A first-generation American Jew, Nicole Emanuel was born in New York to a South African father and a French mother. In 1980 during a two-week vacation, Nicole began her career in public art and “creative placemaking” for artists' live/work spaces after graduating from San Francisco State University.
After her husband, Luke, was hired by Hallmark Cards, Inc., Nicole moved to KC and took her first art class at the Kansas City Art Institute. There she received the Gold Scholarship and Summer Scholarships to the Chicago Art Institute and Vermont Studio School. Nicole was the 1996 KCAI valedictorian. In 2001 and 2004, with her husband Luke, Nicole had her “greatest creative works-of-art,” her two children.
Nicole’s experiences with her family – especially with her great-uncles Vladimir Golschmann, a life-long friend of Picasso’s, and Philippe Halsman, a world-renowned photographer and collaborator with Salvador Dali – greatly influenced her becoming an artist.
Following a family tragedy in 2008, Nicole reentered the world of public art. She created a tri-state "Sorry for the Miscommunication: Museum of the Streets" series-of-events that included street artists and gallery artists from Chicago, Kansas City and Madison, Wisconsin, with the support of an ArtsKC Inspiration Grant. To honor her great-grandfather, Nicole started writing about her family while pursuing her Master’s Degree at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Her manuscript, titled "Memoraphilia: A Granddaughter's Memoir, the Life of Jewish Artist and Storyteller Liouba Golschmann," won a 2009 UMKC Women's Council's grant and 2009 Hadassah–Brandeis Institute Research Award.
In 2011, Nicole founded the award-winning, non-profit organization InterUrban ArtHouse, which is dedicated to purchasing and renovating under-utilized industrial buildings into affordable, stable art studios. The organization received four grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) for its work with Creative Placemaking. Nicole is also in her seventh year running a local Artsmart/Cultural Arts Program with the Shawnee Mission School District, which seeks to hire environmentally-minded, multi-cultural artists to do hands-on programming in public schools.
Nicole has created 20 large-scale murals and two large-scale public sculptures; her paintings and drawings are in numerous corporate and private collections in New York, California, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Kansas and Missouri.
Occasionally, Nicole has time for a complete thought. She does not do windows. Otherwise she paints.
What makes Kansas City a great place for creativity and innovation?
The best part: the wide range of chances to make your life and the spectrum of creative lives people are sharing. Yes, there are obstacles, but there is always some level of community cohesiveness in response. The jump-in attitude about collaborating is prevalent. If you look, openings exist to exhibit, perform, invent, make, teach, gather and blur boundaries. Among my peers I experience a strong will to cross spheres between races, ages, abilities and preferences.
When and where are you happiest?
In the Crossroads for First Friday or Downtown Overland Park for Third Fridays when it's between 50-75 degrees with a slight breeze, and there’s art to look at and people to talk to.
Where is your favorite place in Kansas City?
That's really tough. It’s a tie between the Nerman Museum during a cool event, the Nelson-Atkins sculpture garden and my bed.
Where’s your favorite place outside of Kansas City?
San Francisco. Specifically, Potrero Hill in 1987.
What’s your most treasured personal possession?
Sweet Honey in the Rock wrote the lyrics: "Your children are not your children," so it would have to be family photos.
Who is your favorite fictional hero?
The protagonist in "Everything Is Illuminated."
Who do you most admire in real-life?
Bonnie Raitt and Harriet Tubman.