Gallery of Caro's work

Supporting Black Lives: Artist Highlight

I have recently been inspired by two friends who are incredible social justice advocates. I can often find their picture in the local newspaper the day after a rally or block-party for the Black Lives Matter movement in Charlottesville. You can bet that they’re in attendance – they probably played a part in organizing it – and that they encouraged everyone they know to come out.

Last weekend, my friend mentioned that energy for the Black Lives Matter movement was waning. Depending on your involvement, you have seen this play out in a variety of ways. Perhaps you’ve noticed that fewer people are coming out to show support at block parties and marches. Or maybe you aren’t educating yourself as vigorously as you had planned and some books are still sitting on your bedside table. Or maybe it’s been a while since you donated despite pledging to do so for organizations that you’re impassioned to support. Most simply may be that your Instagram or Facebook feed has returned to “normal.”

Despite this waning, there has been good news. And there was some especially great news at the end of July related to the case of Elijah McClain, a 23 year old man who was killed on the streets of Aurora, Colorado by police. The demands for justice and the work of so many led to the Governor of Colorado announcing the reexamination of the case.

To me, this was the perfect reminder that what I do and what you do matters. We are learning, and we are unlearning. Attempting to do good is better than stalling out of fear of doing it perfectly. (For me, this blog post is an example of that.)

The news about Elijah McClain’s case is exactly the reason that we must keep talking, sharing, support, and donating.

In March, when COVID hit, I had the idea to curate a blog post highlighting the wonderful artists within my social community that I wanted to generate support for. Now, I want to highlight creators who are using their incredible talents and voices to support black lives by donating their dollars. What you get is to support black lives, help local artists and share brand awareness, and don new art!

Let’s keep the momentum going.

Artist Highlights

These creative souls have come into my life in a number of ways. A few, I am lucky enough to know personally. All of them produce fabulous and inspiring works that I am so excited to share with you! Check out their pieces and learn more about them below!

Nancy Cronaur of NancMakes

Nancy Cronaur's Etsy shop

Nancy and I met at a taco dinner party in Charlottesville in 2017. Chance encounters like these are truly my favorite in life. The dinner host was the cousin of my friend’s girlfriend and I showed up knowing no one and left inspired by so many sweet souls – Nancy being one of them! When I met her, Nancy was making jewelry, and I have now watched her to go on and create in nearly every medium. The colors and the materials that she uses are captivating. Nancy was also a huge contributor to this blog post as she connected me with artists and individuals interested in this project! Thank you, Nancy!

What’s your why?

After graduating with a degree in architecture from UVa, I quickly realized I could not handle sitting in front of a computer all day.  Making things has always been a way that I express myself, and often the process of creating helps to calm my anxiety. Studying architecture sparked my obsession with combining materials/textures/fabrics/colors, and much of my recent work involves using repurposed/recycled materials. Everything from plastic avocado sacks, abandoned knitting projects, packing peanuts, old socks, chopsticks from the past night’s takeout. I feel like my generation is not only more aware of how much waste humans create, but are appalled at the lack of concern by older generations, corporations, and much of our government to do anything about it. So recently making has become even more a way to self-sooth, since at least I know it won’t be my plastic bag that clogs up the ocean. 

How did you begin?

I’ve been making things since I was a tiny child! My mom was instrumental in encouraging me to paint, draw, do macramé, and collage while I was growing up. She also basically banned TV in our house, so what else was I to do? After college, I was lucky enough to get a job with @laureldenise in Charlottesville. She became a huge factor in rekindling my love of working with my hands and serving as an example of how someone can share their creativity with the rest of the world! I started with illustrations, then moved to digital graphic design, and now I’m on weaving. I have a suspicion that I’ll be gravitating towards multi-media painting next! Can’t hold me back!

Avocado Weave

What is your favorite and least favorite part of your work?

My favorite part (besides the actual making, of course) is getting to do custom work for people I know! I am a HUGE believer that one’s space/home/room needs to be comfortable and personal, a reflection of who they are. Also, it should be decorated with items of interest and personal meaning. So, I’m always honored when someone asks me to help them contribute to such a space!

My least favorite part is the self-promotion part. I’ve always struggled with maintaining confidence in my work, so sometimes it’s hard for me feel genuine or “real” when talking it, especially when posting on Instagram. Instagram in general is rather difficult for me to deal with!

Share a favorite quote.

All I can think about these days is the Black Lives Matter movement, and I am far from qualified to comment on it. So instead of a favorite quote, I recommend everyone go and listen to author Kimberly Jones:

Who is your favorite black artist (in your medium or another)?

@yannisdavy – Yannis Davy Guibinga sets up the most gorgeous portraits highlighting the diversity of culture and identities of the African continent and its diaspora. And he’s super young too! Definitely should be followed, especially if you love color blocking and shadow play.

@jbouie – Jamelle Bouie is an NYT columnist but also lives and photographs in Charlottesville. As a former Charlottesville resident, I very much appreciate his portrayal of the town and the little hits of nostalgia when I recognize something!

@aisforavery – There’s no way I could not mention Avery Williams, she’s an interdisciplinary artist who does a lot of incredibly unique weavings (and a million other amazing things) and I pretty much just want to be her.
@nat_turnip – Torrey Beckham is another artist who dives into a number of different mediums but somehow maintains a consistent artist’s perspective (which is something I’m always striving for).

What percentage of your profits do you wish to donate?

I am currently donating 50% of my profits from my Etsy! I will also be periodically posting pieces on my Instagram that will be 100% proceed donations to various organizations and funds related to the movement. This is such an important and integral time, and I want to support as much as I can. I feel truly inspired by all the work activists are doing. There is still so much work to be done, not only in the streets but in classrooms, boardrooms and inside one’s head. Take care of yourself and each other.

Nancmakes Instagram post


Caro Nilsson of Carozobservations

Gallery of

I loved becoming familiar with Caro’s work – she works in so many mediums, and it is incredible! Painting, graphic design, giclée prints, custom greeting cards, and more. The colors of her works make me want to look at them all day.

What’s your why?

The reason I make art isn’t something that is easily articulated or made sense of with words. I exist as a human on the earth, I love to explore, to use my body, to move through spaces with my feet and hands. I like to observe, and to participate, to feel sunlight / smell pine needles. Making art is my way of interpreting the experiences I have, or perhaps they’re more of a continuation of them. They help me to still my thoughts enough to understand the world that I see. I guess, I make art because I must! I make art to share!

Screen Shot 2020-08-14 at 8.46.58 AM

How did you begin?

I began when I was very small, the act of creating things helped to calm me down. I especially loved making a shape called Triangle Man.

What’s your favorite and least favorite part of your work?

My favorite part of making things is entering the space where the world is quiet and the world makes sense, where it feels more like a painting is creating itself and I get to be there to watch. My least favorite part is what happens when I try to control that process, the painting becomes stiff, it stops participating, reaching for a predetermined outcome saps the life right out of it. 

Share a favorite quote.

(I’ll share two)

“And as much as I’d like to believe there’s a truth beyond illusion, I’ve come to believe that there’s no truth beyond illusion. Because, between ‘reality’ on the one hand, and the point where the mind strikes reality, there’s a middle zone, a rainbow edge where beauty comes into being, where two very different surfaces mingle and blur to provide what life does not: and this is the space where all art exists, and all magic. And—I would argue as well—all love. Or, perhaps more accurately, this middle zone illustrates the fundamental discrepancy of love. Viewed close: a freckled hand against a black coat, an origami frog tipped over on its side. Step away, and the illusion snaps in again: life-more-than-life, never-dying” – Donna Tartt, the Goldfinch

“River said: There’s things that move a man. Like currents of water inside... Some days later, I understood what he was trying to say, that getting grown means learning how to work that current: learning when to hold fast, when to drop anchor, when to let it sweep you up.” – Jesmyn Ward, Sing Unburied, Sing

Who is one of your favorite black artists in your medium or another?

I am so inspired by the work of Jean-Michael Basquiat, as countless others are as well. The life he puts into his work, the freedom, the joy, is contagious and yet something so difficult to capture. It is such a beautiful thing to witness, standing in front of a painting of his, and watching it come to life (or thinking about his hands and his life making it).

What percentage of your profits do you wish to donate?

Recently, 100% of my proceeds from art sales have been going to Black Lives Matter causes, and I hope to have a seasonal or semi-seasonal project series whose sole purpose is fundraising for this purpose, for equality and for solidarity. 

Screen Shot 2020-08-14 at 8.46.44 AM

Bella Purdy of Bella Purdy Art

I love the colors and style of Bella’s work! She and I were connected through Nancy, and have both Charlottesville and a mutual friend in common! Through her work, you can see her commitment to this community.

BellaPurdy_Art Instagram
Enter a caption

What’s your why?

I paint for the process. Painting brings me a lot of joy and serves as a meditative act. The movement of the brush, layering paint to make texture, and creating light and shadow from color and composition gets me out of my head. I’m very much an over thinker and painting is an activity that brings me out of my head space into a more physical, tactile space.

How did you begin?


I’ve always been surrounded by art materials and opportunities to make art because my mom is an art teacher – which is such a gift! Having many mediums to play with around the house made art a natural hobby growing up. Although I’ve always drawn and done watercolor for personal entertainment, it wasn’t until recently during quarantine, that I started painting landscapes with acrylic on wood canvas, and selling them to make money for the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. COVID-19 has created many challenges for so many people. Having access to a food should not be on a person’s list of worries during a public health crisis.
My partner David and I were staying with my family in Virginia at the beginning of quarantine, and we made it a point to go on many hikes and walks in the woods to break up our work days in front of the computer. I used places and moments on these hikes as the inspiration for the landscapes I paint.


What’s your favorite and least favorite part of your work?


My favorite part of my work is going out to find inspiration. Painting gives me a good reason to really open my eyes on hikes and search for those magic moments that I want to recreate with paint. I also love playing with color palettes in order to create light and shadow. Lately, I’ve had a lot of fun with bright blue and yellow palettes to create shadows and highlights.
My least favorite part of my work is probably the insecurity that comes with self promotion and putting yourself out there as an artist, particularly in the age of social media. It can involve a lot of ‘content creation’ which is sort of the unseen or unrecognized labor of making art to sell. It feels a bit awkward to make those posts that say ‘hey, look at what I made!’ – but it feels so good when someone wants to buy the piece and particularly, getting a photo when it’s arrived and hung up in their home! That makes the ‘business side’ very worth it.
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Share a favorite quote

“When we try to pick out anything else by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe” – John Muir

Who is one of your favorite black artists in your medium or another?

Faith Ringgold. I love her fiber and multi-media work – the shape, color, texture that she uses to create scenes of Black America.Through visual storytelling, she celebrates Black joy in addition to Black resistance in the face of America’s deeply rooted racism. My favorites are her scenes of New York City, particularly of a rooftop dinner party underneath a starry night sky. 

What percentage of your profits do you wish to donate?

I am currently donating ‘all proceeds’ which means that I subtract the cost of the materials and shipping and donate the rest. 

Bella Purdy Instagram photo

Tristen Roman of T.C. Roman Photo


Tristen Roman's Photo Gallery

Tristen and I met in Boston in the summer of 2019 while working for The Program. He quickly became known to me as someone who is down for anything, loves art in all of its forms, and has some stellar dance moves! He went on to work in Australia to facilitate a study abroad program, and I to Greece. Despite only working in-person together for a month, I got to know him well enough to know that he’s a gem!

What’s your why?

My why is to create images that people enjoy – including myself. I also aim to capture beautiful sights and people wherever I go.

How did you begin?

I took a photography class in 10th grade that introduced me to photography and it was game over – I was hooked.  Each year since then has been a slow and steady growth to where I am today.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of your work?

My favorite part is most definitely the time I spend outdoors exploring the beautiful world and thinking creatively. It gives me the opportunity to improve myself both physically and creatively.  My least favorite part is the time required to create some of my images – whether it’s the travel time to location or the time it takes to take a long exposure or waiting for my computer to process some of the images. I’m an impatient person and want to just keep moving.

Screen Shot 2020-08-14 at 8.50.57 AM

Share a favorite quote. 

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” – Anne Frank

Who is your favorite black artist (in your medium or another)?

Humza Deas – Photographer

Snoop Dogg – Rapper

What percentage of your profits do you wish to donate?

100% of Prints, 25% of Photo Packages

Tristen Roman's photography website

A BIG thank you to my creative friends who took part in this project. Thank you for using your talents for such good in the world, and as always, thank you, readers, for stopping by!


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