Brown, a sculpture professor with the Lamar Dodd School of Art, won a Public Service and Outreach Faculty Fellowship last fall to beam sonar into salt creeks on the coastal islands near Savannah as a creative way to help people see the natural environment from an unexpected point of view. The fellowships offer UGA professors the opportunity to spend an entire semester working with one of the university's eight public service and outreach units to apply their academic expertise to outreach initiatives.
One product of the fellowship is a ceramic-tile mural based on Brown's sonar images, scheduled to be unveiled this fall in UGA's Marine Education Center and Aquarium on Skidaway Island. The artwork-created with one of the tools marine scientists use in their research-will encourage students and other visitors to consider what lies below the surface of the estuary, according to Brown.
"When people see that sonar-image sculpture, it's going to make them think about the environment in a different way," he said.
"My primary objectives were to make a work of art and to figure out a way to make this an educational component," said Brown, who has experimented with sonar imaging for several years in exotic locations like Key West and more prosaic locales like Lake Chapman in Athens' Sandy Creek Park.
Employing sonar to encourage people to see objects in novel ways grew from an idea Brown got from the ancient Nazca Lines etched into the desert of southern Peru. Standing on the ground, the Nazca Lines seem to be nothing more than shallow trenches gouged across the pebbly desert. But viewed in their entirety from a different perspective-atop the nearby foothills or from the air-the lines become patterns that trace out images of birds, fish and other animals.