Category Archives: COFG

Meet DHS Employee and Monster Maker John Verrico

As a sidebar to the documentary film, we are featuring web profiles of federal employees who also do something creative on the side.  Meet  DHS employee and monster maker John Verrico.

Which federal agency or department do you work for? 
Department of Homeland Security, Science & Technology Directorate I am a public affairs specialist focusing on media and community relations. My role is to communicate information about the work of the DHS Science & Technology Directorate to the public and key stakeholders.

What is your creative outlet?
Building and painting monster models is a passionate artistic outlet for me. I have been collecting classic monster movie memorabilia for about 25 years and have amassed an enormous collection. My favorite pieces are the vintage and newer plastic and resin models that I painstakingly build up and paint by hand. Sometimes, I will combine them with other elements to build dioramas that recreate scenes from the movies, or from my own imagination.

Do you consider this a hobby or a second career?
My art is definitely a hobby. Although I have been offered good money for some of my completed pieces, I can’t get myself to part with the mini sculptures after putting in hours of detailed painting and designing dioramas. I used to perform in community theater, work at the Maryland Renaissance Festival and even do occasional stand-up comedy. These I did consider as alternative careers, but I have redirected the time and energy I used to do those things toward doing motivational speaking, which is definitely a second career. So model-building is my relaxing, creative hobby that I do for myself when I want to escape from the responsibilities of my careers.

Why is your creative outlet important to you? 
Classic monster movies hold a special meaning for me and provide great memories, so when I work on these mini sculptures, I am filled with a variety of emotions. I usually will be watching the movie that relates to the monster I am working on, so it becomes a full immersion experience.

My art is my “me” time and my opportunity to do something entirely for myself. My entire career and all other side occupations are designed to help others in some way. As a public affairs specialist, I help reporters get their stories, I help the scientists and program managers in my agency tell their stories or reach key
audiences, and I help the public understand the complexities of science and government policy. I am also on the board of directors of the National Association of Government Communicators where I help create professional development and networking opportunities for people in

my career field across federal, state and local government.  And as a motivational speaker, I help people become better leaders, improve their interpersonal communication skills, become more personally and professionally resilient and improve their work-life balance. Along with my family time, my artistic escapes are, for me, a big part of my work-life balance.

How do you feel your creative outlet contributes to your federal work and vice versa?
Growing up, I was a little guy and usually picked on by larger bullies. Monster movies taught me that, no matter how big the threat and seemingly insurmountable the odds, the little guy could win through innovation and team work. These were great life lessons that have always stuck with me. My creative outlet keeps me focused and provides a continued reminder of those lessons. That comes in handy when things get tough at work and I have to deal with challenging situations, hostile reporters, or other frustrations. Being creative and paying attention to small details keeps me thinking creatively and visually. This helps me be a better storyteller on the job. Because these models are considered by some to be “toys” they also allow me to remain young. A few years ago, a local reporter wrote an article about my collection, which he referred to as my “demented man cave.” That may be true, but I am having fun.

 

If you are an employee of the federal government but spend your evenings or weekends doing something something creative (whether as a second career or as a strong hobby) and would like to be featured on our Meet the Creatives section of this website, tell us a little bit about your story. 

Meet GAO Employee Ellen Arnold Losey

As a sidebar to the documentary film, we are featuring web profiles of federal employees who also do something creative on the side. Meet Game Inventor and U.S. Government Accountability Office employee Ellen Arnold Losey.

What kind of work do you do? 
I’ve done graphic design, brand management, and web mastering at several federal agencies, currently with the U.S. Government Accountablity Office.

What is your creative outlet?
Batala Washington, an all-woman drumline with more than 80 members currently. We play samba reggae music, which comes from northeastern Brazil.

I’ve been the band’s Associate Musical Director since 2013; I’ve been drumming with them for seven years.

Do you consider this a hobby or a second career?
Totally a second career. It consumes *so much* of my life outside of work.

Why is your creative outlet important to you?
It’s my thing I do that is just for me — not for work, not for family. It’s mine. It’s cathartic to hit drums, and a great source of exercise and stress relief. It’s a community band and the women I play with are fascinating and amazing people who I would not have met otherwise. I get to know the DC community better through our members and through the gigs we play. I get to travel outside the city, even the country, to connect and perform with our sister bands.

How do you feel your creative outlet contributes to your federal work and vice versa?
In my band, I am a leader. Many of our members do not have percussion experience, and since I do (I started playing drums in 4th grade), I have taken a musical leadership position. I conduct the band, lead rehearsals and workshops, teach new songs, and do a lot of behind-the-scenes coordination. Many of these are skills that translate to the work I do. It’s not easy to get and hold 80 women’s attention, and to keep everyone informed about what’s happening from week to week, so I’ve definitely had to hone my leadership and communication skills!

If you are an employee of the federal government but spend your evenings or weekends doing something something creative (whether as a second career or as a strong hobby) and would like to be featured on our Meet the Creatives section of this website, tell us a little bit about your story. 

Meet Keyboardist and Export-Import Bank Employee Mark Jefferson

He may look like the ultimate Washington bureaucrat with his suit, tie, and briefcase as he walks from the Metro station to his office at the Export-Import Bank where he works in procurement . But this buttoned-down work persona gets turned on its head after hours  when Mark plays piano in the backup band of a bouffanted 60’s girl group cover band The Fabulettes. Whether playing gigs, teaching dance lessons, acting, or expressing himself through clothes, cars and furnishings which seem more Mad Men than House of Cards, Mark has found a way to balance his work and creative lives.

If you are an employee of the federal government but spend your evenings or weekends doing something something creative (whether as a second career or as a strong hobby) and would like to be featured on our Meet the Creatives section of this website, tell us a little bit about your story. 

Meet bandleader and Library of Congress employee Jennifer Cutting

She spends her days at the Library of Congress where she helps researchers navigate through records of American folklife. She spends nights and weekends composing music and managing OCEAN, a contemporary Celtic fusion folk band which as won accolades on the regional and national music scene, including winning Washington Area Music Awards, broadcast on NPR’s Mountain Stage, and playing at major folk festivals and venues. Growing up a family of eccentric musicians and performance artists against the backdrop of beat poetry, dashikis, and ashrams, Jennifer, in many ways, rebelled against her hippie upbringing by going after a federal career to balance with her own musical career. Instead she found a symbiosis between her two avocations.

If you are an employee of the federal government but spend your evenings or weekends doing something something creative (whether as a second career or as a strong hobby) and would like to be featured on our Meet the Creatives section of this website, tell us a little bit about your story. 

Meet Actress and DoD Employee Boneza Hanchock

She has one of those legendary Washington DC commutes from her suburban home in Northern Virginia to Fort Meade in Maryland where she works as a civilian after an army career where she served in Iraq. While she lives up to the Army motto of getting more done before 9 am than most people get done in a day, her second day begins when she gets off work. Evenings are spent in acting classes, rehearsals, and performances. Boneza works with a variety of theater companies playing in everything from ancient classics to contemporary dramas — though her heart will always belong to Shakespeare, her supportive husband Darryl, and their pet pit bull.

See Boneza’s theatre credits.

If you are an employee of the federal government but spend your evenings or weekends doing something something creative (whether as a second career or as a strong hobby) and would like to be featured on our Meet the Creatives section of this website, tell us a little bit about your story. 

Meet Game Inventor and HHS Employee Bayard Catron

As a sidebar to the documentary film, we are featuring web profiles of federal employees who also do something creative on the side. Meet Game Inventor and HHS employee Bayard Catron.

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Q: Where do you work?
Health Resources and Services Administration, the agency of the U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services tasked with improving access to health care services for people who are uninsured, isolated or medically vulnerable. I work in IT and project management. I oversee various initiatives related to showcasing data and statistics we make available for decision makers in our agency, in Congress, and researchers in educational institutions and in the public at large.

I started interning for the agency every summer while I was in college and started full-time in 1992. The work is rewarding because HRSA helps get health care to where it’s needed the most in the US – providing leadership and financial support in every state and territory. I am also greatly fortunate to work with some amazing people – my team is smart, dedicated and a lot of fun.

Q: What is your creative outlet?
When not working on my vocation, I spend my free time on my avocation – playing and creating board games. I organize a 2000+ member Meetup.com social group, arranging multiple events each month to bring together diverse players who want a face to face interactive experience – whether strategic or social.  Playing games has proven to be a great way to form friendships and relationships – much more interactive than watching a movie, for example.  The interplay of decisions, reactions, humor and emotional connection that can arise from a game, can result in lasting memories and strong bonds.  All the friends I see most often are a part of my game group.
BayardGameNightA sub-group of the meetup is interested in inventing games.  Two friends and I published a party game, “Culture Pop” in 2011.  While it has not yet seen widespread distribution, it got a warm reception from our players, and we sold all of the first print run.  Another friend who also works for HHS invented a game called Get a Life that was developed by one of my Culture Pop cohorts, and it was picked up for distribution by R and R games in 2014. We are in a new golden age of games; an exciting time indeed!

Do you consider this a hobby or a second career?
Definitely a hobby for now, though I’m making lots of contacts in the industry and hope to dedicate myself to it more fully after my eventual retirement from Federal service.

Why is your creative outlet important to you?

For me, the answer is in the psychology of games.  Board games themselves are fun, but really it’s about the players – how will they react to the game?   What makes a game fun?  What can a game make you feel?  And so on.  The possibilities are intriguing and near-infinite. Games connect people, they bring out the best (sometimes, worst) in us and they create experiences and memories to last a lifetime.  They fascinate me!

How do you feel your creative outlet contributes to your federal work and vice versa?While they don’t overlap much, they are the two facets of my life and represent two sides of the same coin.

If you are an employee of the federal government but spend your evenings or weekends doing something something creative (whether as a second career or as a strong hobby) and would like to be featured on our Meet the Creatives section of this website, tell us a little bit about your story. 

Meet Supernumerary and DoD Employee Timothy Keefe

As a sidebar to the documentary film, we are featuring web profiles of federal employees who also do something creative on the side.  Meet  DoD employee and opera supernumerary Timothy Keefe.

Where do you work?
I work for the Department of Defense as an IT project manager for a large cloud initiative underway.  I’ve been with the agency for five years and have done customer engagement, policy, troublehshooting and budgeting.  Never a dull moment with IT, and especially in what we do day in and day out to keep the infrastructure running smoothly to achieve our goals.

From the Washington National Opera's 2013 production of Puccini's '"Manon Lescaut."
From the Washington National Opera’s 2013 production of Puccini’s ‘”Manon Lescaut.”

What is your creative outlet?
I’m supernumerary for the Washington National Opera. The term refers to someone in a stage production who fills out the scene, much like an extra does in a movie. I’ve been in five productions so far and have played soldiers, servants, and part of the maddening crowd.

Do you consider this a hobby or a second career?
This is my hobby, though we supers are paid for our time and efforts in both rehearsals and the actual performances.  It’s not much, so I’m not about to quit my day job just yet.

Why is your creative outlet important to you?
It fulfills a dream I had many years ago when I talked with a few supernumeraries who worked with the Toledo Opera when I was living in Ohio. My outlet allows me to indulge, in a different sense, my long-standing love of classical music, especially since I’ve become more interested in opera in the past few years. It’s also become a social outlet since I’m quite busy with work and other commitments that I don’t have the time to pursue friendships more conventionally.

How do you feel your creative outlet contributes to your federal work and vice versa?My outlet contributes to my Fed work because it allows me take a break from thinking about IT all day and just be part of the scenery, both figuratively and literally.  It also, at times, gets the creative juices flowing for what I do on the job.

If you are an employee of the federal government but spend your evenings or weekends doing something something creative (whether as a second career or as a strong hobby) and would like to be featured on our Meet the Creatives section of this website, tell us a little bit about your story. 

Meet Cakemaker and NARA employee Gretchen Shoemaker

As a sidebar to the documentary film, we are featuring web profiles of federal employees who also do something creative on the side. Meet Gretchen Shoemaker, a Preservation Specialist for the National Archives at St. Louis.  Gretchen finds her creative outlet through baking and cake decorating. Here she tells her story.

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My department is responsible for caring for and making accessible military and civilian personnel records that have been damaged in some way; most notably a large collection of records damaged in a 1973 fire at our old facility. What I love about the job: we help veterans every day. It’s a great honor to be able to serve those who have served our country. Also, the work is just plain cool! It is a little history, a little science, and a little art. It’s as frustrating as it is rewarding, and pride in a job well done is always tempered by the wish we could do more. We have normal office issues like everyone else, but sequestration and furlough have taken a huge toll on morale as well as resources. It’s more important than ever to find ways to decompress and stay positive.

GWTCakes9I learned baking and cake decorating from my mom. When I started college I found that cakes make cheap birthday gifts for friends, and most of the time they were experiencing their first birthdays away from home and missed that bit of tradition. It gave me a boost knowing I had a talent that could make people happy.

I really got into cakes as art about the time I started working for the National Archives. I started by experimenting with recipes, but moved into cake sculpting and working with fondant and gum paste figures to design cakes that are very personal to the person they are for. It’s fun to see what I can get away with, but I also love trying to bring a little joy into the lives of my co-workers.

GWTCakes10Baking and decorating is a great creative outlet/stress reliever for me, as well. I can, and often do, spend hours planning and researching a design. I usually do my baking and decorating at night after the kids have gone to bed so I can work uninterrupted. The creativity is exciting and relaxing, and the level of concentration is enough allow me to think about other things (like work) without thinking too much about other things. I have made many major decisions about my life over a bag of icing.

I’m not, by any means, a professional. Some cakes turn out well, others looked a whole lot better on paper. My talent will probably never match my imagination, but I love what I do and it makes people happy. I consider myself a cake folk artist.

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If you are an employee of the federal government but spend your evenings or weekends doing something something creative (whether as a second career or as a strong hobby) and would like to be featured on our Meet the Creatives section of this website, tell us a little bit about your story.