In 2002, all water activities at the University of Georgia’s Lake Herrick ceased. Declining water quality due to human activities at the lake required putting an end to all swimming, boating and fishing that had taken place at the lake for many years.

But with this reduction in human activity at the lake came a resurgence in the lake’s natural beauty and the many animals that call the lake home such as beavers, turtles and at least 200 species of birds. After dedicated revitalization efforts, Lake Herrick was opened to the public once again for passive recreation in October 2018.

Renovations at Lake Herrick included the construction of a new community pavilion. (Photo: Nicole Schlabach)

Graduate students Alexandra Hofner and Elizabeth Wrobel want to celebrate the abundant wildlife and natural beauty of Lake Herrick through a collaboration between artists and researchers who study Lake Herrick. Their Campus Sustainability Grant project will reach across the traditional divisions between the arts and sciences.

“There’s a big push for scientists to be able to translate their research in a way that the public can understand, and I think that’s really important,” Wrobel said. “What’s the point of doing research to improve the world if you can’t get that message across?”

Hofner and Wrobel have paired researchers with artists and asked them to find a way to display the researchers’ information in an artistic format. Beyond that, the pairs have the freedom to create whatever they want with no boundaries.

“It is rigorous science, but it’s situated in a broader, emotional experience of people.”- Alexandra Hofner

At first glance, it might seem difficult to conceptualize how hard science can translate into art, but Hofner and Wrobel agreed that the pairs are finding compatibility through a mutual love for Lake Herrick.  

“I think it’s a combination of, the artists who have agreed to work with us are really interested in environmental issues, inherently, then the researchers are working with Lake Herrick and they have a very emotional connection to that space,” Hofner said. “It is rigorous science, but it’s situated in a broader, emotional experience of people.”

Lake Herrick reopened to the public for passive recreation in October 2018. (Photo: Nicole Schlabach)

The pairs of researchers and artists will be using most of the spring semester to create their art projects which will be displayed at an art festival at Lake Herrick in April. Attendees of the festival will not only be able to view the finished projects, but also create art right on the spot.

“There’s a big push for scientists to be able to translate their research in a way that the public can understand, and I think that’s really important."- Elizabeth Wrobel

The festival is also meant to break down the barrier between Lake Herrick and the larger Athens community. Hofner and Wrobel prioritized not only including UGA artists, but artists from all around Athens as well.

“Going into this project, we wanted to break down that barrier and bring in the wider community of Athens to utilize that space and to not view it as just a part of UGA,” Wrobel said. “It’s also a place for them to go and connect with nature.”

The art created through this collaborative project will be on display at a festival at Lake Herrick in early April. Check back at sustainability.uga.edu for updates on the festival.

Written by Jordan Meaker