The Watauga Valley Art League will meet Saturday, Sept.15, at the Johnson City Memorial Park Community Center, located at the corner of East Main Street and Bert Street, Johnson City, from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. An informal art critique begins at 10:30 a.m. for those interested.
The speaker for the September WVAL meeting will be Roger Blakeley, the director of Johnson City Parks and Recreation. He is also known as a professor of tree biology and is the author of five books. He is also a motivational lecturer on leadership and an artist. He will speak about art opportunities in the Parks and Recreation Department. Blakeley will also share some things about his own artistic journey.
Blakeley has been in the Park and Recreation field for almost 30 years. He has had three art shows and his work opened the Yuma Arizona Art gallery. He graduated from the University of Oregon with a bachelor’s degree in park and recreation management and received a degree from the University of Arizona and became a certified public manager. His first professional position in the recreation field was with the State of Oregon as a park ranger. After five years he moved to Yuma, Ariz., and became the city’s park superintendent.
During his first week as park superintendent, city officials took him out to the old city dump, which was covered in sagebrush. They asked him to transform the landfill into a park. It took 10 years, but in the end the landfill was transformed into a 135-acre natural park called the Yuma West Wetlands. When he moved from Yuma, Ariz., he was known as the Father of the Yuma West Wetlands. The local newspaper told the story with the headline, “Roger Blakeley: The visionary behind Yuma’s park system.”
When he left his post in Yuma after 14 years of service, he moved to Alexandria, Va., as deputy director of the Alexandria Department of Recreations, Parks and Cultural Activities.
Blakeley has two children, a son who is an analyst for the U.S. Department of Defense, and a daughter, who is a student in law school.
“I love Johnson City and the people of Tennessee,” he is fond of stating.