Meet the Makers, Movers and Shakers: Nicole Chilton

First, credit is due to Miss Nicole and her twin sister, Stephanie, for inspiring me to paint again! She and Stephanie (an artisan as well) organize a quarterly collaborative called Queen City Art Swap. I participated in one of the first artist trading card swaps and also realized I could kind of paint things people wanted to hang on their wall! 

Second, Nicole, Stephanie, my sister, and I all graduated from the same high school. Being a year younger than them, I looked up to Nicole's creative spirit! It's been so fun to stay in touch with them both despite living in different state. But it's been way too long since we all hung out together!

Third, Nicole inspired this idea of highlighting fellow artists and makers. I hope you will enjoy learning about her and that you will support her work!

An Introduction: 
My name is Nicole Chilton, and I live in Springfield Missouri. I think of myself as an artist, a writer, and a community do-er, in that I write (both fiction and for local interest magazines, as well as edit fiction on a freelance basis), I paint (mostly abstract but also have been doing more and more illustrations), and I spend a lot of my time bettering my community (I chair a Visual Arts Committee that plans public art exhibits, I serve on the board for Professor Powers, a science education empowerment organization, I volunteer for a backpack program at the kids' elementary school, helping fill and fundraise for food and necessities for in-need kids...to name a few!).

My biggest and current project is called "The Dream Diary Project," where I'm interpreting my dreams visually, and hoping to turn my findings and research into a bedside journal for others to work in. 

Where can you be found online? 
Website: nicolechilton.com (Editor sidenote: Nicole's Artist Q&A inspired this series!)
Instagram: @nicole.chilton.art

What inspires your work? 
This year I took a 'course' called The Year of Creative Habits by Crystal Moody, who happens to live in the same city as me. Through it, she helped me develop a focus so that anytime I sat down in front of a blank page, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I have never had that confidence and direction ever in my entire life for a creative project. My focus has been visually interpreting my dreams, and it has led me in all sorts of directions and mediums, from abstract, to collage and illustration, many of which I have never explored before.

My dreams are crazy, they always have been, and because of that, I'm never short on subject material. 

The little pocket of other artists in Springfield are all so supportive and energetic, and they are crucial to my productivity and inspiration. I learn so much from them, and find that we all have vastly different styles, so it's fun to come together and talk about process and struggle and expectations without feeling like we are competing with each other. Look up: Doug Erb, Crystal Moody, Andie Bottrell, Meg Rosen (who lives in CA now), Christie Snelson, Sarah Jones, Stephanie Cramer, Rosie Winstead, Julie Blackmon...

What’s your background?
My entire life I wanted to be an artist and writer, but the older I got, the more practical I felt I had to be. I went to journalism school at MU, which I wouldn't trade for any other course of study, because it helped me become a well-rounded person (aka, someone anyone could hire for a job). Shortly after I got married (at the wee age of 22), my husband and I moved to St. Louis to work at a medical textbook publishing company, but realized the corporate life wasn't for us, and decided to move back to Springfield to open an art-house cinema, called The Moxie. It was grueling, stressful, and exhausting, but also life changing, fun, and rewarding. Through that experience, I learned theimportance of arts advocacy, and how vital the arts are to a community. The physical act of creating was set aside and ignored until 2015, when I had a minor breakdown (post-partum depression, mixed with regular depression, work stress, family stress, health issues, etc), so I quit my part-time job and focused on one thing: feeling better. The answer was art! 

What role does the artist/artisan have in society? 
Ah! I have learned this first hand during my Moxie days. During that time, we provided our community with a service of showing films that they never had access to before. Films that might open in NYC and LA and nowhere else. Exposing people to art of all media opens new windows, creates empathy, understanding, and a broader focus. Art is a language everyone can understand, even if they interpret it differently than others. You need artists and makers to create that exposure. You need trailblazers to show that work somewhere. You need artists to create from their brains, their heart, and their joy. And most importantly, you need patrons to keep the cycle going!

What’s has been your favorite project so far?
That's tough! The Moxie was a formative project for me, in that it gave me the confidence that I could do pretty much anything I ever wanted (if my husband and I could open an arts-based business in a small city in the middle of the country, and make it succeed, then yes, we can do anything!). 

The Dream Diary Project is a deeply personal project that I'm having so much fun sharing. It's turning me into a witch of sorts, because now I'm obsessed with spirit animals, crystals, shamanism, and the bizarre collective subconscious. I'm having so many 'a-ha' moments that people around me might think are absolutely insane, but I see as path-changing. 

Describe a real-life situation that inspired you.
So many! Every time I go to Crystal Bridges, I cry. It's a free art museum in Bentonville, Arkansas, founded by one of the Wal-Mart heiresses, and she opened it to expose midwesterns to art they may never see in real life. It focuses on American art, but rotates exhibits with some of the international greats. I've seen Warhol! Van Gogh! Matisse! Alice Neel! Helen Frankenthaler! Jackson Pollack! Jasper Johns! Mark Rothko! The original Rosie the Riveter! That famous portrait of George Washington!

The arts community in NYC apparently bristled when they found out this museum was opening. The fact that someone values their community enough to spend time and money on it is just so inspiring. (I won't go into my tirade about the irony of her making money from WalMart...). 

A summer in Paris.

Coffee or drinks with a long-lost friend. 

Receiving real mail, like a hand-written note.

Listening to an author or artist give a Q&A (Laura McHugh! Dave Eggers! The Barefoot Contessa!)

What jobs have you done other than being an artisan?
I actually counted them the other day! I've held jobs at about 20 different companies (most of those were temp jobs)! Ranging from receptionist, to substitute teacher, to bill collector (ugh), I learned something from all of them. But the jobs I tend to accept long term are marketing, writing, and events-based. I love jobs that keep me busy, but not busywork. 

Currently I'm a bookkeeper for the Springfield Regional Arts Council, I write articles for a few regional special interest magazines, and I'm freelance editing novels. Plus, painting, motherhood, and working on my own books.

What is your dream project? 
Writing my own books and seeing them on bookshelves. Plus, then going on book tours to meet the readers! One day. 

What couldn't you live without? 
My writing group The Split Nibs, my travel pouch of art supplies, my milk frother (I KNOW, IT'S SO FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS), and probably the small handful of medication that helps keep me somewhat sane. But they don't work without my art supplies, writing group, and milk frother. Okay fine, I could *probably* live without my milk frother.