Art and competition don’t always seem like two things that go together-there is no timekeeper in the race and no scoreboard in the end zone for an artist. But recognition is as valuable to those who work hard to perfect skills in music, performance and visual art, as it is for those practicing hard on the field or court. There is always a subjective component with artistic pursuits, but excellence can be felt and rewarded just the same.

Cahaba Inspired 2023 - Best in Show Winner - "Cahaba Collaboration" by Jessica McClurg

Earlier this year, the Cahaba River Society reached out to the Alabama arts community asking for submissions that would ultimately become the Cahaba Inspired collection. It was intriguing to see what came forth from the Alabama creatives. The result of the submissions, that all celebrated the Cahaba River, was truly a testament to the creativity in the human spirit, seen in the vast diversity and talent on display in the drawings, etchings, photographs, paintings, and woven fiber pieces. The Cahaba Inspired collection was on display throughout the month of November at the Trussville Public Library.

Photo of Jessica McClurg - Courtesy of The Picture House

The juror, Dr. Graham Boettcher, PhD, was most impressed by a mixed media interpretation of the Cahaba River ecosystem. This intricately detailed depiction of the flora and fauna along the River, earned artist Jessica McClurg, Best in Show, for her piece, The Cahaba Collaboration. “Cahaba Inspired” was the first ever juried art show sponsored by the Cahaba River Society. It was the first big project for Arts Trussville and the first juried art show for the City of Trussville, Alabama. 

Photo of Jessica McClurg and her painting "Pond" - Courtesy of The Picture House

Arts Trussville Board member, Breanne Cook, and principal photographer of

The Picture House, recognized the specialness of this moment both for the artist and the community through donating her own creative vision towards a portrait photography experience for Jessica. Breanne believes portrait photography can capture what words cannot. Her artistic approach to the portrait process is indeed art itself. Here are some of the best of Jessica’s photo shoot with Breanne-a fitting celebration of our Cahaba Inspired blue-ribbon winner.

Jessica has loved art and nature her whole life. She started as a child painting watercolors and began private lessons at age twelve. This summer, having just moved to Central Alabama after graduation from Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, she became aware of the Cahaba Inspired art competition. Jessica McClurg brought fresh eyes to the subject matter being new to the area and unfamiliar with the river. Raised in rural Maryland near the West Virginia border, Jessica was already an outdoors girl having loved nature throughout her life.

Jessica McClurg - Courtesy of The Picture House

She dove into research about the Cahaba River ecosystem and discovered that despite originating in an urban environment, the river ecosystem is largely a pristine natural world beyond the metro Birmingham area. The river flows freely, without dams, through a mostly undeveloped Alabama, for almost 200 miles. Jessica was intrigued by the biodiversity of the Cahaba River that is the result of a substantially protected habitat, in comparison with other rivers in developed areas of the country. She was fascinated to learn that a snail, known as the Cahaba Pebble Snail and long thought by scientists to be extinct, still inhabited the river hiding on the underside of rock in remote parts of the ecosystem. She chose to highlight the snail, as well as various birds, fish, frogs, and even scorpions in her naturalistic montage. Birmingham area. The river flows freely, without dams, through a mostly undeveloped Alabama, for almost 200 miles. Jessica was intrigued by the biodiversity of the Cahaba River that is the result of a substantially protected habitat, in comparison with other rivers in developed areas of the country. She was fascinated to learn that a snail, known as the Cahaba Pebble Snail and long thought by scientists to be extinct, still inhabited the river hiding on the underside of rock in remote parts of the ecosystem. She chose to highlight the snail, as well as various birds, fish, frogs, and even scorpions in her naturalistic montage.

Photo of Jessica McClurg - Courtesy of The Picture House

Photo of Jessica McClurg - Courtesy of The Picture House

Arts Trussville says "Thank you" and "Congratulations" to Jessica McClurg for participating and adding such a wonderful piece to the Cahaba Inspired Collection. We also say "Welcome". Jessica will soon become an art educator with the Trussville City School System and we could not be more delighted to have her serve our community in that capacity.