News & Events

Pictures do the talking for area students

Feb 08 2008 – Bremerton Patriot

Staff writer

Photo by Wesley Remmer Pictures drawn by local elementary school students are on display at the Max Hale Center in downtown Bremerton as part of The Picture Project.

Photo by Wesley Remmer
Pictures drawn by local elementary school students are on display at the Max Hale Center in downtown Bremerton as part of The Picture Project.

Area children are becoming aesthetic expressers as The Picture Project, a non-profit organization designed to encourage children to use art as a form of self-expression and to think about culturally-significant issues, recently partnered with the Kitsap Regional Libraries to display the artwork of elementary school students at each of its nine branches in Kitsap County.

Visual artist Fred Nicholson began The Picture Project in 2001 by showing the artwork of more than 200 children to spectators at the Jewel Box Theatre in Poulsbo. After positive feedback from students, teachers and parents, Nicholson partnered with filmmaker and photographer Steve Stolee in 2002, and the program’s pool of student participants has expanded ever since. And now more than 1,300 students have participated in The Picture Project, which has an additional art exhibit at the Max Hale Center in Bremerton.

“We’re fiercely interested in the power of children’s artwork,” said Stollee, who came on board because he believes art is a valuable form of expression, especially in young people.

“It’s not about the kids being great artists or intuitive geniuses, it’s about learning the ideas they have formed up to a (certain) point in their lives.”

Stolee and Nicholson introduce a different theme pertaining to culture each year — “Peace Looks Like This” (2002) and “My World of White, Black, and Color” (2006) were the first two — to inspire the students’ drawings.

Students at Armin Jahr Elementary School in Bremerton, as well as students from Bainbridge Island, Port Orchard and Suquamish created artwork to illustrate the 2007 theme, “This is My Family.” Those pictures were — and still are — exhibited at the Kitsap Regional Libraries and the Max Hale Center in downtown Bremerton.

“There is a resonance that occurs when all the children’s artwork is put together,” Stolee said of the exhibits. “Multiple pictures capture a single idea.”

And Stolee believes The Picture Project does more than to simply illicit self-expression from students.

“This is a way of seeing a picture into who we are as a culture, and using artwork as a key to unlock the door to the community psyche. The information we gain about our culture becomes significant,” he said.

Stolee creates a documentary every year, featuring the participants discussing their work. And by doing so, he condenses hours of work into 15 minutes.

“We keep the films short and light, so you get an immediate sensation from these kids,” he said.

Stolee believes The Picture Project will gain more notoriety as people see the exhibits around town. More importantly, however, Stolee hopes Kitsap County residents recognize the intellect children possess.

“There’s humor, pathos, deep sadness, remarkable insight.”

The Max Hale Center is located at 285 5th St. in Bremerton.

For more information about The Picture Project, visit on the Web.

Art of Collage Workshop at Suquamish Elementary

fredAtSuquamishElementaryLocal Artist, Fred Nicholson, recently conducted a workshop on the art of Collage for the North Kitsap Art Docents at Suquamish Elementary. The program is designed to further enhance the art experiences for children grades K-6. Art docents not only share their passion of the arts, but are also a great support for the staff in transition to the Classroom Based Assessments the students will be required to take beginning 2009. If you would like to volunteer to be an art docent, or are interested in offering a workshop, please contact Joan Kidder, District Art Docent Coordinator, at 360-394-6922.

The colorful world of kids

By Dee Axelrod – Special to the Review – Mar 09 2007

Steve Stolee and partners unveil a short film this weekend.
The world is a colorful place, when seen through the eyes of a child.
The young subjects of “My World of White, Black and Color,” a 2005 documentary featured for the Ninth Annual Celluloid Bainbridge Film Festival, take such delight in the array of hues that viewers may want to break open a big box of Crayolas themselves.
The film showcases paintings and drawings created by students from area schools, including Blakely, Wilkes and Ordway elementary schools, and Woodward Middle School. Images of the art are interspersed with the kids’ observations on the significance of color.
“When we decided our next theme would be about color, we decided that it would be a deliciously provocative subject with many layers, from the physics of color to the sociological aspects of race and skin color,” said Steve Stolee, Bainbridge artist and partner in a collaboration known as the Picture Project. “The surprise comes from the spontaneity with which the kids approached these ideas.
“They will always come up with an angle that you can’t predict.”
Stolee teamed up with Hansville artist Fred Nicholson four years ago for the project. He had been asked by Nicholson to document an exhibition of children’s art at Poulsbo’s Jewel Box Theater.
“I went up there and I was so taken by the charm and intelligence of these drawings, and the depth and the volume,” Stolee said. “There were 200 pictures. I said, ‘Fred we should photographs all of these and at least do some kind of a slide show to allow for more people to see the show.'”
The idea evolved into a movie, accompanied by interviews prompted by Stolee’s desire to learn what inspired the young artists.
The fruit of their first collaboration was the 2003 film “Peace Looks Like This.”
Stolee and Nicholson realized that giving kids an idea to realize visually, filming the results and eliciting the kids’ thoughts on the subject, could be a template for more movies.
The films could be a way to acquaint people outside the schools with the educational process, the filmmakers believed.
For “My World of White, Black and Color,” the artists – now joined by creative colleague Mary Granfors – worked with 12 teachers, eventually documenting more than 900 of their students’ artworks and compressing 10 hours of film into 14 minutes.
The movie offers fascinating insights into the way young people use art to grapple with a range of emotions and subjects.
The kids are sharp observers of the roles color – and by extension, art – may play. For one elementary student, colorful art is solace when his pet chickens die.
“When I lost a chicken I’d draw a picture so I’d always remember it,” he said. “I’d put it up on my wall and look at it and feel good.”
Another young artist believes that color is a synonym for volume.
“If you didn’t have colors, what color would be the sun? See-through,” he said. “What color would be the earth? See-through. Everyone in the world would be see-through, so I think colors are really important.”
The students extrapolate questions about race from consideration of black and white. They equate pigments with specific moods and meanings; red is anger, blue is sorrow, green is growth.
For all the youngsters, color is a sensual experience. As one student asks, “If you didn’t have color, what would you feast your eyes on?”
The Picture Project next tackles the theme “This Is My Family.” Lining up schools and teachers willing to participate begins this month, Stolee says, and the Picture Project, now with a board of directors in place and non-profit status pending, must look for support.
With each new project, the filmmakers refine and develop their mission to provide insight into current cultural values through children’s creativity.
“What we do is inspire little kids to explore big ideas through their artwork, and bring it to a larger audience through our films,” Stolee said. “Ultimately what we hope to do is to provoke conversations around important subjects by stimulating thought from unexpected angles.”


Picture this
“My World of White, Black and Color,” a Picture Project documentary, shows 1:45 p.m. March 11 for The Ninth Annual Celluloid Bainbridge Film Festival at The Historic Lynwood Theater. The event is free and open to the public. Bainbridge filmmaker and graphic designer Stephen Stolee directed, edited, and co-produced with Fred Nicholson and Mary Granfors. For information call 842-7901.

From the mouths of babes

North Kitsap Herald, by Bronsyn Springer – Mar 07 2007

A hazard in growing up is seeing the world through a haze of clutter. Experience may bring wisdom but it also fosters our biases, prejudices, and preconceived ideas about the world around us. Children who haven’t yet learned how they “should” feel or think retain an innocence and instinct capable of teaching that wisdom doesn’t always come from experience and sometimes the best way to learn is to slow down and look at the world through new eyes. “The Picture Project” is an educational art program striving to accomplish exactly that.

“The Picture Project” began as a seed in the garden of founder Fred Nicholson’s brain. Nicholson, a Hansville artist, was manager of the Jewel Box Theatre’s gallery space in 2001 when he envisioned an exhibit of children’s art under the theme, “My Family.” He contacted Kitsap elementary schools and found great support from teachers who passed the project onto their students. The result was 200 “family” pictures decorating the walls of the Jewel Box gallery.

The success of the show inspired Nicholson to pursue a second project. Again, he contacted teachers, this time with the theme, “Peace Looks Like This.” The project was embraced by even more students and in a time when much of the media was immersed in war, he had 250 expressions of peace gracing the gallery walls.

Steve Stolee of Bainbridge Island met Nicholson through a mutual theater project and Nicholson asked Stolee, a photographer, to shoot photos of the exhibit before it had to be removed. After seeing the children’s art, Stolee expressed an interest in creating a documentary about “Peace Looks Like This” letting the children describe their projects on film. Once again the teachers were approached and met the idea with enthusiasm. “Peace Looks Like This” the documentary was completed in 2003 and shown at the Celluloid Bainbridge Film Festival in 2005.

Stolee and Nicholson drew the attention of a third partner, Mary Granfors, an island resident with experience in documentary filmmaking and non-profit organizations.

She tightened the nuts and bolts of the organization pairing art with administration.

Now the trio is premiering The Picture Project’s second documentary, “My World of White, Black and Color” at this year’s Celluloid Bainbridge Film Festival. The project continues to grow as Nicholson received 900 creations from children 6-13 under the recent theme.

Nicholson sees “The Picture Project” as a learning tool for adults via the artistic medium of children.

“I want to develop fun, creative and innovative projects that enable our kids to be seen and heard,” said Nicholson.

“This would never have happened without everyone on board adding different facets to the project. . . angel helpers,” he added.

“My World of White, Black and Color” features children from several Kitsap County school districts presenting ideas through their artwork and can be seen at 1:45 p.m. Sunday at the Lynnwood Theater on Bainbridge Island as part of the Celluloid Bainbridge Film Festival.

The Art of Fate

The Art of Fate

SUN SUN date

By Michael Wagar

Sun Staff

Fred Nicholson’s writings about his family’s life have appeared off-off Broadway in New York City. He’s carved wooden figures for seven months in a small village on the island of Bali in Indonesia. Destiny has also taken Nicholson through the horror of the Vietnam War and monastery life in Asia.

Today, Nicholson believes fate has brought him to live in Kingston, working for the Boxlight Corporation as a salesman of computer projection equipment by day and the rest of the time embarking on an intense, near-obsessive passion of creating intricate collages that run from the personal to the spiritual.

With the barrage of images making up each collage, Nicholson allows the viewer to make the interpretation. His hope is to provoke some thought, some emotion.

“It helps people to feel something,” Nicholson said. “It doesn’t matter if they like it.”

Nicholson’s collages, made up of hundreds of pictures cut from books, magazines and whatever the spirit moves him to rend, are painstakingly glued together to form a large, usually about 3-foot-by-4-foot, image.

Two of his pieces were shown at the Artists’ Edge gallery in Manette early this year.

Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Silverdale will exhibit four more of Nicholson’s collages during August.

Brian Watson, the gallery coordinator for Artist’s Edge, said Nicholson’s collages are “graphically strong.”

Watson was impressed with a collage titled “Spirit Rising,” which at first glance pulls the viewer in with images of skulls with snakes and worms writhing through the eyes.

“It came to me, I had to do something, but I had no idea,” Nicholson said, explaining the start of “Spirit Rising.” “I just knew it was going to be about life and death and rebirth.”

The collage includes several images of the earth, including one in which the planet is blown up in an atomic explosion. Spirits flow out of the broken world. Nicholson said there is no fear, because even if the earth is scorched, the spirit of humans would survive.

“Some of his images are disturbing,” Watson said. “ They’re meant to be arresting to draw the viewer in. Once the viewer is captivated, more is revealed. I think the viewer comes away with a sense that something needs to be changed in the world around us. A lot of his other things are joyful.”

Nicholson also has made a few ‘personal’ collages, where he mixes images with family photos. These tend to celebrate the family members and interests of a central person.

“It almost brings tears to your eyes,” Watson said. “You can tell, with the care he has to cut each piece, how much love he’s putting into each of his pieces, and that to me is what gives his pieces their really powerful qualities.”

On a personal collage he made for a colleague, Nicholson spent almost three months collecting images.

It took him another four days to glue the images together, including 48 sleepless hours during the last two days.

He said that throughout the process he is a faucet for a higher power.

“I felt like I was a vehicle, a tool,” Nicholson said. “It was like a higher nature directed me. I felt like a marionette. I became the observer, not the doer.”

Nicholson said when he attempts to get in the way of his work, when he begins to judge it, to wonder if this picture is right, this one wrong, the process is fouled.

“I find more and more in my life when I just am, and not judging what I’m doing – good, bad, failure, success – then I’m not following my mind, I’m following my feet,” Nicholson said. “And when I’m following my feet, I end up with a smile on my face because that’s where I’m supposed to be.

The Kitsap SUN, Thursday, July 23, 1998