Local couple’s rare art collection spearheads fundraising for health workers
Sandi and Bill Nicholson were touring an art museum in Portugal when they noticed a lack of artwork by female artists.
“When we asked the docent leading the tour if they had any paintings by women, she said there were three — one was in the basement, one was being restored and she wasn’t sure where the other one was,” said Ms. Nicholson during a recent phone interview with her husband from their home in Montecito.
“At that moment, Bill and I decided what the focus of our next collection would be — women artists.”
That was 25 years ago, and since then, the couple have found more than 330 pieces spanning 2,500 years from all seven continents.
“It’s still a work in progress,” said Ms. Nicholson, describing herself as a “humanist, rather than a feminist.”
The collection is the largest, most impressive, exclusive women’s art collection, which shows the diversity, price and power of some of the world’s best female artists.
“Our official name is ‘Women Who Dare,’ but we call it ‘The Girls,’ ” said Ms. Nicholson.
“The Girls” have never been seen before until this month when they were introduced to thank the frontline workers of one of the hardest hit COVID-19 health systems, New York’s Northwell Health.
“Bill and I decided to put ‘The Girls’ to work earlier this year. It was time for them to be on view to teach and inspire. We were in New York doing various presentations when the pandemic started, which is how we became involved with Northwell Health, which has more than 17,000 nurses,” said Ms. Nicholson. “We wanted to do something to help.”
The Nicholsons are using “The Girls’” to spearhead a year-long international art competition called “Nurses Heroes” to raise funds for nurses and their children, including scholarships.
Starting this month, a 12-month art contest is open to the public in four categories — painting, drawing, photography and poetry. The contest is open to adults and children of all ages and genders. Participation is free, and art entered will help raise donations for the benefit of nurses and their families.
“Each month, celebrity ambassadors, like Katy Perry among others, will announce the finalists and winners online, and the winning art will be featured alongside the ‘Women Who Dared’ collection in the ‘Nurse Heroes’ digital gallery,” said Ms. Nicholson.
“Winners’ artwork will be splashed across Time Square billboards in New York City each month. When conditions permit, the public will have a chance to see the art of finalists, winners and the ‘Women Who Dared ‘ collection in person as part of a gallery exhibition in Times Square.”
She added that the 19-time Grammy Award Winning musician and producer Emilio Estefan is producing “a memorable concert series to help celebrate the finalists and winners of the monthly art contests. The first concert will take place Sept. 6 and will also feature the premiere of an original song produced by Mr. Estefan in honor of ‘Nurse Heroes.’ ”
As an art collector and philanthropist, Ms. Nicholson explained why she and her husband became supporters of “Nurse Heroes”: “This year we celebrate the bicentennial of the birth of Florence Nightingale, founder of modern nursing and the first nursing college. Today, the legacy of Florence Nightingale continues with people all over the world opening their doors and windows to show appreciation for our health care workers on the front lines.
“With ‘Nurse Heroes,’ Bill and I recognized an opportunity to do more.”
She also pointed out that there is a “rapidly accelerating shortage of nurses. Before COVID-19, we had a shortage of trained nurses in the United States.
“If nothing changes by 2022, we will have about 1 million fewer nurses. Art has been shown to heal, inspire and motivate. By joining this exciting contest, everyone can help honor and celebrate our nurse heroes.”