Nicole Harrison is a photographer, intellectual, artist and youth advocate. Her work span topics in Hip Hop culture, gender politics, youth and visual culture. She is dedicated to creating and exploring works that document the experiences of black men and women of the Hip Hop generation. Harrison investigates, through her scholarship and art practice, ways that African Americans (in the U.S) continue to use the arts as a platform for redefining their identities and combating their oppression through concentrated works in film, music and photography. More specifically, she is interested in the art of telling ones story through these various mediums.
In 2011, Harrison curated her first exhibition titled Fear Into Fire: Reclaiming Black Male Identity Through the Art of Tattooing. This exhibit was on display at Columbia College Chicago Arcade Gallery from late January 2011 to early March of 2011. In developing this show Harrison worked with photographers, Jamel Shabazz, Akintola Hanif, Shasta Bady and Jabari Zuber. With their contribution, Fear into Fire was a huge success and carved out a groundbreaking and unique space for Harrison to rethink and re-imagine the black body in Hip Hop.
In 2012, Fear Into Fire traveled to Kalamazoo College and was a part of the cities monthly Art Hop. Since then, Nicole has traveled the country sharing her work at conferences and symposiums while working towards establishing Fear Into Fire as a traveling exhibition. She has also began to explore her work as a photographer as she picked up a camera a few years ago and began documenting her community.
Long before knowing her path as an intellectual and artist, Harrison discovered her passion as a youth ally. Between the ages of 17-20, she first began mentoring and tutoring her peers in public schools on the West and South sides of Chicago and much later (as an adult) in Brooklyn, New York. During this time, she attended Columbia College Chicago (one of the largest media arts schools in the country).
As an undergraduate at Columbia College she studied Arts, Entertainment and Media Management with a minor in Black World Studies. During this four-year timeframe (between 2003-2007) Harrison took interest in exploring media as a space to examine the representation and identity of the African Americans in the U.S through music videos and Hip Hop music. Not to mention, studying the in-and-outs of the music industry.
It is at Columbia where she began to map out her career goals as she worked with artist, academics and scholar-activist who took interest in her approach to using the arts a method for having deeper conversations around identity, sexuality, representation and culture. She received her Bachelors in Arts Management in 2007 and shortly went on to obtain a master degree in Africana Studies from New York University. It is here where her work Fear Into Fire was first developed.
The project started as an essay and later as Harrison’s master thesis where she was taught and advised by world-renowned art historian & curator Deborah Willis. Along with other well known artist and cultural critics. She graduated in 2010 with a MA degree in Africana Studies and shortly returned back to her hometown of Chicago where she continues her youth work while developing her skills as a photographer.
Since then she has worked with the Chicago Park District, Culture Arts, & Nature (CAN) department as an arts facilitator and counselor for a program devoted to youth advocacy, art activism, and social justice. This position affords her the privilege of mentoring, supporting and working with young people in Chicago towards developing arts projects that connect to the community. In this position, she is an educator, facilitator and artist who lead youth through activities and arts projects rooted in identity development and art activism. She is also a contributing photographer for the SEE Potential project and has worked with others in documenting cultural events in and around the Chicago area.