MFA Exhibition Focusing on Deckers Creek Watershed Open March 24-28

FODC Release
22 March 2014

MORGANTOWN, W.Va.– WVU Master of Fine Arts candidate Forrest Conroy will present his MFA thesis exhibition, focusing on the Deckers Creek Watershed, at the Creative Arts Center during March 24-28.

Titled “Watershed: A Call to Action,” the graphic design project will be on view in the Paul Mesaros Gallery. An opening reception for the exhibition will be held Thursday, March 27 at 6 p.m. All events are free and open to the public.

The goal of Conroy’s exhibition is to educate visitors and challenge people to see how their personal actions are connected to the health of their environment. The cornerstone project of his thesis work is CreekDog, a web application that allows citizens to report and track serious pollution issues throughout the Deckers Creek Watershed.

Deckers Creek is a tributary of the Monongahela River flowing from Preston County into Monongalia County, W.Va. Native Americans lived and hunted in the area for thousands of years before the first European settlers arrived, but the stream is named for the European family that settled at its mouth in the spring of 1758 near present-day Morgantown.

Industries that used the creek as a source of water power included a forge and iron furnace, grist mills, saw mills, and a pottery and a paper mill. Rapid industrialization in the first half of the 20th century took a heavy toll on the once-pristine creek, as water quality declined and aquatic life diminished. Recreational fishing and boating on the creek eventually ceased after acid mine runoff and open sewage fouled the water.

Friends of Deckers Creek (FODC), a community non-profit watershed association, organized in 1995 to start clean-ups of illegal dumps and to monitor water quality. In 1998, the state Department of Environmental Protection and federal Natural Resources Conservation Service committed $10 million to clean up acid mine drainage in the Deckers Creek Watershed, an effort that continues to be guided by FODC.

Conroy’s project was developed in partnership with Friends of Deckers Creek and is based on their Watershed Bill of Rights Program that calls citizens to take action. CreekDog takes this one step further by providing a tool that facilitates action between citizens and the public agencies responsible for addressing these issues.

“It is important that we find ways to educate and empower citizens to take an active role in protecting their environment and bettering their communities,” Conroy said. “The story of Deckers Creek is one of both immense beauty and complex environmental issues. People want to help and do the right thing. Many people either don’t know there’s a problem, or, if they do, don’t know how to solve it—but everyone plays a part. I hope that this exhibition helps to create an opportunity for people to make a difference.”

Conroy holds a bachelor of arts degree in graphic design from Penn State University and has more than 12 years of professional experience in graphic design. Since 2007, he has been the graphics project coordinator in the WVU Office of University Relations. His responsibilities include the production, art direction, and design of various University branding, marketing, and recruitment campaign materials. His work encompasses different types of media and platforms, including environmental signage, large print-run magazines and national television spots.

“My work at the University has given me the opportunity to collaborate with a talented creative team to produce award-winning campaigns that market and promote a 21st century land-grant institution,” he said.

He has continued this collaborative approach throughout his graduate work. “I wanted to connect the idea of ‘teamwork’ with the work I did with FODC and with feedback and collaboration with various experts and community members,” he said. “In pursuit of my master’s degree, I’ve been able to combine my passion for design with my love of the outdoors.”

The CreekDog project is being funded, in part, by a grant from the Appalachian stewardship foundation.

The Mesaros Galleries are open Monday through Saturday, from noon to 9:30 p.m.

For more information on the event, contact Robert Bridges, curator of the Mesaros Galleries at 304-293-2312.