In-Sync with… Nicole Northway, One Strange Bird (interview)

Sergio Gomez, Nicole Northway, Chris Silva
Sergio Gomez, Nicole Northway and Chris Silva at One strange BIrd

This post continues my series “In-Sync with…” aimed to get a closer look at contemporary artists and art professionals from Chicago and abroad. Read it, enjoy it, share it, and get in-sync with Chicago artist and business entrepreneur Nicole Northway.

I first met Nicole a few years back at the Zhou B Art Center while she was finishing her degree at UIC. I have enjoyed looking at her work and projects over the years including her recent entrepreneurial venture, One Strange Bird. I love people that make the best out of every situation and work hard to follow their dreams. Such is the case of Nicole. So, a couple weeks ago, I decided to visit her store which just recently moved to a new location and spent some time chatting, looking and shopping!  As I spent time talking with Nicole about her art and business, artist Chris Silva showed up to drop of work for an upcoming exhibit at OSB.  We had a great chat the three of us and I ended up buying a piece from Chris as well. I had a blast!  Great people do great things while helping the art community.  Stop by One Strange Bird at  2124 W. Division St., Chicago and support one of our own.   Way to go Nicole!!!!  Check it out and also enjoy this great interview…
Nicole Northway
Sergio: Where did you go to school (college/university) and what degree did you receive?
Nicole: I got my MFA from UIC in 2008.  It was studio arts with a focus on painting.  To explain my undergraduate experience would take me writing a memoir.  Haha
Sergio: Do you feel art school prepared you for the art career you have now?
Nicole: Yes and no.  I have mixed reviews about my grad school experience.  I think I am still healing from the emotional havoc.  I think One Strange Bird is in part a reaction to it.  I reject the idea that art is for a select few so intelligent to spew critical theory.  I am for an art that blurs with life.
Sergio: What is one thing you wish you had learned at art school?
Nicole: To change my major.  Just kidding.  I wish there were more business focused courses that would teach artists how to be entrepreneurs and business professionals.  That is essentially what we are.
Sergio: What is your personal website?
 Charlatan  Oil, spray enamel, glitter, and rhinestones on canvas 41 X 51 2008 private collection
Charlatan Oil, spray enamel, glitter, and rhinestones on canvas 41 X 51 2008 private collection
Sergio: What are you working on and what inspires you right now?
Nicole: Right now I am working on One Strange Bird, teaching, and a million little paintings for a show at Believe Inn on June 28th.  The body of work is titled “I Put a Spell on You”.  It is inspired by alternative forms of knowing, accessing the subconscious, exploring mysticism, and punk feminist shamanism.
Sergio: Do you find social media to be a distraction or an asset for you as an artist and how do you deal with it?
Nicole: Both.  I try to “unplug” every now and then to recharge my human batteries.
Sergio: What is your biggest challenge as a contemporary artist?
Nicole: Money!
 Frontier (At the Edge of Cognition)  Oil, spray enamel, glitter, and rhinestones on canvas  71 X 81  2008  private collection
Frontier (At the Edge of Cognition) Oil, spray enamel, glitter, and rhinestones on canvas 71 X 81 2008 private collection
Sergio: What is One Strange Bird?
Nicole: One Strange Bird is a unique boutique in Wicker Park that carries indie craft and fine art by Chicago artists.  We also host art classes for kids and adults.
Sergio: When did you come up with the idea of opening your own business?
Nicole: My dad and mom both own their own business, so I’m sure that was always my goal. I graduated right when the recession hit and there weren’t many art collectors looking for museum scale paintings by a no-name artist.  I am very crafty and adaptable.  I was tired of being at the mercy of an adjunct’s life style, teaching at three different schools to make ends meet, and waiting tables to pay for my studio. Out of my frustration, I started tapping into the indie craft scene on Etsy and found that world to be so supportive and giving.  From there I put my business plan together and started OSB with a very, very, small amount of money I had made from on-line sales.  The rest is history… Now if only I could write myself a paycheck and quit teaching so much…ha
One Strange Bird
Sergio: What have been some of the challenges and successes of OSB?
Nicole: The biggest challenge we face daily is money.  I didn’t go into it with 50K like “most” owners do.  I had to thrift and salvage all my displays, hire interns to help, and take what I could get at first on consignment.  I also had to sit down and read a stack of business books to get up to speed.
We have had tremendous success.  People are always responding to the positive energy of the space and the atmosphere we provide.  I feel joy in knowing that I bring creativity to people who don’t normally get to paint or draw daily.  I am also happy every time I write an artist a check and sell their work.  I know for me personally, that is the ultimate reward.
Art classes at One Strange Bird
Sergio: Where would you like your business to be 5 years from now?
Nicole: All over the country 🙂  I would like One Strange Bird to expand and have multiple professional studios, a separate gallery, a cafe, and a larger retail portion.  I would eventually love it to be as large as some other organizations like Lil Street.  I would love to continue to push our programing into realms that arts organizations have never been.
Sergio: Where do we find you and how can we learn more about your programing?
One Strange Bird
2124 W. Division Street
Chicago, IL  60622
Hours T-F 11-7 Sat 11-6 Sun 11-5

Book…  IQ84
Art movie or documentary…  Basquait
Art museum…  City Museum St. Louis, Mo
Contemporary artist…  Lauren Feece, Michelle Bollinger, Adam Grossi, Adam Farcus, Nice-One, Jessica Egan
Place to be inspired by…  Any place with mountains
One sentence advice for an art student…   Show up, work hard, and stay hungry
Chicago cafe/restaurant…   Irazu
YouTube video…  Nothing cheers me up like bulldogs on trampolines

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