Nicholas Frank is an artist and journalist whose life and work have taken him from his home in Milwaukee to destinations around the world. This year, his selection as an international art fellow-in-residence at Artpace brought him to live and work in San Antonio.
He found many new attractions while exploring his temporary Texas home earlier this year, meeting many people in the local arts community, and discovering that many aspects of San Antonio made him feel at home.
The former Milwaukee Journal Sentinel arts writer is both arts journalist and practicing artist as well as curator, exhibition organizer, and author of his whimsical arts blog, Nicholas Frank Public Library. Beginning next month, Frank will become the Rivard Report's first full-time arts and culture reporter on staff.
Frank will cover the performing arts, major exhibitions, museums, and festivals; profile artists and their work; write about the role of the arts in education and society; and explore stories that reflect the city and region's unique cultures and qualities.
"We've been searching for some time for just the right person to fill this important position, and we are convinced we have found him," said Robert Rivard, editor and director of the Rivard Report. "Nicholas' energy, intellect, curiosity, and deep appreciation of art and artists – be they musicians, painters, sculptors, or poets – will give him much to explore in his adopted city."
Frank has been writing since he was 16 years old. His curatorial essays, journal submissions, fiction pieces, and poetry have appeared in a variety of publications over the last 20 years. When he reported on arts and culture for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, he was first hired to work in the newspaper's pre-digital composing room where workers wielded Exacto knives and other tools to create the pages that went to press.
"Writing to me is simply another means of seeing, not just what people do culturally, but why they’re motivated to do it, and why they’re reaching out to other people to become interested in their ideas," Frank said.
Frank was 6 years old when he first visited San Antonio. He recalls a lush, green city while traveling with his father to visit a friend at a local military base. From January to March of this year, Frank returned to San Antonio to serve his artist-in-residence appointment.
Tasked with creating an exhibit within his residency space during the time of his stay, Frank activated the space while navigating a culture in flux.
"The political and social climate had changed pretty dramatically, and I felt that my work needed to be responsive to that," he explained.
With political buzz words like "isolationism" and "nativism" being heard more, Frank produced work that explored borders and people's understandings of and interactions with them. Two bleachers, serving the utilitarian purpose of a spectator's stands or as viewable works of art – depending on one's vantage point – were separated by a 32-foot-long glass chain that hung from two pillars dividing his already limited space.
Creating a space divided was only the beginning of a pursuit of community dialogue and interaction with which Frank infused his space.
"He had a reading of an original play that he wrote, where he invited members from the community to participate in the reading," said Taylor Bates, director of programs and exhibitions at Artpace. Frank went on to host community dialogues and book signings with other authors in the city.
"Nicholas was great about being out in the community, going to openings and events, connecting with artists," Bates said. "He had a lot of great insight into the community here. I’m excited that he’s going to be joining the Rivard Report because I think he’ll bring more of an interdisciplinary and community-minded perspective to the arts writing and seeing all of the connections between arts and culture in general.”
Leaders in the local arts scene are expecting a fresh voice to bring new insights and perspectives into a cultural community that has the potential to expand beyond its city limits. As a community connector, Frank is the writer to do just that, according to Rivard.
"I think my experiences in all the different forms of arts and culture help prepare me to take on a role as a voice of connection between the cultural workers in San Antonio and the potential audience interested to read about what they’re up to," Frank said.
Frank will begin his work on Sept. 15, first profiling the urban transformation of Milwaukee on a timeline ahead of that undertaken by San Antonio. Despite years of welcome urban renewal, Frank said, Milwaukee remains a racially segregated city and interesting comparison to San Antonio, which has been named the country's most economically segregated city.