Nicole Holderbaum has a vision for Northeast Florida, and it’s a colorful one. For the last couple of years, she’s taken the lead to get young people involved as creators themselves, through The Jax Kid’s Mural Project, a widely well-received effort that gives children from Title I schools the chance to be part of legitimate art pieces around the region.
Holderbaum, 25, was born in Boynton Beach, matriculating at Bak Middle School of the Arts and the prestigious A.W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts before moving here to attend University of North Florida. She carved out her own niche in the city’s highly competitive art scene for the last few years before expanding into the realm of education and community outreach.
In her latest venture, she is expanding on that theme: In collaboration with Kona Skatepark, which is hosting Color Me Kona (aka “The World’s Largest Coloring Book Party”) on Saturday, Nov. 18. It’s an all-day affair, with the artistry augmented by local music, food and drink, fun and games for all. She took a breather from her feverish preparations to chat with Folio Weekly.
Folio Weekly: Where did you receive your arts training?
Nicole Holderbaum: I mainly received arts training in middle and high school, but have been mentored by a few different street artists and graffiti artists as well like Bulk, Ripe, Kazilla and Grab.
What made you want to work with kids?
In 2015, I planned to participate in One Spark 2015. I was not sure what direction I wanted to go in exactly, so I reached out to Jacksonville’s most prolific muralist, Shaun Thurston, for some guidance/mentorship. He advised me to make my project about something bigger than myself, something that would truly have an impact on our city. Immediately I thought of the youth, and since then, my care and concern for the youth of this city has developed immensely. It only makes sense that if we invest in the youth of our city, we’re investing in the future of our city.
How did the Color Me Kona project come together? How many volunteers do you have?
I knew that I wanted to do the Jax Kid’s Mural Festival again this year, but I wasn’t sure when or where. Cassidy Ramos, part of the Ramos family that owns Kona Skatepark, mentioned to me the she was interested in doing something at Kona with the Jax Kid’s Mural Project, and thus “Color Me Kona” was born!
How did you gravitate toward mural work? Which artists do you like watching?
I wanted to paint bigger and bigger and bigger, larger than life. I love watching the street artists who challenge the norm with their unique styles. My favorite right now is Mario Mankey.
A new round of mural projects has just begun locally. What are your thoughts on that process?
I think it’s important for a mural project to actively engage the community in which it is happening. … Jacksonville has a rich and beautiful history, and that story needs to be told. The current state of affairs in our local communities is also something that I believe deserves representation and acknowledgement, and through art, that awareness can be developed. Ideally, a mural project, art on a large scale like that, has the power to make a statement large enough to inspire genuine change.
How many mural events have you done so far?
Last year, we did four separate mural festivals in the urban core of Downtown Jacksonville. Each event saw a crowd of 1,500 to 2,000 [people]. We have participated in various different events with our kid’s mural walls including Art Walk, The Science Festival, Gastrofest, World of Nations, and other street festival types of events.
Is there a cover charge for the Kona event? What can people do to help support your efforts?
In order to get into the event, you may submit a monetary donation of any amount, or donate two or more children’s books! The books that are donated will then be given to the children we work with in the Title 1 schools. We believe that giving these children their very own book will at least provide the opportunity to learn and develop their vocabulary.
Do you skateboard yourself?
I do skateboard a little bit. I have witnessed too much injury, however, to pursue skateboarding on a more serious level. I love skateboarding and everything about it.
Do you see any connection between skating and art?
Skateboarding is itself an art form. Art is completely infused into every aspect of skateboarding: fashion, board graphics, skateboarding style, music, etc. Each skateboarder is an individual with their own style and flair. Skateboarding is a form of self-expression and personal growth.
I believe that through skateboarding, many individuals find their identities. I also believe that skateboarding, like art, has saved many at-risk children who might have otherwise gone down bad pathways. I have also heard stories of skateboarding saving individuals from crippling and unhealthy addictions. Skateboarding is one of the most beautiful things I have experienced in my life, and the way that it brings so many different people together is truly remarkable.