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.