Whitney Barr was born in Columbia, South Carolina and graduated from Spring Valley High School. She attended Spelman College in Atlanta, where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in English. She was a Fulbright Jr. Research Scholar and lived and studied in Seoul, South Korea. Whitney worked for Delta Air Lines as an analyst before moving to Athens to attend the University of Georgia, where she is currently a Master of Landscape Architecture candidate at UGA’s College of Environment and Design, and the winner of the first Landscape Architecture Foundation’s Honor Scholarship for Inclusive Community Design. She is studying community agriculture on Sapelo Island, and is a graduate assistant within the Graduate School’s Office of Recruitment and Diversity. Whitney lives on the west side of Athens with her cat Yooja Kim (who she adopted while in South Korea).
What inspired you or led you to your current field of study?
In 2014, while I was recovering from surgery for endometriosis, I started changing my whole diet. I tried to figure out how I could actually use food as medicine and to explore more teas because I just couldn’t be on painkillers every day. I started growing my own food, working in the food space and began trying to figure out how I could help provide access to people on a larger scale. This goal led me to working for Open Hand Atlanta, which is a non-profit that provides meals for people who have some sort of chronic health condition. They also have this community nutrition education component where the dietitians go out into the field and they teach people how to make meals, and they usually give them the ingredients.
I was like we have this lot right here, why don’t we actually use it for growing more food for the workshops? I had never grown a garden before but something just kind of sparked the idea. We used the harvest and helped could cut down on how much they were spending at Kroger and so forth. I was running that teaching garden for a while, and began to realize that I was having more fun out here than I was inside. So I began to think about, “how do I design the space to get people to spend time within the garden and to feel supported and seen? and to not feel like I don’t know how to harvest that, so I am just going to leave it alone. So, I sought out landscape architecture to work to combine all that and try to get people to feel empowered to make better decisions about their health.
What is your favorite restaurant in Athens, and what do you love to eat there?
Right now, Home.Made. I just discovered it three weeks ago. I love the Tomato Pie! The gluten free fried chicken is pretty good too.
If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?
Right now, I really want to go to Tanzania. I have had this idea for a while. I want to go for my thirtieth birthday and hang out on the beautiful coastlines and eat good seafood. I think it is a very under-played place.
What is your favorite movie, or what is the first movie you remember seeing in a theatre?
Fried Green Tomatoes is one and Mr. Holland’s Opus.
If you could put anything on a billboard, what would you put?
What is something on your bucket list?
Right now, I am supposed to be building a headboard out of bamboo. It hasn’t happened yet, but it’s on my list! I am trying to go for this rustic-peaceful-green look in my room without spending a crazy amount as a grad student.
If you could see any band or show anywhere, who would it be and where?
If I could go back in time, I would definitely want to see Marvin Gaye in New York at Madison Square Garden.
What is your favorite thing to do around Athens when you are not working or studying?
As a grad student, most of my time is spent on campus/in the studio, but when I am not there, I actually like going to the Botanical Gardens. I like it there a lot. Sometimes, I go there to study and sit outside.
What is something interesting that most people don’t know about you?
One summer I was scooping cow dung in Botswana as part of a research project. In the morning, I would wake up and scoop dung. It was in partnership with Case Western University and funded by a National Science Foundation grant. They sent out an email asking if you were interested in helping empower women in rural villages. I was like yeah! They didn’t tell me that scooping dung was part of it. So, we were using dung as a renewable source of energy to heat their homes. Also, I love TV Land. I like old shows such as Different Strokes, 227, Golden Girls, and Cheers.
What three words or phrases that come to mind when you think of the word “home”?
Warm, flavorful, and safe.