A few weeks ago I got an email about someone I thought I knew. He was going to be the distinguished guest lecturer – a very special individual indeed, at an important local museum event. That feeling of familiarity turned out to be real. The upcoming speaker, Tucker Nichols, had been a student in my first grade class almost 40 years ago. It was obvious to me that on the upcoming occasion, I’d be learning from him.
We met in the lobby of the new Center for Maine Contemporary Art, a moment in time, which I’ll continue to recall in detail. It was then that the warmth of connectivity came over me. This forty-something year old described his six-year old self making a shield and a sword for his first grade medieval studies.
As he went on to talk about what happened next, what he studied, and how he decided to become an artist, he shared his art with the crowd.
We saw a symphony of flowers created from the remains of house paint that nobody wanted. Full of movement, booming with color, and at the same time glorious in their brazen simplicity, his blooms say everything about the freedom of childhood.
I’ve been thinking about who Tucker is and what I learned from him – about how he thinks and works. So much resonates. As someone who still teaches kids today, I know just what I’ll be integrating (or re-integrating) into my life in schools today. Here goes:
1. As artists and teachers all, spontaneity is what gives our work and our experience meaning.
2. Creative thinking takes time. Lots of it. It’s a process that must be honored, the stuff jiggled around a bit, and what comes of it, documented in some way.
3. If we are courageous, we’ll let our passions lead us and know when it’s time to leave the other stuff behind.
4. Ideas sprout up when we’re least expecting them. If we give them life and go back to pull out the weeds later, we’ll surely find some real gems budding in our idea gardens.
5. Think symphonically. Go for context. When Nichol’s fictional character, Crabtree, found a way to give randomness order, he suddenly knew where to go next.
6. Use up stuff that the world doesn’t need, and give back new possibilities.
7. Make and re-make connections. Good feelings and new thinking grow out of them, reaffirming our convictions and/or setting us out on a new path.
Thank you, Tucker, for giving me, giving the larger world, some new blooms.
Nancy Harris Frohlich
Tucker Nichols attended first grade at Charles River School in Dover, MA, went on to Springside School in PA, and to Brown and Yale to study art. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and daughter, planting the seeds of art making everywhere he goes.
All the art on this BLOG is the work of Tucker Nichols.