Teaching Artist Spotlight: Nicholas Bell

February 1, 2016

How did you first get involved with NWC?

I first got involved with the NWC the same year we started the Louder than a Bomb program. I started by shadowing some of the other teaching artists to get a feel for how they did things in the classroom. As the competition grew closer I was able to come on as a coach for Girls Inc. and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Why do you stay involved?

I stay involved with the NWC because this work doesn’t seem like work. I feel lucky that I get to be a part of something larger than myself. I’m so passionate about writing that I want to share the art form with as many people as possible. I don’t expect everyone I encounter while working with the NWC to become a writer, but I always invite them to try it.

Could you explain a little about what you do as a teaching artist?

As a teaching artist I try to always be accessible. What I mean by that is, I think it’s a cop out when teachers, parents and older relatives say things like “I’ll never understand you kids these days,” so my pedagogy is centered on staying in tune with every generation that I encounter. I believe it is the job of any artist to know history well, to stay informed on current events and what’s going on in the news. I preach to my LTaB kids that we are family and what hurts one of us, affects all of us. My number one goal is to make the classroom a safe space for everyone.

What’s the most gratifying thing that has happened while you’ve been with NWC?

The most gratifying experience I can think of during my time with the NWC has to be when the students of Thomas Jefferson High School wrote and performed a group poem for me on the sidewalk outside the OM center after team finals in 2014. In the poem they detailed how big of an impact I had on them that year and I really wish I had known it was about to happen because I definitely would have recorded it. Thankfully though, the students gave me a hard copy of the poem and it’s the first place I turn to whenever I doubt my capabilities as a teaching artist.

How does the work you do with the NWC inform and feed your own creative work?

The work I do with the NWC serves as an endless well of inspiration. The writers I work with whether they be colleagues or students are just so fearless and honest. It’s really helped me to be more honest and open in my own writing.

What other projects are you working on right now?

I am currently leading an effort to build a prison writing program within the NWC called “Writer’s Block.” What started as a one time visit to the women’s prison last March, has now turned into 6 different monthly workshops in 3 different correctional facilities. I’ve also assembled a diverse team of rotating poets to accompany me for these visits. When I see everything going in the world, I sometimes feel so helpless and these prison workshops feel like one of the best ways I can fight back against social injustice.

This space is where we get the opportunity to shine the light on the talented core teaching artists who share their art and their passion for poetry with the community. Our programs wouldn’t be as successful without their commitment and hard work.

- Nicholas Bell