lead to transformative impacts on urban landscapes globally.

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Arts & Literature

Wesleyan Artist Market 2024: Meagan Brooker



The Wesleyan Artist Market takes place in Peachtree Corners on April 26-27, 2024

Listeners are taken on a journey into the colorful art world through the eyes of high school art teacher Meagan Brooker. With 17 years of experience at Wesleyan School in Peachtree Corners, Brooker shares her passion for creativity, sharing how art has become a form of therapy and a source of inspiration in her life. From discussing her artistic process and inspiration to highlighting the importance of art for mental well-being, Brooker’s infectious enthusiasm for art will captivate and inspire listeners of all backgrounds. Brooker’s art will be displayed at the Wesleyan Artist Market 2024, April 26-27.

Tune in to discover the transformative power of creativity and art in this enlightening and uplifting Peachtree Corners Life Podcast episode.


00:00:00 – Introduction of Artist Meagan Brooker
00:01:32 – Teaching Art at Wesleyan School
00:04:00 – From Science to Art: Following My Creative Passion
00:08:42 – Balancing Creativity and Exhaustion
00:10:18 – Painting as Meditation and Process
00:13:53 – Tuscany Landscapes to Inspire Artists
00:17:29 – Finding Inspiration in the Unexpected
00:20:32 – The Healing Power of Art in Challenging Times
00:23:16 – The Pros and Cons of Social Media for Artists
00:25:49 – Embracing Digital Art Tools and AI in the Creative Process
00:29:08 – Exploring AI’s Role in the Creative Process
00:31:23 – Closing

Podcast Transcript

Rico Figliolini 0:00:00

Hi, everyone. This is Rico Figliolini, host of Peachtree Corners Life. This year, this month, today we’re doing an interview with an artist that’s going to be at the Wesleyan Artist Market, Meagan Brooker. So let’s say hi to Meagan. Hey, Meagan.

Meagan Brooker 0:00:13


Rico Figliolini 0:00:14

Thanks for being with us. Appreciate it. Thank you for being with us. Before we actually get into all of this, I just want to say thank you to our sponsor, EV Remodeling, Inc. They do a great job when it comes to remodeling, design and build, start from scratch up. Eli, him and his family live here in Peachtree Corners, does a great job. Lots of people know them. Anything from your bathrooms and kitchens to your whole house almost. So check them out at evremodelinginc.com. We appreciate the support of these podcasts. So now let’s get right into it because we’ve done this, I just did this interview a little while, a few weeks ago with two student artists that are going to be featured at Wesleyan Artist Market. Their stream is actually going to happen Wednesday. For Meagan and I to know you all that are listening won’t know which Wednesday that is, but it’s going to be on a Wednesday. Actually, before we go to press with the next issue of Peachtree Corners Life magazine, which has three profiles, including Meagan, of the Wesleyan artists, three of the artists that are going to be there. So this is a compliment to that. We’re going to be talking a bit about art and what inspires Meagan. So let’s get right into it. Meagan, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and maybe how you started at Wesleyan.

Meagan Brooker 0:01:36

Yeah. So I teach at Wesleyan school. I teach high school art. I teach all levels of AP photography, and I’ve been there for 17 years, which makes me feel very old.

Rico Figliolini 0:01:51

You’re not, though. You look fine.

Meagan Brooker 0:01:54

Thank you. So I went to the University of Georgia and went after getting my degree in undergrad of art education. I taught elementary art in Gwinnett county for two years. And then I did missions work for a year, actually, and was looking for a high school job because I thought the idea of the challenge of high school would be really interesting. And, yeah, I just love my job and I love Wesleyan. And I’m very grateful to be there because obviously I’ve been there for 17 years.

Rico Figliolini 0:02:29

Yes, it’s a great school. Wesleyan school is in the city of Peachtree Corners, and they do a fantastic job and they’re growing. I mean, they’re in the middle of actually a building project right now for their STEM building. So lots going on at Wesleyan. This is just one facet of what they do. So you’ve been there 17 years and you’re teaching high school students, I believe the high school, the upper level class. Upper school, yes. In particular, what are you teaching at this point? What subject or mediums are you working in?

Meagan Brooker 0:03:01

So currently I’m teaching all levels of 2d art. So drawing, painting, mixed media, anything that’s 2d from foundations all the way up to AP, the AP level, which is kind of college credit courses. And that includes AP photography. Previously I taught photography and way back in the day I used to teach 3d as well. But I love now that I get to specialize in two d. And then we have amazing teachers who teach focus on photography and focus on 3d. So we have a great team.

Rico Figliolini 0:03:33

Excellent. Cool. Let me ask you something, because as we grow up, as we’re young and we’re getting into school and we’re in elementary and middle school, we start discovering ourselves a little bit, right? We start discovering what we like, what we don’t like and stuff. Of course, people around us, including parents, may sometimes tell us what we should like and we shouldn’t like or what we should become. I know that you inspired early on to be an artist, to go down that route. Well, maybe not to be an artist, but to go down the route of the arts versus the science. So tell us, what inspired you? At which point did you decide you wanted to be creative versus being, let’s say, a doctor or something?

Meagan Brooker 0:04:17

Yeah. Well, that’s interesting, actually. I tell all my students, like, follow your innate gut and what fulfills you and stirs you up and makes you want to do more. I, from a very young age, was always wanting to paint, create, take classes, paint my ceiling in my bedroom, even though my mom wouldn’t let me paint furniture. I was always wanting to create or create my own space or do something creative. I had a very fast working creative brain and I came from a small county up in north Georgia, and there weren’t many opportunities in the arts. So in high school I had a great art teacher who was the first one who looked at my work and said, you know, you’re really talented. And I was, you know, so I got that encouragement and that fed in, which made me want to work harder. It made me want to do more and try more and get better. So I actually went to college and started in premed because I had good grades and was smart and my family was like, you, listen, go make some money. Don’t become a teacher.

Rico Figliolini 0:05:27

Not good money there.

Meagan Brooker 0:05:30

So I started off in premed and I just was bored to tears. And it was not life giving anyway. So I decided to switch to art and have never looked back ever since then. My family sometimes wishes I might have, but they see how life giving it is for me now and how innate it is and how much I’m able to do with the creativity. So it’s come around.

Rico Figliolini 0:05:56

So you’ve never really looked back and said, maybe I should put my brushes away and do something else.

Meagan Brooker 0:06:02

No, it’s too natural. I have too much of the creative and too much to put out there to stop. I’m not really that great at anything else either. Have too much fun with it to stop now.

Rico Figliolini 0:06:18

Right? Okay. And I can appreciate that. My parents wanted me to be an accountant, hated numbers, could never do that. And just not for me. My brain didn’t work on that side for that. But teaching art, this is one of the things I learned from my youngest, right? He says to me, I asked him, I said, what do you want to be? He says, I’d love to be a writer. I want to write. I want to write novels and stuff. So he’s creative, but he doesn’t want a job, that he has to write a lot during the day, because then all his creativity is gone by the end of the day. So how do you work that? How do you balance. It’s a life balance, right? Work life. How do you balance that creativity with the work that you do all day long with other kids? How do you do that?

Meagan Brooker 0:07:05

Honestly, that is probably the toughest part of my job. And I have two young boys, so that to complicate the.

Rico Figliolini 0:07:14

How old resources.

Meagan Brooker 0:07:18

One’S twelve, he’s in fifth grade and one is eight. And they go to Wesleyan with me, which is also a huge blessing. When I started off in art education and I got into the courses and started doing the practicum teaching, I loved being able to impart the knowledge of creativity and the natural working of all of the brain work that working with your hands does in every way. And it’s not about teaching methodology to me, as much as it is like pulling out this natural creativity. And I was always fascinated with art therapy. I considered studying that, but I think art is very much a natural therapy. And there’s so many studies about how when we’re working with our hands, how our brains calm down, they can think better. They’re clearly so. Even just a 30 minutes break in the middle of the day or an hour break to work with your hands and not have to just use a different part of your brain is so good for anybody. You think about how it works with four year olds. It’s the same with 80 year olds. Being able to use my creativity during the day, it is exhausting because I feel like being asked 20 questions every five minutes. I do come home depleted, but at night, when the boys go down, when I can, I will go down and just let it all out on canvas. I will say, currently, my work is not the most conceptual. It’s more reactive, but it’s kind of more guttural and things that I. It’s emotional in a way of things that I’m reacting to in my current life. And I feel like most artists do that. It’s like where you are, your work is breathing out of where you are.

Rico Figliolini 0:09:17

I think that makes sense, right? Because inspiration is in the moment when you’re doing these things. It’s not like most artists plan these things out. Sometimes you may have in your head, but you’re working in the medium you’re working in. It could appear different, and you’re trying to rough it and do different piece from it. When you are like that, when you have to be in your space, if you will. I know writers, for example, will write with the door closed, if you will, and they know that pages and chapters will go away at some point because they’re just getting into that space. Do you find yourself doing that with art? How’s the process? Do you sketch first and then go to the medium that you choose for it in the paper or the surface that you want to put it on? How do you do that part?

Meagan Brooker 0:10:04

That’s a really good question. I love sketching and planning in my current stage, just don’t have that much time. So I tend to work out my process as part of the process and build up my layers and build it up until it’s a complete being. So the art is very much a process as opposed to being a super planned, which is my personality, more free spirited by nature. And so sometimes I will write verses or quotes or things that are on my mind kind of in the canvas as I’m going as a meditation. And then I’ll build the color, texture, and design up as part of that meditation of whatever is on my heart at the time. And the art will kind of come out of that longing or prayer or moment that I’m having there. I do small ones that are, I call them little loves, but they’re all based off of an attribute or a thought, like prayer, contentment, love. That they’re kind of prayed over in a way.

Rico Figliolini 0:11:21

I know there’s one behind you, but I put one of your pieces on the feed right now. Tell us a little bit about that one.

Meagan Brooker 0:11:29

This one. If I had a gallery show, which I hope to one day, I would call it something like an affinity for winged things. I’ve always had loved angels. I love birds, butterflies. There’s something about them that represents such hope and freedom. And so the past few years, I’ve done quite a few butterflies. And so the one on the screen here, I love the color tone in it, but I recently started adding in kind of a duo tone background with the gold and white. That almost represents a duality of. It. Kind of brings in a contrast of emotion, if you will.

Rico Figliolini 0:12:11

I see two different color spaces. A border, ragged border. Same way with. I see this. Right. This is another piece that you’ve done. Same type of ridging, same type of look. Duality. Two different worlds, two places. What were you doing here in this one?

Meagan Brooker 0:12:33

Yeah. Similar to this one here behind me. I feel like there’s always a tension in our humanity of light and dark. Right. There’s a tension we’re pulled between right and wrong, light and dark, hope and failure, or anything that could pull us down easily if we don’t pull toward the light. So when combining these hopeful creatures like birds and butterflies, with that tension, to me, it’s this representative of choosing the hope, choosing freedom, choosing to do what you can do, to move yourself to a higher purpose and to truth and to light and to all the things that God offers us in this life. So it’s just kind of representing like, yes, sometimes life’s really hard, but there is hope.

Rico Figliolini 0:13:29

Let’s go to something a little different that you shared with us. This one, it’s a bit different than the other two. Can you tell us a little bit about this one?

Meagan Brooker 0:13:39

Yeah. This one was inspired by, actually, Tuscany and the green hills of Tuscany. I love traveling. I love Italy, especially has my heart. I’m actually taking a group of the high schoolers to France this summer, and I’ve not been this part of France, so I’m excited about that. But I often will recreate images or know certain landscapes of pictures that I take when I’m traveling. Not all overseas, some here, and recreate them. And so this is kind of representing, loosely, the villas that you’ll see dotted all over the hillscape. The landscape of. And Tuscany is dotted with farmland everywhere. And these are just hilly wineries and orchards.

Rico Figliolini 0:14:29

So this was done in acrylic? Correct. And you chose that over. Do you work mostly in acrylic now, or do you work in.

Meagan Brooker 0:14:38

I love oil, love watercolor. I love mixed media. For artist market, I choose to do acrylic in the same vein. And I hope that you don’t hear this as an excuse is more. It’s just a stage of life where it’s quicker. The acrylic, I’m able to move quickly and work quicker and layer in it and get the effect, because I don’t necessarily have time to sit and make 30 oils in this stage of life. So acrylic offers me the ability to work a little quicker in it.

Rico Figliolini 0:15:10

Okay. And this particular piece, I mean, they’re all relatively big pieces too, right? Like 30 x 30 or something along those lines.

Meagan Brooker 0:15:17

That one’s huge. That one is, I believe it was 40 x 60. It’s about the size of this one behind me. And a friend bought it for their piano room in their house. So it looks really good on that big wall.

Rico Figliolini 0:15:29

Nice. When people do buy your stuff, do you recommend certain framings for your pictures, or you let them do their own thing?

Meagan Brooker 0:15:37

Usually they have something in mind that fits their aesthetic, but I love float. Personally, I think float frames look so good.

Rico Figliolini 0:15:46

So when people buy your paintings like this, I’ve asked this of other artists, how do you feel about it? You’ve done it. It’s not like it’s the 30th piece that you’ve done of the same exact thing. So you’ve spent your time doing it, and it’s leaving you. It’s almost like a baby. It’s going away. It’s going to be in someone’s house. How do you feel about that?

Meagan Brooker 0:16:09

This new series with the duality are some of my favorite new ones. And to see one of my favorite parts of doing work for clients, when people are choosing work, like at artist markets as opposed to galleries or collected and stuff like that, is seeing people’s reaction to it and why they choose it. That is such a precious moment, because I think every artist, or most artists at least, pour so much of themselves into it. And to your point, some of them have trouble letting go of it because they become precious. But when they stop in their tracks and have a visceral moment of like, oh, my mom just died, and she loves birds, and that’s her favorite color, and they’ll just start, my goodness, there are tactile things that they will hold on to that become meaning to them, that may not be the eye assigned to it, but it doesn’t matter. That’s what the beauty of art is. The expression of the color, the movement, the feeling, and the hope that people will hold on to.

Rico Figliolini 0:17:16

Wow. Yeah. I can’t imagine that feeling. I’m not an artist, so I can’t imagine that. I’m a graphic designer, but not an artist, so I don’t know how that feels. I do know how it feels to put together a magazine and send it to the printer and then have it come back in a palette of, like, 10,000 copies or something. I don’t know how that feels.

Meagan Brooker 0:17:39

That’s a relief, is what that’s called.

Rico Figliolini 0:17:42

Yes. In fact, I have two deadlines this week, so it’s going to be a relief when this week is done. Yeah, it’s just one of those crazy weeks, actually. So we talked about keeping fresh and continuing to evolve. Well, actually, we didn’t talk about evolving as an artist. You touched upon it a little bit. But how do you do travel? You do find, like you said, Tuscany was a great, beautiful landscape to be inspired by. You can’t go wrong with Tuscany. Right? Do you find inspirations in some of the simpler things in life or places that you didn’t even think inspiration would come from, or moments? Does any of that happen sometimes?

Meagan Brooker 0:18:23

Yeah. Sometimes I think back to COVID, and we were so limited, and I’m a mover and a shaker. I don’t sit still well to a fault. And so having to sit still kind of shook me. But I found myself grabbing my camera and going out in the beautiful spring light and catching these abstracted flowers that were blooming across the street and the way that the light hit them or life, noticing trees in our yard that were blooming. And I hadn’t noticed how beautiful they were at the time. Things that I hadn’t stopped long enough to appreciate. And, of course, the beauty of my children and their just innocence at their ages. And so just taking time to stop that makes me want to highlight the beauty of life as opposed to the hardship. Because anytime we can have a moment, and if my art is a moment to stop and be like, okay, let me just take a beat and find some hope and find a little moment of truth and hope in our day.

Rico Figliolini 0:19:33

Okay. COVID was an interesting period. Right? It was a bad time for many families, but it was also, in some ways, a good moment in time because things stopped. We were forced to stop what we were doing. So it was so bad at one point that if you remember the supply chain issues, ships stopped delivering, and in fact, the sea woke up more. The creatures in the sea, the whales, things were happening, air was a little cleaner. It was just different time. Right. So I can see that quiet. But you’re basically forced into doing things that we weren’t. We were forced to stop doing what we’re doing. The inspiration, I guess, can be found in many places. You’re teaching lots of kids through the years, 17 years of teaching at Wesleyan. I’m sure there’s been talented, very talented kids across that time frame. Is there any story, inspirational time, particular student or group of students or class that you felt was a moment that you want to remember? Maybe that inspired you, maybe that inspired other kids. Maybe there was something going on at that moment, or maybe even creativity out of students that you didn’t think would be creative because maybe art wasn’t their thing.

Meagan Brooker 0:20:54

Well, for one thing, that just because we came out of the conversation of just talking about COVID is how important art was to the ones who had it during that time. Teaching hybrid was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And when we were, like, on camera and trying to teach art from home and all of that. But I have multiple stories of students who. Art was their lifeline at the time, because whether home was not safe for them or whether they just needed to be out and be social or whatever it was, art was their way of their identity, of finding some way of expression that pulled them out of the anxiety, the mire, the scariness, the loneliness of the time, and a way to express themselves and kind of think outside of themselves. When you’re so glued to your phone or your computer trying to do a thing, art pulled them back out. So that was a beautiful thing and a testament to the purpose, I think, of our dedication, and I think what comes to mind, and I’ll shout out to my current AP art class, who are just, they’re so much fun, and we’re actually having our art show next week, so I’m excited about that. And they’re so creative. But I think that in this culture of, again, what we’re seeing post COVID is a lot more anxiety, a lot more pressure, a lot more peer pressure. The social media is out of control, and culture has a lot of expectations. And I think that what is beautiful is seeing the kids respond to these pressures through their art and subverting them with truth and with showing their own personality and identity in a way that they wouldn’t in social media. So their own personality and their truth is coming out. So they’re becoming more confident through their expression of art in a way that they wouldn’t without it. Right. So it’s like, oh, I am good at something.

Rico Figliolini 0:23:01

Right? No, I get where you’re going. You’re right. I could see that. But I can also see social media is good and bad. Right? Instagram, TikTok. I mean, there’s different various levels. If you allow yourself to scroll for 30 minutes, you’re losing a bit of your life. Maybe. But there are artists out there that actually share online also, and they use that medium to be able to share their art, whether it’s ceramics they’re doing or whether it’s actually watching them create something in the moment. Yeah, because that’s TikTok. I mean, does that. Right. Instagram, to a lesser degree, I think. But you could be watching an artist, a street artist, or just an artist in a studio painting, sketching the whole process for an hour or two, which is kind of interesting, right? Because you get to see the creative process. Most people don’t see that. They see the finished piece. They don’t know what Meagan Brooker to make that piece or what. Brie Hill, who was one of the students I interviewed, what it took her to make a painting and what she invested in that painting. Or Esther Cooper, who’s the other student I interviewed who does creative pastries. Right. That’s a whole different long. There’s no longevity to that. It expires at some point, you either eat it or it goes bad, but in the moment, it’s a good looking piece, maybe. Right. Talking about 3d art. More than that. Right. The scent of it and stuff. So I could see how social media can be helpful in some ways with some students.

Meagan Brooker 0:24:33

Yeah. I think with social media, we have so much at our fingertips now we can appreciate art in a whole new way, because, like you said, you can see the process. You can understand it more, but it also makes you want to try more. And there’s always going to be cynics. There are going to be people who will try to poke a hole in it. But I think we will be students until we die. I think that’s part of the creative part of teaching. Like, we always have more to learn. And so that’s what’s so fun about social media, is being able to go on and try something new or to see new work, because we’re to be inspired by something outside of us which broadens our perspective and opens our worldview a little bit.

Rico Figliolini 0:25:22

Yeah. Now, just to stick with technology a little bit, because there are students that use Photoshop, procreate, other digital products and software where you can create online in layers, brushes. We create your own brush palette, if you will. Do you delve into any of that? Do you see students using that as part of the process of what they’re doing? Are they using it even to pre plan a physical, tactile piece of art? What’s the final piece?

Meagan Brooker 0:25:59

It’s such a big question right now in the art world, and my co worker Drew Phillips has actually done a lot of research and given some talks on this. I currently do not teach any AI in what I am teaching, but I see the value of. Well, also I will say there’s inherent AI almost in everything now, like in my AP photography, and know there’s always the option of generative fill. But AP doesn’t allow any type of AI, but I think the use of it for know. So speaking of Rehill, she’s one of my students. She’s amazing. She just did with a girl being lifted up by doves with a sheet and ropes. That’s hard to take a picture of. She just finished it yesterday and it’s stunning. So maybe we can do a recap and show the finished piece. Not yesterday, today, but it’s hard to take a reference picture for that, to get her full concept in there. And we made it happen. But you could put that kind of prompt into AI and have it kind of create a reference for you, but then you are drawing it. So there’s a lot of debate about that and the crossover of what’s allowed. And, but, and there’s a lot of people who think that AI is going to take over a lot of jobs. But I’ll tell you, and this is coming from conversations with people who are working with Microsoft, AI creatives will never be out of a job because AI needs creatives to be able to create the prompts to do the job. And so the people who can think outside of the box and creatives, there will always be a place for us.

Rico Figliolini 0:27:45

Yeah, there’s so many forms of AI too, right? There’s language based, generative, there’s very various levels of AI. So you’re right though, because you need to be able to, I’ve played in it a little bit as far as writing and stuff like that, and even dolly and some of the visual elements and even a different form of sora, which is more video based. Right. And it’s not everything that people make it out to be. It takes the process of doing it almost, like you said, in some ways you have to be an artist to be able to pull out from that anything artistic that makes sense. Yeah. So it’s not as easy as people think. I get that question sometimes. Can’t you just do this in Photoshop? AI is in there. It’s like, no, you can’t just do that. You have to really think about what you’re doing here. It’s never going to look like what know, you could go into AI and you could go chat GPT and Dolly and tell it what you want and say, good, close, you got to where I need it. Add this and this, but don’t remove that and it’ll give you something completely different. So I know the prompts might be a little, you have to work the prompts the right way and stuff, but yeah, AI is a good tool to derive inspiration from. I think I agree with you there. You’re going to need creative people still, but I’m sure that’s still within the next five years that probably will be part of being taught in the creative process. Right. How to use AI as an intern or apprentice, if you will, for yourself in some ways. So you’re going to be at the wesleyan artist market. You’re going to be showcasing some of your work. I’m assuming some of the work that I showed, that we showed may be there. What type of work will you be actually showing at the show?

Meagan Brooker 0:29:33

Yeah, I’m doing some more of the, like what we were talking about with the dual duality and kind of playing around with that more, trying out some new subjects and content, but mostly that. But I want to try out some landscapes and build in some more looser sunset sunrises along with the birds and butterflies and see what I can turn out there.

Rico Figliolini 0:29:59

Cool. Anything you want to share with us that we haven’t touched base, I really.

Meagan Brooker 0:30:06

If you haven’t been out to the artist market, I highly recommend it. Okay, again, I’ve been at Wesleyan for 17 years, and I’ve been displaying at the artist market for 17 years. And believe me, I’ve grown a lot. I would be embarrassed to show you what I sold the first few years. I think my first year was actually, I taught ceramics, and so I did some ceramics, but I’ve grown a lot. But the funds of the market come back to the students. So it funds the fine arts and so the marching band, the visual arts, the theater, and so it comes back to the students there at Wesleyan. But beyond that, it is such a high level event put on by volunteers from the school, which is almost hard to believe because it’s such a professional looking event and it’s indoors. It’s one of my favorite things that we do throughout the year and I’m so grateful for those who put it on. So come out to see us. It’s a really fun event for the family.

Rico Figliolini 0:31:10

It’s going to be April 26 through the 27th, so that Friday, Saturday, and if you want to find out about it, it’s Wesleyan artist market. Just google that and I’ll show right up. Do you want to leave a last maybe word for any aspiring artists or educators? Anything you want to leave advice for them before we end the show?

Meagan Brooker 0:31:32

Yeah, I think if you feel like the need to create, whether that be writing, singing, writing out songs, it doesn’t matter if you’re good at it. The act of creating is fulfilling and there’s a reason that you are stirred to do it. And I think personally, I think that’s God working in you to bring you to a higher light and a higher purpose. And so just do your thing. It doesn’t matter what everybody else thinks, as long as it’s for you and for him or for whoever else you want to see it. Just let your light shine.

Rico Figliolini 0:32:03

Cool. We’ve been talking to Meagan Brooker. She’s a 17 year veteran teacher at Wesleyan school, teaching high school kids about art, and she’s going to be showing at the Wesleyan Artist Market. So stay with me for a second, Meagan. I want to just say thank you to our sponsor, EV Remodeling, Inc. Does a great job design, build home remodeling, kitchen, bathrooms, everywhere that you can think of. Eli and his family live here in Peachtree Corners. They’re just wonderful people. You should check them out. Evremodelinginc.com. So check those out and thank you, Meagan. I appreciate you being with us.

Meagan Brooker 0:32:38 Yeah, my pleasure.

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Arts & Literature

Wesleyan Artist Market 2024: Students Bree Hill and Esther Cooper



The Wesleyan Artist Market takes place in Peachtree Corners on April 26-27, 2024

Join us as we dive into the creative worlds of Esther Cooper and Bree Hill, two young student artists showing at this year’s Wesleyan Artist Market with their unique talents and passions. From Esther’s tasty cake pops to Bree’s emotionally charged artwork, we explore the stories behind their inspiration, dedication, and drive to showcase their creativity. Listen in as we discuss the power of self-expression and passion in the world of art and baking. Tune in for a dose of inspiration and creativity that will leave you eager to explore your own artistic talents and passions. Hosted by Rico Figliolini

Wesleyan Artists’ Market Website: https://www.artistmarket.wesleyanschool.org/
Bree’s Instagram: @bubblycreationsbybreehill

00:00:00 – Introduction
00:01:37 – Expanding Artistic Horizons at Wesleyan Market
00:03:38 – Discovering Passion and Mediums in Art Creation
00:05:13 – Expressing Emotions Through Art and Beyond
00:10:53 – Preparing for the Artist Market at Wesleyan
00:13:24 – Finding Inspiration Through Music and Fantasy Books
00:16:01 – Dreams of Opening a Family-Friendly Bakery
00:17:42 – Interviewing a Creative Baker and Graphic Designer
00:19:43 – The Art of Evolving a Painting
00:21:45 – Baking Creations for Holidays and Parties
00:24:08 – Bree’s Artistic Process and Finding Joy in Sculptures
00:26:37 – Art Commissions and Wesleyan Artist Market Update
00:28:20 – Closing Thoughts

Podcast Transcript


Rico Figliolini 0:00:01

Hi everyone. This is Rico Figliolini, host of Peachtree Corners Life here in the city of Peachtree Corners, Gwinnett County. I have a couple of great guests with me today. They are student artists at the upcoming Wesleyan Artist Market. But before I introduce them quickly, let me just say thank you to EV Remodeling, Inc. Who is a sponsor of not only this podcast, but the publications that we do, including Peachtree Corners magazine and Southwest Gwinnett magazine. So I want to thank them for being a strong sponsor, a community member as well. And if you want to find out more about EV remodeling Inc. Just go to their website, which is easy, evremodelinginc.com. So thank you for that. Our guest today is on the left. Depending on how you’re viewing this, Esther Cooper from 7th grade. Say hi, Esther.

Esther Cooper 0:00:48


Rico Figliolini 0:00:49

And Bree Hill from 10th grade. Hey Bree.

Bree Hill 0:00:52


Rico Figliolini 0:00:53

Both from Wesleyan school. And for one, she’s going to be at the Wesleyan Artist Market the second time, I believe. And for another, this is her first time. So let’s start with Esther Cooper, who’s interested in culinary arts. So, Esther, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Esther Cooper 0:01:13

Well, like you said, my name is Esther and I really enjoy baking and I’m going to be selling probably mostly cake pops at the artist market. So I’ve been working on kind of perfecting that technique for a while, so I think they’ll be pretty good.

Rico Figliolini 0:01:30

Cool. Bree Hill, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Bree Hill 0:01:35

My name is Bree Hill. This is my second year in the Wesleyan Artist Market. I have experience in different things with watercolor, acrylic paint, oil paint, and even mixed media and pottery. I’ve done animals in different subjects.

Rico Figliolini 0:01:53

Excellent. So last year, if I remember correctly from what I’ve read, you participated and submitted ceramic and clay sculptures last year.

Bree Hill 0:02:01


Rico Figliolini 0:02:02

Cool. And this year you’re going to do something a bit different, right? Using different medium. You want to tell us a little bit about why you chose that medium to introduce this year?

Bree Hill 0:02:12

So I did a little bit of acrylic paint last year. I was more focusing on ceramics because I did different animals like elephants and dogs, swans, that sort. But I have the most experience at acrylic paint and I wanted to expand the things that I did. Like I’ve done graphite self portraits so far. I will use acrylic with cars, flower bouquets. I wanted to show people something that I’ve been doing for a long time.

Rico Figliolini 0:02:47

Okay, cool. Artists can do whatever they please as long as it inspires right, Esther, let’s talk a little bit about what you’re doing. The type of art themes that inspire you best, what inspires you. What do you look at when you’re thinking of culinary arts and deciding what to make or bake?

Esther Cooper 0:03:06

Well, I would say that I’m not going to lie. I actually do draw a little bit of inspiration from baking shows. That’s actually how I kind of got started with baking. Like, I saw these baking shows and I was like, wait, this is so cool. So I kind of picked up baking. So I get inspired by that. I get inspired by Pinterest.

Rico Figliolini 0:03:29

So you’re on Pinterest also building a board.

Esther Cooper 0:03:32

Not really building a board.

Rico Figliolini 0:03:34

I just scrolling through.

Esther Cooper 0:03:36


Rico Figliolini 0:03:38

All right, that’s fine. You have to discover your passion and your inspiration in a lot of different places. Right. When you’re creating your treats, your sweets, is there particular ingredient, favorite ingredients you have that you like.

Esther Cooper 0:03:59

I mean. Can’t go wrong with?

Rico Figliolini 0:04:00

No, no. Can’t go wrong there. Probably sugar too, I would imagine, but, yeah, for sure. All right, cool. Bree on yours, shifting from sculpture to painting, obviously you’ve used different mediums along the way. How do you explore what you want to do in oil painting or watercolors? Do you decide what medium you want? Depending on what inspires you, depending on the picture you’re doing, how does that work?

Bree Hill 0:04:27

It depends on what I’m painting. So normally, if it’s like a plant nature of some sort, I will use watercolor for different depths because I like layering. If it’s normally a person, I would either use pencil or acrylic paint and more. If it can turn into three d, I would effectively use clay.

Rico Figliolini 0:04:51

Got you. There was a part where I think you mentioned about expressing yourself without judgment. You mentioned that to be able to share time, creating art helps to communicate something that you feel or that you want to express that can’t be expressed in words. Is that something that you continue to strive to? How do you see yourself doing that?

Bree Hill 0:05:16

I have a really hard time explaining and reiterating myself in different ways, so I chose to do it through art. I like to choose an emotion and draw what I think that emotion would look like, what that person would look like in that emotion, or in that moment.

Rico Figliolini 0:05:35

All right, well, let me bring up one of your pieces. Actually, bear with me a second. We pop that out. Put that there. That’s one of your pieces, I believe, right? Yes. So when you drew that, when that came to you, when you inspired to do that, what are you trying to.

Bree Hill 0:05:55

Share here I was trying to show I chose a pretty complicated emotion because I feel like not a lot of people can put it into words. And this one was grief, where it’s slowly, each day, you wake up thinking about it, and you’re slowly getting tired. You’re getting exhausted of it. So she’s kind of laying there limp almost. And you always have a friend. You reach out to something, vent happens. So those are birds representing each thing. It’s not a finished artwork, but definitely in the middle of it.

Rico Figliolini 0:06:30

Gotcha. Okay, cool. Come back here now. So it mean. And that was the medium used. It was pencil.

Bree Hill 0:06:40

Yes, sir.

Rico Figliolini 0:06:43

Esther, we’ll come back to you for a little bit. When you’re doing desserts, baking, you’re in the kitchen, I’m assuming, right. And you’re doing your stuff, I’m assuming. You start almost off with the recipe. Right. But do you ever deviate from that recipe? Do you ever do something a little different, add a little bit more, a little less? What do you do?

Esther Cooper 0:07:06

Well, sometimes I do eyeball things. Not too much, because baking is kind of a science, but I think it’s definitely decorating, where I get very spontaneous, like, I’ll pull out all the sprinkles or the different ways to decorate a cake up.

Rico Figliolini 0:07:29

All right, that’s cool. And you were saying you find inspiration from tv shows in Pinterest. I’m assuming that life, any artist, when you go to a place that exhibits art or, like, a bakery, do you find things that, as you’re looking through, do you find inspiration there? Do you even buy the stuff to taste it and see how it came out and what you can do with that?

Esther Cooper 0:07:54

Much to my parents dismay, yes. They take me to a bakery, and I’m like, mom, I got to learn how to make that.

Rico Figliolini 0:08:05

That’s funny. True. Sweet tooth could do it, I guess. So when you’re finding, I guess, in your art is one thing, I guess, when you know the artist, maybe. But also, are there any particular bakers that you’re aware of or tv or personalities that you like?

Esther Cooper 0:08:25

There’s this guy named Jacques Torres who’s on this show called nailed it. I don’t think. I always thought he was pretty cool. He was always very good. Had a very good expertise in his field, which I think is pretty cool.

Rico Figliolini 0:08:42

It’s good to have someone to look up to, to emulate a little bit. Bree, on your everyday life, walking through school, walking home, or however, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. I don’t know. Do you do other things besides art. Like, are you into sports?

Bree Hill 0:09:04

I am a volleyball player.

Rico Figliolini 0:09:06

You’re what? Softball?

Bree Hill 0:09:08

A volleyball player.

Rico Figliolini 0:09:09

Oh, volleyball player. Okay, cool. So are you on the team then, or is this intramurals?

Bree Hill 0:09:15

This is year round volleyball, so it’s club.

Rico Figliolini 0:09:18

Oh, club volleyball. Okay. So when you’re out there and doing athletic work, do you find inspiration in what you’re doing there? Do you look at people and look at them as inspiration for maybe the next drawing or the next scene that you life?

Bree Hill 0:09:36

Definitely. And not just volleyball as well? If I travel anywhere, I will always have, like, a mini pocket watercolor to draw whatever scenes in front of me to kind of capture the moment, because I feel like it represents everything better than a picture because it’s how you saw the moment. It’s like how you read what was happening rather than it just being, oh, here’s a picture of what I saw.

Rico Figliolini 0:10:01

Right. The way you feel, I guess. So. I’m imagining you’re carrying a book and some watercolors with you.

Bree Hill 0:10:10


Rico Figliolini 0:10:11

Okay, so no digital stuff for you, or do you use an iPad too sometimes or one of those.

Bree Hill 0:10:19

Not really an iPad. No.

Rico Figliolini 0:10:21

Okay, so you’re not into Photoshop or using brushes on any of that procreate or anything?

Bree Hill 0:10:28

So I take my own pictures for my artwork. So the one you just showed up is actually a picture of me. I photographed it, and then I had to Photoshop some things with lighting and stuff. Then I drew it.

Rico Figliolini 0:10:41

Oh, wow. Excellent.

Bree Hill 0:10:44

It’s a long process.

Rico Figliolini 0:10:48

No, that’s good. You got to start somewhere, and using yourself as a subject is even better. You know what to do with yourself, right? That’s cool. So have you put together all your artwork yet for wham. For this year, or are you still working on stuff?

Bree Hill 0:11:06

Definitely still working. I have my inventory log done, and I have all the materials for it. But actually doing it is where it’s kind of a slow process, but definitely more than half are completed.

Rico Figliolini 0:11:19

All right, cool. Now, a little different for Esther, I bet, because it’s not like you can work on yours in advance unless you’re going to freeze it. So what’s the game plan for you? Are you going to be doing well.

Esther Cooper 0:11:32

We were talking about taking discretionary day, the day before the artist market, so I could just bake.

Rico Figliolini 0:11:39

I don’t wait. Discretionary days are those days you’re allowed to take off?

Esther Cooper 0:11:45

Yes, sir. You only get. Is it two, Bree?

Bree Hill 0:11:49

It’s two.

Rico Figliolini 0:11:51

You are invested in your art. I can tell. Putting those days off into that, that’s good. So you’re going to be working away in the kitchen, I’m assuming, getting things ready?

Esther Cooper 0:12:04

Yes, sir.

Rico Figliolini 0:12:05

All right, cool. What other interests do you have? I obviously, Bree does volleyball and sports. What interests do you have?

Esther Cooper 0:12:17

I played trumpet. I was in the Wesleyan marching band this fall. I participated in basketball this winter, and I have in the past participated in musicals, and I plan to try out again next year. It’s just this year, I want to do the artist market this year.

Rico Figliolini 0:12:38

Okay. All right, cool. Interesting. The Wesleyan student always is multifaceted, that’s for sure. So many different things are going on. I think I interviewed someone that had. She was doing club sport, school sport, and she had other things going on. It’s just like, I don’t even know how many hours in the day you have to do that. So when you’re finding inspiration, is there a special place or music you like to listen to? Other one can go.

Esther Cooper 0:13:07

Well, I just like to walk around my backyard a lot. It’s a fairly big backyard. I just walk around and kind of think about all sorts of things. But I definitely draw a lot of inspiration because it has kind of a forest area, so there’s a lot around me and a lot to draw inspiration from.

Rico Figliolini 0:13:30

So you’re not listening to anything. You’re just listening to nature and just walking around the backyard like that. Now, Bree, you’re laughing, but what about you? Where do you draw your inspiration from music, or where do you do that?

Bree Hill 0:13:44

So I actually have over 40 playlists of different emotions and things, and they all have, like, a description of a scenario or something. I’m an avid reader of fantasy, so I’m quite literally always thinking of something new and something that isn’t really realistic.

Rico Figliolini 0:14:06

Okay. No, I’m not surprised then. Okay. When you were talking about emotion and drawing that out, that almost makes sense. That segues a little bit into one of my other questions. So you like to read? Sounds like fantasy novels. YA novels, I’m assuming. Do you have a few favorites that you would recommend?

Bree Hill 0:14:26

Probably the caraval series and the Lunar Chronicles are most likely my and angel fall. Those are my three favorite series in fantasy.

Rico Figliolini 0:14:39

Ya and playlists. Any particular artists on them that you’d like to share?

Bree Hill 0:14:46

Beyonce. I have, like, 30. I mainly listen to r and B. We’ll keep that as flat ground because artists.

Rico Figliolini 0:15:02

That’s cool. Okay, Esther, what about you? Are there any books or types of books or titles that you like that you would share?

Esther Cooper 0:15:12

I also do love to read. I’m kind of basic in some of my favorites. Like, I love the Harry Potter and the Percy Jackson series, but there’s this really good book that I read in this kind of group, and it was called Echo. So if any of y’all are looking for book suggestions, I would really recommend it because it’s very good. But it’s probably one of my favorite books.

Rico Figliolini 0:15:35

Actually. The Harry Potter. Have you heard that Warner Brothers is actually going to do a tv series now of the Harry Potter books, redoing the books into a tv? They are, yeah, ten episodes per book. It’s going to take them forever to get this done, but, yeah, they’re coming back. And JK Rowling is apparently all for it. I just heard that the other day. My kids grew up on it. I used to read it to them when they were younger until they got old enough to read it, because that’s how long, right. But, yeah, it’s a cool books. So what about playlists, then, Esther? What do you like listening to?

Esther Cooper 0:16:14

I like to listen to classical music a lot, but I really listen to pretty much all genres.

Rico Figliolini 0:16:21

Okay. That’s good. Eclectic. It’s good to be able to listen to different songs and different music. As far as we talked about inspiration a little bit and stuff. But let’s talk a little bit about. Let’s go back to Esther. I know that one of your dreams, apparently, is to have your own bakery. You’re still a young person, so who knows what may happen and transpire over time. But when you think of your dream bakery, what would you want in that dream bakery?

Bree Hill 0:16:54

Baked goods, probably. I don’t know. I’ve always really loved children, like, really young children. So I’d want it to be a place where parents could come with their young children and just kind of have a good time. Kind of be like a cozy little spot. I don’t know, like a family friendly place.

Rico Figliolini 0:17:19

Definitely. No, I can say that, yeah, that sounds good. When you travel, you’re in 7th grade, but have you gone anywhere to other cities that you may have stopped at a bakery or that might have inspired you in some way like that?

Esther Cooper 0:17:38

I do live by some very good bakeries. There’s some nearby. They can get very creative, which is something that obviously is very necessary for this sort of thing.

Rico Figliolini 0:17:55

Did you ever think of maybe seeing if you could get part time job working? I’m not necessarily, like, at a chocolatier or anything like that, but, yeah, that could be something you could do, I guess it’s funny because are you familiar with Peterbrook chocolatier?

Esther Cooper 0:18:12


Rico Figliolini 0:18:12

In the Forum okay. Yes. Jeff, who manages the place, is very interesting person. He has summer camps usually, but he also hires high school kids to work for him when they want to work, I guess. And they’ll do anything in chocolate. It’s just totally amazing. And the things they come up with, I don’t even know how they do them. Bree on to you when you’re doing your artwork.

Bree Hill 0:18:38

I do layouts. I do magazine layouts. I do graphic design work like that. I’m not an illustrator or artist by far, but I do layouts and stuff. And sometimes when I get into something, I almost feel like I’m doing clay. I start with clay, and I’m molding it into a shape. And that 72 page magazine is getting molded right on the screen as I’m putting it together without a mockup, almost, which is not the way you should do these things, but this is the way I do it.

Rico Figliolini 0:19:14

Right. Do you find yourself doing things and you’re like, that’s not the way I should be doing it, but let me try it anyway. Let me see how it works.

Bree Hill 0:19:23

Definitely. This is where the phrase abstract and mixed media come into play, where you really don’t. You’ll start out with the plan. You’ll never stick with the plan. I rarely ever stick with the plan unless it’s a self portrait. The painting that you actually pulled up was not supposed to have birds. I was not supposed to be floating. There were not supposed to be ropes. But it felt whenever you feel like it needs something or you want something else into it, obviously you add it, but then it’s kind of like a domino effect, then you’ll want something else to go with that, and it kind of just keeps going.

Rico Figliolini 0:20:00

Right. All right, so let me throw this one up here. Hold on a second. That’s another one you did?

Bree Hill 0:20:09


Rico Figliolini 0:20:09

You want to describe that a little bit to us?

Bree Hill 0:20:13

I think of this, like, as you’re in a sunroom, you’re kind of calm laying down flat on your back. Or even if you were like, if it was like a meadow and you were just laying on your back in the grass, tall grass with little dandelions around you, and the sun just reflects so many different shadows. And I like to not always do black and white. I really do like different colors in everything. I do, actually, most of my pieces, probably. You’ll find every single color in it, besides pencil, obviously, but I definitely felt this one as, like, a serene moment.

Rico Figliolini 0:20:54

It looks very serene. Let’s go with. There’s a couple of pictures I want to bring up of Esther’s. Try this one. Actually, let’s do both of these. I’m going to bring up three of them to tell us a little bit about these. What are they? And tell us what you want to show with that.

Esther Cooper 0:21:23

Well, I think the one with the m and Ms on it, that one was for. We were having a Christmas party for my basketball team, and I signed up to bring dessert, and I don’t know, I saw it on Pinterest or somewhere, and it kind of just looked like. It kind of looks like a barrel full of eminem. And I just thought that was a really fun concept. It was very fun.

Rico Figliolini 0:21:51

And those are kit kats on the outside, I guess.

Esther Cooper 0:21:54

Yes, sir. But another thing that you don’t see inside is that when you cut into the cake, it’s a red, green, and white in, like, a checkerboard pattern. So that was very fun.

Rico Figliolini 0:22:06

Cool. Yeah, that was complicated. I’m sure it’s set up like that. Right? What about the chocolate pops? If I’m looking at that correctly.

Esther Cooper 0:22:17

I made a fatal mistake when I started baking, and I told all my friends that I started baking, so they were all like, please bring in cake pops. So it feels like every other weekend I’m making cake pops to bring in for my friends. I think this one was probably, I made cake pops for my math class. I think this is probably those cake pops. I don’t remember.

Rico Figliolini 0:22:41

And this one.

Esther Cooper 0:22:43

That one, that one’s not looking so great. But I really liked the design. It was actually a cake I saw in a cookbook.

Rico Figliolini 0:22:53

Okay. You got a little patriotic, I think, on this one.

Esther Cooper 0:22:58

Oh, that one was really fun. That one was for 4th of July. You can’t tell. It was a s’mores dip. So there was Hershey’s chocolate bars under there. And then you would take graham cracker crackers and dip it in, and it was pretty good.

Rico Figliolini 0:23:16

That’s cool. That’s what you want. You want to be able to get creative and get it going like that. There’s definitely a lot of butter in that, I bet. Let’s go to brie. And we want to. This behaves. That’s the sculpture you did, I think, Bree, right?

Bree Hill 0:23:39


Rico Figliolini 0:23:40

And tell me a little bit about the sculptures.

Bree Hill 0:23:46

So these are polar bears. The animals that I did, I was actually experimenting with different glazes. So the dogs that I did were almost oreo. They were light brown, dark brown, cream, and white all swirled into each other. And this one, I wanted to try different textures. And this is actually a different type of clay that leaves a really hoarse. It’s a gritty clay, a different texture, and it has little black dots in it. And it reminded me of a polar bear. And so this was one of the ones that I made with smooth fun.

Rico Figliolini 0:24:27

Cool. Was this at the Wesleyan artist market as well at some point or not?

Bree Hill 0:24:31

Yes. I did this with my elephant, swans and dogs. I had did my elephant, which actually took around a week and a half because I drew every individual aged line in the nose, the legs, the body.

Rico Figliolini 0:24:54

So let me ask you something. When something like that sells and goes off with someone, do you, like, cry a little bit? Is that like my baby’s left?

Bree Hill 0:25:08

I like to think more on the positive side. Like, someone else gets to experience my art. If someone else came into their house or wherever it’s being placed, it gives someone else another emotion, which is kind of life. The sense of spreading whatever I was doing in that moment. And I was actually having fun creating different animals. And I was really happy that someone liked it enough to one buy it, but also have in their home to show it.

Rico Figliolini 0:25:39

Sure. Sure. That makes sense. Esther has a different way of people enjoying hers than literally eat it and it disappears. So how do you feel about that? One stays a while and one is a momentary delight. Yeah, that must be. If I skipped anything. Is there anything, Bree, that you would like to share that we didn’t cover or that your experience that you’d like to share?

Bree Hill 0:26:18

I started something new this year. I do commissions in every medium, so I could also do animals. I’m doing self portraits of any picture. You would just send me a picture via email or phone. I would draw it or paint it. And that’s something new that I’m offering this year at the Wesleyan artist market.

Rico Figliolini 0:26:39

Wow. Okay. Very good. And, Esther, what about you? Anything that I’ve not touched upon that you’d like to share?

Esther Cooper 0:26:48

Not really.

Rico Figliolini 0:26:50

Okay, that’s fine. It’s all good. We have been speaking to Esther and Bree. From all you’ve been through the programs, I’m assuming, like, Bree, you’ve been through some of the art programs and stuff. And Esther, you’ve been through. Does Wesleyan have bakery, baking, cooking, any classes? Like. No. Right. It’s all academic. Academic and sports and science, of course. Cool. So if people want to follow you on social media to watch you, to see your work, or would they visit, is there anything you want to share that way? I don’t know if yours are private accounts or if you have an Instagram that’s open to the public.

Bree Hill 0:27:38

I have an Instagram. It’s called Bubbly Creations by Bree Hill. And obviously I’ll be at the Wesleyan artist market. Those are ways you could reach me.

Rico Figliolini 0:27:51

Cool. Esther, anything on your end other than being at the artist market?

Esther Cooper 0:27:55


Rico Figliolini 0:27:59

Well, I’m having a great time talking to you, learning a little bit about your art and your passions. It’s always good to go through this. Every year we do this with a set of students just before the Wesleyan artist market. So it’s always fun to see different kids, different grades, doing different mediums and how they approach things. So I want to say thank you for sharing with us.

Bree Hill 0:28:22

Thank you for having us.

Rico Figliolini 0:28:24


Esther Cooper 0:28:24

Thank you.

Rico Figliolini 0:28:25

Thank you. So hang in there for a minute. I’m just going to sign off. Say thank you again to EV Remodeling, Inc. For being a sponsor of this program, along with other things that we do. You can check them out at evremodellinginc.com. They’re based here, Peachtree Corners. Great family. Eli is a great guy. Check them out. They do great work. So feel free and also check us out at livinginpeachtreecorners.com. And our magazine, the upcoming issue of April, May, will have coverage of three Wesleyan artists, adult artists that will be at the show. And you can find out more information from us there. And certainly you can search the Wesleyan artist market and find out about all the great artists that will be there in April. So thanks again. Appreciate it.

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