Year in Review: Nicole Poole 

click to enlarge KENDALL BLEAKLEY
  • Kendall Bleakley
Nicole Poole is a creative changemaker specializing in multidisciplinary collaborative performance and live composition. She has stayed busy during the pandemic using her artistic talents to create moments of joy for the community by creating whimsical chalk drawings. You can see her most recent creations during Arts Council OKC’s New Year’s Eve virtual celebration, Opening Night. Tune in to Arts Council OKC’s Facebook page or YouTube channel 7 p.m., December 31.

OKG: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your year compared to normal years?

Poole: As a multidisciplinary artist and live composer, my professional life has revolved around traveling between NYC and Europe to collaborate with other artists. In early March, I was performing in Geneva with my group, Kollecti’F, and we saw borders closing and increasingly horrifying news coming out of Italy - I came home 2 days before the Jazz/Thunder shut down the NBA. My residencies, workshops, teaching gigs and performances in the US and Europe just evaporated, and I had to redefine for myself what my creative expression could look like with the new constraints.

OKG: What do you hope people watching your Arts Council's Opening Night segment learn or experience?

Poole: I hope that everyone can see that artists can be assets to any community; I teach at UNCSA’s Creative Catalyst program to help artists understand their value and opportunities, so for artists, I hope that they realize we don’t have to wait for the phone to ring - we can create our own opportunities by operating outside of existing structures. Finally, I hope that everyone can see that people actually respond to expressions of compassion and that they give it a try for themselves. We need each other, everyone is suffering somehow, and it costs nothing to wish someone well.

OKG: Who have you been leaning on for support this year?

Poole: That’s suuuuuch a thoughtful question! I’m really fortunate to have friends and colleagues around the world, each of whom I can go to for a specific comfort - whether it’s a simple, down-home “yup,” fierce emotional support, or abstracted creative inquiry - I’m covered.  Of equal importance, thanks to my shrink, my leadership coach, books like “Self-Compassion” by Kristin Neff, Ph.D., the “Waking Up” app by Sam Harris and the podcast “Unf*ck Your Brain,” I’ve also learned to lean on myself for support.

OKG: How do you stay motivated?

Poole: Hoo. It’s been a journey. When I returned from Europe and started quarantining, I started a daily gratitude practice (I’m on day 292 now). That’s the only thing that stuck from those first few months. After I colored the books and baked the bread and knitted all the yarn, I felt really empty and hopeless.  In addition to having Clinical Depression, I am overcoming what’s known as Complex Trauma or C-PTSD - so when the novelty of “yay! Online Flamenco classes!” wore off, the walls closed in on me. My neary-dearies kept me afloat and I continued EMDR with my shrink, untangling thought patterns and reexamining beliefs about myself; I dove into self-compassion, daily meditation and learning new skills for leadership. All of this led to my discovery of my “Ikigai,” which is a Japanese concept about a meaningful direction for your life. For me, it’s about well-being and whole-hearted contribution. What can I do each day that helps me be a better human who is comfortable in my own skin, and what can I give of myself that might be meaningful to others? I’m thankful for the journey that led me here, because now I wake up eager to discover both.

click to enlarge KENDALL BLEAKLEY
  • Kendall Bleakley
OKG: Any project that you created over the last year that you are proud of?

Poole: I’ve done a lot of projects this past year (you can find the full list on nicolepoole.com); I’m proud of all of them because they’ve fulfilled their purpose of compassionately and joyfully connecting with people.

I’ve gotten a lot of press about @wordsmiff405, my handle for “chalk bombs of love” that I drop on OKC sidewalks. To be honest, while the attention is validating, it’s deeply humbling - it’s hard to feel “proud” of my drawings because I’m an amateur with a deep respect for the skills and dedication of career visual artists; that being said, they’ve helped people feel good, and they’ve given me something meaningful to get better at...and a blessed sense of belonging. It’s been nice to have my desire to connect with folks outweigh my insecurities.

I am unabashedly proud of “You Are Here,” a 9-location, simultaneous performance event I produced Downtown, funded by a microgrant from Downtown OKC Partnership and ULI Oklahoma. I wanted to show how performance can energize any location, even during a pandemic, and to highlight some of the OKC talent who blow my mind with their expression: Gregory II, Poetry & Chill; Al Bostick, Modern Day-Griot; Angie LaPaglia, Poet; Angel Little, Life-Giving Artsmith, Molly O’Connor, Performance Art; Alfonso Pule & the Groovemeant Community of Streetdancers; Stephen Salewon, singer/songwriter; Katelyn Prewitt & Emma Torres from Perpetual Motion Dance; and Nathaniel Tylor, Innate Dance, with special guests Emmanuel Salewon and Tony Tee. Passers by could sit in a single chair six feet away from the performer and voilà - people got their very own performance on the spot that reconnected them with the intimacy and immediacy of the performing arts. Bricktown Partnership hired us to do a mini-version in the fall, and I hope to do more. Paying performing artists, especially at a time when gigs have vanished, is one of the most satisfying feelings ever (everyone should try it)!

OKG: What has inspired you the most this year?

Poole: Community effort for the greater good has brought me to my knees with hope, awe and gratitude. My top two examples are: 1) the heartbreak-fueled solidarity, determination and power of Black Lives Matter; and 2) witnessing the selflessness, sacrifice and resiliency of workers; from healthcare to food chain, teachers to drivers and all points in between, humans that we don’t think about often enough are giving it their all to help us all carry on...and I hope we carry on by modeling the examples of service, compassion and unity that we have witnessed this year.

OKG: What has been the best thing about your 2020?

Poole: Realizing that I have the power to change long-held, inaccurate beliefs that don’t do anyone any good.

click to enlarge KENDALL BLEAKLEY
  • Kendall Bleakley
OKG: Goals for 2021?

Poole: Elevating and amplifying artistic expression in Oklahoma, expanding my idea of what’s possible for my own work, sending out the best vibes I can, and continuing my yen for delightful disruption.

OKG: First thing you want to do when it’s safe to finally do it?

Poole: A giggling and relieved mess of a dogpile with friends, just before we go to a jam-packed theater.

OKG: Anything else you’d like to add?

Poole: Despite what we see on the news, there are more honest people than greedy people in the world. Be curious about others; we’re more alike than you can imagine.


Follow Nicole Poole on Instagram at @rogueokie and @wordsmiff405.
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