Nico is a highly impactful artist based in Jacksonville. She is a youth empowerment activist and her talented murals have the ability to capture the fascination of those young and old. Nico specializes in painting murals and loves the concept of street art. “It’s still a new thing. One of my big goals is to set myself apart in the world of street art…do things that you’ve never seen before.” She loves the idea of painting on murals because it’s a larger space to work with and has the ability to be more impactful for the community.
“Art is everything — art is culture and it’s literally everything. It moves us forward and it progresses us because artists present new ideas, different ways to look at things and different ways to do things.”
KIDS MURAL PROJECT
Nico has participated in various artistry projects for the youth/teens of Jacksonville, one being the City Teen Center Mural Project, which ultimately inspired the Kids Mural Project. She has also painted murals in over 30 local schools.
The City Teen Center was opened by the Boys and Girls Club and Nico couldn’t be more passionate about the opportunities it can provide. She’s worked with them for a few years and painted murals as well as brought kids on to paint which helped them gain experience and achieve a tangible lasting effect.
“It’s really built for teens to have a safe space which is rare for a lot of kids in this city and it also enables them to have connections with other youth and explore their own personal passions, experiment with different things and meet role models — teachers and directors that they have in there serve as role models for the kids.”
Helping enable teenagers to find success, they offer amenities like a gym, recording studio, dance studio, salon and barbershop, and other spaces.
“Teenagers in particular are at a time in their lives when…there are two paths that they can take, especially for kids who don’t really have a lot of choices. This center opens up a really positive pathway for them to take.”
The center was even a source of creativity for Nico herself. The blank white walls gave her this inspiration of a canvas for teens to paint along with local artists. She started a fundraiser to help pay local artists who can invest time and skill to the kids, be a role model, giving them a beneficial influence and a positive direction to channel their energies. “They have examples of successful living working artists and it becomes a possibility to them.”
Nico describes the influence that Jacksonville has had as her cocoon. She named her upcoming solo art show Metamorph.The caterpillar disintegrates and becomes a butterfly. Nico similarly felt she had been disintegrating and after going through so much went through a transformation as a person. The mentors and friends here in Jacksonville helped inspire her, grow, and be herself.
Nico’s primary obstacle when developing her career as an artist was the task of developing her personal style. She had to figure out how she was going to stand out as an artist and truly showcase the passionate, not just technical, side of her art.
“It’s a journey to figure out your own personal style and what sets you apart as an artist.”
As a professional artist, the majority of her work has been commissioned. Now that she has established her style, people regularly come to her because that’s exactly what they want.
Nico knew that she had found her own personal style when people would be able to know a painting was hers simply by looking at it. “I think that the stuff I’ve been making lately is definitely my favorite — I feel like it’s unique, it’s me, when people see it, it’s like, ‘Nico painted that,’ and that’s what I’ve always wanted…to capture my personality in an image.”
Nico discussed the recurring symbols in her murals and emphasized the recent importance of butterflies for her. “My grandma passed away last year and I was in North Carolina for the funeral spending time with my grandfather. He told me a story about how once there was a really big flood in his city and he lost a lot of his family members in the flood. He was feeling very hopeless, so he went to a church, sat down and asked God for a sign to keep going. He said a butterfly floated in right over his shoulder and landed on the altar — for him that was the sign. Since then, butterflies have been a good omen for him and for our family. My grandmother’s ashes are in a biodegradable box that you can either bury or put in the ocean and it’ll disintegrate…and there’s a butterfly on it. That made me…I feel like I’m carrying on my family’s name and our soul. It’s become a part of me and something that I’ll probably paint a million more times.”