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How Georgia State legislation affects local cities, self-taxing districts, medical cannabis and more [Podcast]



Peachtree Corners City Manager Brian Johnson

How does 5G technology and public safety work? Explore the creation of self-taxing Community Improvement Districts and how they help a city. Urban development, changing cityscapes, new zoning for medical cannabis, and smart city planning—all this and more in the latest episode of Prime Lunchtime with the City Manager Brian Johnson and host Rico Figliolini.


State of Georgia Legislative information on the CID
Medical Cannabis Information


00:00:00 – City Manager Brian’s 5G Initiatives at Curiosity Lab
00:04:34 – Public Safety Initiatives and Legislative Defense
00:09:16 – Exploring the Creation of Community Improvement Districts
00:14:21 – Funding and Benefits of a Community Improvement District
00:16:54 – Upcoming Town Center Improvements and Openings
00:22:26 – New Obstacle Course and Memorial Day Plans
00:28:16 – April City Council Meeting on Development
00:31:06 – Urban Growth and the Limits of City Authority
00:34:37 – Urban Development and Changing Cityscapes
00:37:45 – Navigating City Growth and Zoning Changes
00:41:52 – Planning Zoning for Medical Cannabis in Georgia
00:44:56 – Regulating Dispensary Locations and Processes
00:47:00 – Anticipating Zoning Requests and Smart City Planning

Podcast Transcript:

Rico Figliolini 0:00:00

Hi, everyone. This is Rico Figliolini, host of Peachtree Corners Life. And today, Prime Lunchtime with the City Manager. Hey, Brian, how are you?

Brian Johnson 0:00:09

Good. Rico, how are you?

Rico Figliolini 0:00:10

Good. Good. It’s a beautiful day, actually, when we’re recording this remotely, but we have a lot of things we’re going to be talking about. But before we get into that, I do want to say thank you to our corporate sponsor, EV Remodeling, Inc. Eli, who lives here in Peachtree Corners, where the company is based, is a great guy doing great work, from buildouts to whole house remodels. So check them out at evremodelinginc.com. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. So now let’s talk a little bit about Brian. I know you’ve been busy. You’ve been going out doing speaking engagements. I want to mention one that you’re going to be going to at some point, which is next month, ISC West 2024, which is a conference trade show in the security, public safety realm. You’re going to be talking to them about what we’re doing here. Why don’t you give us just a three minute thing on that, again that’s happening in April. Tell us, what’s the plan?

Brian Johnson 0:01:09

So I was asked to speak at that conference specifically about how we’re using 5g within the curiosity lab testing environment to help enhance and scale certain products in certain areas. This conference specifically is interested in cybersecurity, then some autonomous vehicle and then public safety, like drone, or as our marshals have stood up, body cam testing and using 5g as a way to make those products better or to be able to scale them. An example of that would be if you get a 5g environment to be able to get to where all the law enforcement officers within that environment that are wearing body cameras when they’re turned on, the 5g environment is robust enough that it could actually stream live back to maybe real time crime center. Or they can download video of an engagement where they turn the camera on because they don’t have it on all the time. There are certain times you gotta turn it on. But currently, police officers end up at the end of their shift. They go back to the station and they’ve got to take out the memory chip and put it into a computer and download it directly. That way, just because it’s so much video data really takes a lot of space. And that would be huge if they could both stream it live back to command center, where you have other people watching and be able to download it live and not have to go back to the station. It’ll just be an example where 5G can be used to deal with. So I’m going to be talking about, I was asked to talk about some of those applications that we’re using 5G to help do research and development on.

Rico Figliolini 0:03:09

Which is great because most of these conferences that you all go to, both here in the states and overseas, like Israel and european countries, they end up actually bringing sometimes companies to our city that want to do work here.

Brian Johnson 0:03:24

So good economic impact, just conference speaking engagements. It used to be to where we were always having to make our case as to why we’re interesting enough to speak at them. And it’s kind of, we get reached out to, but we don’t generally go to conferences. And it’s just conference where you’re like walking a showroom floor handing out business cards. We usually use this as, call it an excuse to line up meetings with companies that are in the area, that are in certain sectors that we want to make them aware of curiosity lab and its capabilities as a way to get them to be like, oh, wow, I didn’t know that that existed. And you don’t charge to use it and you have all these cool toys and infrastructure we can use. So we turn down a lot of these things if they don’t correspond to us being able to meet with other companies at the same time. So this is a space that with the Marshall stood up public safety space has certainly expanded. And so it’s more of interest to us than it hasn’t been in the past. So we’ve been asked to speak of this before, but this time we accept it just because we have more public safety r d going on here than we have.

Rico Figliolini 0:04:55

Right. Cool. So let’s bring this back a little closer to home. Now, actually, Atlanta under the gold dome, because there’s a legislative session going on. There’s legislation in there particularly that would affect the city of peace for corners that you all have been working on. So tell us a little bit about that and what impact that will bring to the city.

Brian Johnson 0:05:15

Well, I’ll start with legislative sessions are 95% defense and 5% offense. So as usual, our legislative affairs people, lobbyists that we use and in some internal staff, we’ve ended up playing defense on bills that could hurt us in some way, shape or form. We’ve talked about this before in years past, or I’ve used as an example. But yet again, there was another bill that was introduced that would prohibit property tax bills from having anything other than the one property tax line item.

Rico Figliolini 0:05:58


Brian Johnson 0:05:59

For municipalities that either don’t have property tax or have a lot of additional fees that they charge residents and don’t want to stand up a billing department or don’t want to have a bill that only has fees on it, it would be significantly negative for us because our collection. So we use Gwinnett County’s property tax bill for us to put on solid waste. So your trash collection is billed annually. Your stormwater user fee is billed annually. And for some locations that have street lights that are assessed based on the frontage of their property that’s on there, our collection rate is 99% because it’s on a property tax bill. And if you don’t pay the whole bill, technically speaking, at some point you can find your property being auctioned off on the courthouse steps.

Rico Figliolini 0:07:01


Brian Johnson 0:07:02

So people pay it. But if you removed it and we had to invoice, just say solid waste and stormwater, our collection rate, for the nationally of cities that do that, their collection rate is about 65%. It’s crazy because a lot of people think, for instance, they don’t pay their trash collection, and then they’re kind of like, whatever.

Rico Figliolini 0:07:31

There’S no recourse doing it.

Brian Johnson 0:07:33

I’m going to dump my trash in a vacant lot. I’m going to do whatever. I’ve abandoned the property. I mean, just a lot of different things. Water, they’re like, what are they going to do to me if I don’t? Drainage. So just bad bills like that. We try to do what we can to make our state legislators know that it could harm municipalities. We also fight a lot of bills that would remove our decision making at the local level and move it to the state level where cities are generally posed to, because we feel like the best decisions are made by elected officials closest to the area that’s affected.

Rico Figliolini 0:08:23

Agreed. I think some of that was dealing with at one point with building materials, whether it was steel or wood, for three story or higher buildings.

Brian Johnson 0:08:34

Rico. So there the state decided that in their wisdom, they would prevent cities from having any kind of requirements of building material that commercial office buildings are built. And this stemmed from some cities saying that if you hit four stories or more, it had to be structural steel. There are wood products out there that allow you to go up to that height or more that are a wood product that has the same, I guess, structural strength as steel. And the state said, no, we’re not going to let you decide at the local level. Those are ones that know, no offense, but a state legislator from Rabin county or Chatham county is not necessarily the best position to know what is best for Peachtree corners. But anyway, there’s a long way of saying, play a lot of defense. This year, we did have a little bit of offense. We decided to take advantage of this session to do something that we’ve been thinking about doing and may do in the near future. We don’t have it exactly set at our level to execute quite yet, but it’s around the creation of community improvement districts, or CID, as they’re called. Probably the closest one to us here is Gateway 85 CID, correct?

Rico Figliolini 0:10:11


Brian Johnson 0:10:12

It is an area of city or county in which the businesses inside of this defined CID agree to voluntarily tax themselves at an additional rate. And that additional rate creates resources that have to go back into this particular area to improve it in various things. We’ve kicked around a couple of locations where that might be of value at some point in the future. But in order to do it, you have to have legislation allowing that local government to create it. So we decided this session to go ahead and have that legislation created so that in the future it only requires two things. One is a certain percentage of, again, the property owners within the area that you want to do this, they have to agree to do it and then has to agree, and both of those entities have to match up. But what this local legislation does is at least removes us having to go back to the general assembly. This removes that. So it’s kind of the first step of a three step process, and we just wanted to do it. And that bill is moving along. I have every indication to think that it’ll pass this session, and then in the future, it could be the near future, it could be a long time, it may never happen, but at least if the decision was made that there’s a certain area that it makes sense to do, there would have to be a campaign and lots of meetings with all those property owners to get them up to speed on the value. And then you basically have a mini referendum, and if you get the required number of votes that’s presented to city council, and the last step is city council to say, yes, the id is created.

Rico Figliolini 0:12:13

I’m assuming the. Let’s not assume it would be votes of people within a defined district, that you all would draw the boundaries around and it would be commercial and residential or just commercial.

Brian Johnson 0:12:26

Well, it’s kind of property owner, so it can be residential if residents are in there. But there’s an equation. It’s got to be a certain percentage of property owners and then also got to be a certain percentage of the taxable value of the property contained. So, for instance, if you had an area in which there was this big Goliath corporate tenant there, and they were significant part of it, you a don’t want them to be singularly able to say yes or no. But then conversely, you don’t want a bunch of small, little property owners to be able to do something that ends up putting a huge burden on this big goliath. So it’s a combination of both that has to weigh in, and all those requirements are laid out in state law that we don’t get to choose our choices, but we just have to have legislation allowing city council to create CIDs if these other votes are.

Rico Figliolini 0:13:38

And Cids for those that aren’t aware. I mean, the one that you mentioned before covers, I think, Jimmy Carter, 85, Gwinnett Place mall. That whole area over there, Gwinnett Place.

Brian Johnson 0:13:51

Mallette Place is Gwinnett Place. CID is another CID.

Rico Figliolini 0:13:56


Brian Johnson 0:13:57

Gateway 85 does not cover that. Gateway 85 is more like Jimmy Carter on both sides of 85. It’s kind of a corridor.

Rico Figliolini 0:14:09

That’s right. It’s more of a corridor.

Brian Johnson 0:14:11

Place CID is its own CID of what was or is the Gwinnett Place mall itself and some of the surrounding businesses that are kind of in that.

Rico Figliolini 0:14:22

So what does it fund, generally? What does a CID fund, they’d want to know?

Brian Johnson 0:14:30

Could be public safety aspect. Could be additional streetlights, it could be cameras, it could be off duty police officers. There could be infrastructure improvements. You could improve roads, signage, facade improvements to businesses. It’s really whatever that CID, because if a CID is created, a board has to be created to govern it. And the board’s composition also is stipulated. You have to have a certain number of board members have to come from property owners, and a certain number are appointed by city council. You just have board composition. And so that board decides the rate which is capped. There’s a cap to decide the rate. They decide what it’s going to go to. They manage. But gateway 85 has done a lot of flock and video cameras. They pay for off duty police protection. They’ve done street lighting. I’m not sure if they’ve done any actual physical infrastructure, but that’s kind of the type of thing, I’ve seen it where facade improvements, where businesses could come in and actually give a refresh to their building through collected there. So the theory is if this defined area kind of rising tide lifts all boats, then that also feeds itself, because then that means the tax value of the properties go up, which means there’s more money collected even without changing the amount because the value is more. So that’s even more money in there. And it just self fulfills.

Rico Figliolini 0:16:18

And it doesn’t regulate anything, usage or anything within that CRD.

Brian Johnson 0:16:25

No, that’s why it’s just community improvement district. It’s just to improve that community through some of those things I said. But no, every business still operates the same. He’s still the regulatory agency for that. You get your business license. If you meet zoning restrictions, you can do whatever you want. Still America, right?

Rico Figliolini 0:16:51

All right, so let’s move on to. Let’s talk a little bit about town center improvements. I know most of it’s coming to a head shortly as far as grand openings and things coming to fruition. So give us a rundown of what’s actually going to be opening soon and where we are.

Brian Johnson 0:17:11

Yes, we got a bunch of the improvements around the town green that are kind of going to be finishing up here in the next month or two. First one is going to be the dog park. The dog park is essentially done. The video cameras over the dog park are getting installed on Monday, which is important because we both know that it’s probably day two. We’re going to get some dog fight, and somebody’s going to reach out to the city to say, I want that video because that dog attacked my dog and they should pay my bills. So we wanted to make sure we had video surveillance. And then Friday, March 15, at 04:00 p.m. Is the grand opening of the dog park. If you bring your dog, we have some peach tree corners, chopskis that are dog related. We’re going to give out. Yes. And the dog park will be open. So that’s the first one.

Rico Figliolini 0:18:23

Before we leave that one. What was it called? The bar or the concession? The bone bar. Is that going to be open, too?

Brian Johnson 0:18:33

It will not be open quite yet. We still have three or four weeks before that’ll be done. But yes, there will be a small, not a shed, but a small little bar that it’s going to look like Snoopy’s dog house. And it’ll have a window that will open into the fenced area of the dog park and also outside. So you actually, when we do, we’ll have to end up bidding out the contract to be able to use that. We haven’t quite decided on hours and whatever, but we’ll bid it out. Somebody will win the bid and then they’ll be able to open up and have some sort of beverage component that you have access to. So before too long, you could take your dog to the dog park and while you’re there, go get a drink of some kind, alcoholic or non alcoholic, and then chill out on the benches there. We got some shade structures that are there, so shaded part. Half of the dog park is artificial turf and then half of it is natural wooded area. Then we have a small dog and a big dog component to the dog park. So it’ll be for dog owners who want to go there. And maybe it’s even in the morning where there’s coffee served out of there. Not sure, but it’ll be used, hopefully to provide a value to the dog owners who are thirsty, cool and town green.

Rico Figliolini 0:20:20

I know they’re getting sod, not sod. Well, sod. Yeah, I guess that’s going to be finished soon, too.

Brian Johnson 0:20:27

Yes. We removed all the old sod and dug down like, I don’t know, 3ft and removed all the old Georgia clay out of me. And we put in a drainage system and good soil backfilled. And we are ready to start laying sod late next week. And we’re wanting to lay it in as soon as possible. It’ll still be off limits for use because we need the sod to take.

Rico Figliolini 0:20:56


Brian Johnson 0:20:57

And in preparation for our May concert, our first concert in May, which I believe is the Taylor Swift cover, I can assure you herself, I doubt, but it’s a, you know, entertainer. And so as a result, there could be certainly a significant amount of people who go to that concert, and we don’t want the sod to be walked on too early. So anyway, that’ll happen. Then. The tot lot, the smaller kid playground, the mat install around the playground equipment is starting next week, and it’ll be the end of this month at some point, I believe. Lewis Svela, my communication director, is trying to come up with the best date. But it’ll be the end of this month. We’ll have a grand opening of that. And so then that lot, that little kitty playground will be open.

Rico Figliolini 0:22:05


Brian Johnson 0:22:06

So that’ll be good. And then the end of this month, we should have the towers placed on what was the old fitness trail area. It’s really become an obstacle course now. And just why we’re having to secure it like we are. But the towers are going to make it look like a frontier fort.

Rico Figliolini 0:22:31


Brian Johnson 0:22:33

Then we’ll have some signage on what age people can use it, because we certainly run into people who have no business being on it unsupervised. It’s just an insurance nightmare potentially for us, but that’ll be good. So I would say beginning of April, everything except Middletown Green itself will be open, fully used, and then by the may concert we’ll essentially be done with all of the upgrades that ring the town green and it’s off to the races.

Rico Figliolini 0:23:14

It’s amazing. It’s just going to be amazing. Especially with the concerts coming in and Peachtree Corners festival happening later. It’s all cool. Can’t wait for that all to be complete.

Brian Johnson 0:23:27

Rico, one thing we didn’t talk about prior to the show that maybe talk about now, the obstacle course presented an opportunity that the Peachtree Corners Veterans association is going to potentially take advantage of, and that is on Memorial Day. As you know, the festival or the Peace Street Corners Veterans association organizes an event for Memorial Day and Veterans day out at the Veterans monument. And the Veterans association is essentially going to have an obstacle course competition aimed at young people, like middle and high school age kids that’ll be supervised, but for the purpose of maybe instilling a greater value to military service than the military right now is getting from young people, recruiting his way down. This might be a way to get some kids excited. So we’ll have the different stations, the ones that we think are good ones to use, and we’ll have them in sequence, and we’ll have the kids go through and see which ones can get through all of them properly in the shortest amount of time, all while followed with a veteran who can both provide them guidance on how to do it and as a safety monitor, if you will. So we’ll have prizes and that’ll be in the morning, I think around from like nine to 1030. And then at eleven, the Memorial day event will take place right there at the Veterans monument. So it’ll kind of be a little bit more of a half a day type of thing. So more to follow on that. But the association is looking and discussed with the city this. And so I think it could be kind of a cool thing for some kids who maybe was there or haven’t been shown some of the best ways to do it, or these are ones. I have a 15 year old son who thinks he’s 10ft tall and bulletproof and he can do all of those things better than most, or at least better than his old man, which I don’t know, I think I can still take him. So we’ll see.

Rico Figliolini 0:26:11

Yes, you’re a vet yourself, so that would be cool. Great. Going to have to check with Lewis on details then. Before we go to press on the next issue. All right, so why don’t we also, there’s a couple more things I want to talk quickly about. One is Da Vinci court in that development that’s happening in pretty much the unused parking area. So that was approved or working through or. How is that working? What’s the details on that insurer?

Brian Johnson 0:26:42

Well, yeah, first I want to say it’s not a development that’s happening. It’s just a property owner who is wanting to do something, but the city hasn’t given them permission to do yet. Da Vinci Court is the name of the road that enters into an area that has a couple of class A, four, maybe five story office buildings. And when we’re built, as is often the case, they put a lot more parking than they need. They really had more parking than they need even before COVID but certainly after Covid with that. And so they have been wanting to do something with the unused parking areas, and they have submitted an application to the city for a mixed use development there on that site. And so it’s headed to city council? It has. I think the March Planning commission meeting is when they’ll present their case to planning commission. It’ll have its first read at the March city council meeting, and then it’ll be the April city council meeting where it’ll be officially considered.

Rico Figliolini 0:28:05

Gotcha. Okay. Because development doesn’t stop in the city. Peaceful corners. There’s always someone that wants to do something. I know the day building is one of those buildings that are being looked at that’s on Peachtree Corner Circle. So there’s always someone looking to develop. So it’s good to have some guidance.

Brian Johnson 0:28:25

It’s probably important for me to bring up. When you say that is, we do get. We’re not immune to this. Probably all cities get this right.

Rico Figliolini 0:28:33


Brian Johnson 0:28:34

Some people who end up basically wanting the city to not approve anything, they’re not even getting into, whether it’s equity or rental or anything, they’re just like, we moved to the city back in 91 and it was a certain way, and all this development is happening, and we don’t like it. We get it. I mean, the city gets it. The city is not necessarily, in fact, I would say it’s single digits. The percentage of land use considerations that the city even has anything to do with initiating 90 plus percent of it is the private sector property owner wanting to do something with their property. We don’t have. Cities and counties don’t have the legal authority to just say no. If somebody wants to develop their property, they have property owners. Property rights in America are very strong. Property owners have a legal right to the highest and best use for the property. Now where the city comes in is it can regulate some of it if it doesn’t keep into keeping with the character area of certain place. Or there could be certain things like it would add density that would overwhelm the public, say, transportation infrastructure in the area. Those are reasons we can say no. Or if the zoning. It’s currently zoned a certain way and they want it to do something that they’re not zoned. In some cases, you can just say no, but not in all cases. We can’t just indiscriminately say for the sole reason of it’s adding people, we don’t want to approve it. That was the only reason. And there was public infrastructure that could support additional density, and it met the zoning. He couldn’t just say no. So I bring that up to say growth is inevitable. In a metro area like this. Getting more dense is almost inevitable, because may not be only in residential, it could be other things. But there’s many times where we don’t have the ability to say no. Even know behind closed doors. We’re kind of like, would rather not that happen. But some of it is even a use by. Right. The one that you brought up earlier that was just approved, Dr. Horton on engineering drive came in and got approved for a little over 70 townhomes, right?

Rico Figliolini 0:31:33

75 units.

Brian Johnson 0:31:35

How many?

Rico Figliolini 0:31:36

75 units?

Brian Johnson 0:31:40

That property owner came to the city in the fall of last year, late summer, fall of last year, with like a 225 to 250 unit. Remember that development? And the city denied it. And we had reasons. We were able to deny it. Property owner came back to city staff, myself and staff, and said, well, what? We really want to do something. The building is uninhabitable. The old office building. We want to do something with it. What can we do? And we said, look, why don’t you decrease the density? Equity is always more palatable. So they went from like 250 apartment units down to 75 equity townhome units. And even then, we had residents who at the city council meeting were angry that we were letting anything happen. And that really was a good news story. The city ended up decreasing the density. It’s an equity product. We even had a complaint about the condition where we said no more than 15% of the equity townhomes could ever be rented. And that would be enforced by the Hoa, which we required them to set up.

Rico Figliolini 0:33:03


Brian Johnson 0:33:04

A complaint that we were even allowing 15%. And the complaint was you should have said 0% rental. That’s another example where legally we can’t do that because there are lots of instances, including even in covenant protected single family detached subdivision, you could have somebody who lives in Riverfield or Neely Farm or Wellington Lake in a house that’s 5000 sqft. They may want to rent the house out or they may be in a financial position where they can’t sell it or they would be underwater or whatever. We can’t just say no, never. We can put some.

Rico Figliolini 0:33:51

Limits to it.

Brian Johnson 0:33:53

On it and even then. But sometimes those are the things that residents don’t oftentimes understand, that government in our country especially was set up to only have certain authorities and that’s what the city has. And so it’s not always exactly what we want. But in this case, we got a much better product than what was originally submitted to the city.

Rico Figliolini 0:34:17

Yeah. Interestingly enough, I mean, that piece of property is on Peachtree Parkway, I think, right?

Brian Johnson 0:34:22

No, it’s on engineering drive. It’s one parcel in from engineering and Peachtree Parkway.

Rico Figliolini 0:34:30

That’s what I mean.

Brian Johnson 0:34:31

It’s east side of where the liquor store is. Yeah.

Rico Figliolini 0:34:34

Right. So the point is that there’s no residential around it. It’s not like butting up to residential. It’s not making intensity change to, let’s say an r 100 and that you’re putting townhomes next to it. The interesting part is that cities have comprehensive plans. Right? I think, wasn’t it the 2040 plan that was just recently approved?

Brian Johnson 0:34:57

Last year we just did a rewrite of ours.

Rico Figliolini 0:35:00

So that comprehensive plan actually spells out where development can go, what densities are possible in certain areas that may not have already that density. But being the way the city is growing, cities take into account through public meetings and input where there might be more density allowed, even though it might already be single family homes. Like Medlock Bridge Road, for example, I point out, because single family homes along the way. But the comprehensive plan looks at that and says because of this corridor, because of development around it, this actually could be multi use, could be apartments or equity, larger density. So there are plans out there. So it’s not like the city’s just making things up.

Brian Johnson 0:35:45

No, even that in our comp plan, there was an AJC article about it like two days ago about technology, parks and what needing to do to stay healthy. And it was that they’re becoming mixed use areas in and of themselves. It’s not just big office parks and office parks only now they’re intermixing different types of use, residential, food and beverage. Our comp plan calls that out. That tech park Atlanta needs to have pockets of residential. In this particular case, it had a three story office building on it that probably, I don’t know, was probably 100 and 2550 thousand square feet. I guarantee when that office was occupied, there was more than 75 employees that went to that building. Now only going to have 75 townhomes. The traffic will be less than it was when that office building was fully open. And it adds some pocket of residential intermixed with the office building. So we’re kind of diversifying the uses. So it even called it out. So it was in keeping with it. But it just goes to show you that, again, some people wish that we could hit the freeze button and just we look like we did in 1981.

Rico Figliolini 0:37:14


Brian Johnson 0:37:15

And it won’t be that way for that to happen. Our job at the city is to regulate that inevitable growth and try to make sure that it happens in a healthy way. But we just can’t stop. It’s like trying to stop water from going somewhere. You just direct it where you want it to go.

Rico Figliolini 0:37:38

Same people that would look at the forum back several years ago and note that there was 16. I would drive through there and count how many storefronts were empty. One point, I think it was about 16 storefronts empty. And people were like upset with nap buying it. There were some people upset with it because they wanted to bring more density to it and they want to adjust the way it was, adjust the feel and look of the place. And they’re doing a great job. And there’s some disruption now, but the fruits of that will show over the next year or two. But things like that have to change, otherwise things go sideways, and then there’ll be people complaining about that. And since we’re talking about use and such, there were two new rezonings, actually, that the city also has developed one dealing when we were talking ahead of the podcast, social recreation and social hobbyist, if you will, and what the difference would be with like a social and pickle if that was based in pastry corners, because is it a restaurant? Is it recreation? So what fermented this discussion in making these changes?

Brian Johnson 0:38:47

So what we’re doing is we’re looking to add two zoning categories, use categories. As a result of some developers, property owners in the city, coming to us with ideas in which they’re mixing things that are oftentimes regulated separately. You use pickle and social, or chicken and pickle. If anybody’s ever been to those, it’s almost like Topgolf. Topgolf will be another one. Is that a recreational use? Golf? Is it a restaurant? Because of the food? Is it a bar? Because it has a bar and it serves alcoholic beverages, they mix it all together. So what category do you put that under? We’re getting a lot of unique type of things. Virtual reality racing simulators that have a membership component and may end up having food and beverage, car, antique car storage, car, club, lounge, all under one roof where you’ve got memberships and you could go there for food and beverage. Pickleball here, another one where there’s some even.

Brian Johnson 0:40:11

We’ve had model railroad, where they want to model railroaders looking at an office building where they were going to not only meet on a regular basis, but build out one of those big areas where you could walk amongst all the paper machete mountains and tracks, but they want to also have it where the club can meet there. There can be drinks. What is it? Is it a hobby? Is it a club? Is it a bar? And we’re getting more of this as office space is such a. There’s so little demand for commercial office space right now with the work from home component that office building owners are looking to fill their space with unique uses. And so we’re trying to get ahead of these things that I just threw out to you, which are, to a degree, just ideas that property owners have come to us with saying, hey, we’re looking to maybe do this if we wanted to. What are our restrictions? What could we do? And at the end of it, we’re kind of like, we don’t really have somewhere where this fits right now, before we get an official request by any of them, we’re wanting to create a zoning classification for them. So that’ll be discussed over the next month or two to create these so that we get ahead of it. These are good things. Those are uses that could be, you add to a particular area, but we got to regulate it.

Rico Figliolini 0:42:00

Most people don’t know. I guess most average citizen might not realize there’s a zoning for everything. Zoning for restaurant, a bar, and regulations that go with those particular zonings and things that have to be done with those zonings. So this is good. I mean, this is what a city does, right? It anticipates things that are going to be going on, development that’s going on, and you have to be ahead of that curve. This way you can know what you’re doing and being ahead of another curve. The last thing on our discussion, if you will, medical cannabis has been made legal in the state of Georgia. We’re not talking recreational cannabis, we’re talking medical cannabis. And in fact, there’s only, I forget what the number is, 15 or 16 approved uses for medical cannabis. And you can find them on. I’ll have a link in the show notes about this. Where can it be sold and how it can be sold in the city of Peace recorder. So you all are going to take that up. I think specifically every city can do mean there’s state legislation that regulates to a degree, but there’s enough leeway in there that each city can adjust particular rules about it.

Rico Figliolini 0:43:18

So tell us a little bit what the city is looking to do on.

Brian Johnson 0:43:21

This a little bit also to get ahead of something that we foresee is going to be an official request is if the city is wanting to facilitate this, because there are instances in which it could happen without the city saying yes or no, because it’s regulated by the state. But there are certain things the city can get involved in, like whether we want to vary on distances between schools or churches, whether we want. I think it’s like 1000ft, the state law says, but there’s a component where the city could issue a variance, so it could be to where somebody’s like 995ft from a school or a church. Do we want to be able to vary or just say no? Also, what distance might we want to have between. If there were two of them that wanted to come into the city, we can kind of draw a circle and say, in Peace street corners, you can’t have them closer than 5 miles or 1 mile or whatever. And then what process would it be for this to happen? Again, these are dispensing locations which are essentially pharmacies, right?

Rico Figliolini 0:44:53

They have to be independent pharmacies, I believe.

Brian Johnson 0:44:56

Yes, independent compounding pharmacies. And they have some extra training I go to. And then these are people who have a note from a doctor and a card, right. That’s essentially when they get it, they get their card scanned so the state knows who’s getting it and they can’t get it more often, and it can be for only those uses. You said, do we want to create a process to where. I don’t want to say encouraging it, but facilitating it in areas where it might require it might be just a little bit closer than 1000 ft to a location?

Rico Figliolini 0:45:43

Well, the way it’s measured, right. I mean, it could be 1000ft door to door. It could be 1000ft property line to property line, right. Different municipalities and counties, you bring up.

Brian Johnson 0:45:54

Some good alcohol is measured door to door as a person would walk or drive, and so you could actually be closer than, say, 1000ft property line. But if you go out one door and then you go in the front door of the other, it would be farther. The way this was written, medical cannabis is property line, right? So you may have cases where the property lines adjoin, but there’s no risk of there being interaction between the two users of the properties because that’s another consideration. The city. So we just got to talk through it and then make sure that we have our own additional guardrails beyond what the state already put in state law. And it’s to do it in preparation for what we foresee as an official request of the city for this here in the near future.

Rico Figliolini 0:47:00

City has done that a lot over the past few years, always ahead of anticipating zoning requests and variances and stuff. So it’s good to see that the city is working the way it should be working. It’s a smart city. We need to be working smartly, right?

Brian Johnson 0:47:17

Yeah, we certainly try. We don’t always get it all right, but we are certainly doing the best we can. That’s kind of a lot of land use as usual going on and other stuff. So I wish there were some days in which we were a little bit sleepier than we are because I’d like to end the day having accomplished everything I wanted to, but it also keeps us young and motivated. When you got a lot of stuff going on, you got to keep your energy up. So good.

Rico Figliolini 0:47:50

Sure. For sure. I want to thank you, Brian, for being with us, for walking through a lot of this stuff. Also want to tell everyone, latest issue of Southwest Gwinnett magazine is out talking about food trucks as our cover story. But a lot of other things going on in the city of Norcross, Peachtree Corners and Duluth. Just lots of stuff going on. So you should be getting that in the mail. If not, pick it up at the local restaurant or place in your community. We’re working on the next issue of Peachtree Corners magazine. Lots going on there, too. It’s going to be a good, really packed issue of things happening, covering people that are retiring, new developments, new businesses coming into Peachtree Corners. Great stories to be told there. If you’re looking for more information. Every day, every other day we’re publishing to livinginpeachtreecorners.com. You could check that out. Certainly check out our podcast. Like this one, UrbanEbb is another one that I do, talking on a wider reach of different cities and things happening in the urban and suburban environments. Want to thank EV Remodeling, Inc. For being a great sponsor of ours. Corporate sponsor. Check them out. Evremodelinginc.com. Thank you, Eli and his family, and thank you, everyone, for listening. Check the show notes for any relevant links. Appreciate you being with us. Thank you, Brian.

Brian Johnson 0:49:16


Rico Figliolini 0:49:17

Bye, 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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