Arts & Culture

The Big Jewcy: Adam Whitney Nichols, Writer and Artist

Adam Whitney Nichols, a man of many projects and talents, was good enough to provide me with a thorough biography, since it is increasingly difficult to keep track of his escapades–founding Fortnight Journal, writing his book, working with Guillermo Gómez-Peña, … Read More

By / June 17, 2010

Adam Whitney Nichols, a man of many projects and talents, was good enough to provide me with a thorough biography, since it is increasingly difficult to keep track of his escapades–founding Fortnight Journal, writing his book, working with Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Wallace Shawn, Andre Gregory and his mentor, Patti Smith–of which these are only a small selection.

Before I give you all the riveting details, perhaps it is better to begin with a list of Adam’s favorite children’s books. Since he is a writer, I can only assume that the first things he remembers reading must greatly influence his work. Plus, many of these are universally beloved and every now and then it is good to be reminded of their existence and impact:

10 Most Loved Childhood Books

This list was created with fond memory, and with the helpful prodding of Susan Kirschbaum and Phyllis Leibowitz: two good Jews.

1. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Judi Barrett.

Food falls from the sky and that is just great.

2. Broderick. Edward Ormondroyd.

I always thought one had to be incredibly strong to surf. Not so: this mouse became an expert.

3. And to Think that I Saw it on Mulberry Street. Dr. Seuss.

I was 5 when Dr. Seuss passed away. On that day, my father gave me this book soon after with the inscription: "Dr. Seuss left our world a few days ago. I thought you would enjoy reading what he left behind. Love, Dad."

4.Where the Sidewalk Ends. Shel Silverstein.

My first book of poetry. And the love affair with the genre continues on.

5. Aesop’s Fables. Aesop.

Morality made simple. And that’s how it should be.

6. Mr. Bounce. Roger Hargreaves.

We all have predispositions. This mister bounced. He went with it, and was very happy.

7. Berenstain Bears. Stan and Jan Berenstain.

I was obsessed with this series. After I read Berenstain Bears get Lost in a Cave all I wanted to do was go behind a waterfall and see how things looked on the other side.

8. Goodnight Moon. Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd.

There is something to be said for a book that was important in everyone’s childhood.

9. The Little Engine that Could. Watty Piper.

Discipline! Perseverance! Community!

10. Rumpelstiltskin. The Brothers Grimm.

Don’t lie about spinning straw into gold. And don’t go into debt.

"A native of Virginia, Adam now lives in the East Village. He is currently writing his first book: an investigation into his family’s history of combat, dating back to his direct ancestor, Ulysses S. Grant. Adam is also the founding editor of Fortnight Journal, a multimedia online publication that synthesizes tradition with innovation: casting 14 young multi-talented contributors and pairing them with well-known luminaries. Fortnight Journal launches October 20, 2010, and can be viewed at fortnightjournal.com. Additionally, Adam is a visual artist, working on large-scale drawings with chalks and pastels. His drawings are paired with poems and recall a Blakean tableau.

Adam’s personal history is diverse. Growing up on the edge of Washington, DC in a political family, Adam worked for the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy, as well as Senator Timothy Johnson. He also worked closely with David Castegnetti in Congressional Relations for the Kerry-Edward’s Presidential Campaign, and David Martin, National Security Correspondent for CBS News. After leaving the Washington-Metropolitan Area, Mr. Nichols received dramatic training at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and The Globe Theater in London. He then enrolled at Sarah Lawrence College, where he studied British and American literature. He also founded and edited the first weekly newspaper at the college, The Sadie Lou Standard. In addition, he studied at the University of Barcelona and the Middlebury Language School in Vermont, where he became proficient in French. Adam is a trustee of the Albert and Anne Mansfield Foundation, named after his grandparents. The foundation funds many social justice and Jewish non-profit organizations. The board has funded a chair at Technion University in Israel and founded the Mansfield Institute for Social Justice at Roosevelt University in Chicago. Adam’s family’s commitment to a more just world consistently informs his work.

Adam has worked closely with several artists, including internationally renowned performance artist, Guillermo Gómez-Peña on his projects at the Tate Modern in London and The Guggenheim Museum in New York City. In 2008, he worked with playwright, Wallace Shawn, and director, Andre Gregory, on their retrospective at The Royal Court Theater in London.

Adam is currently under the guidance of Patti Smith. He has worked extensively on transcribing her poetry and prose, her recent exhibition at the Robert Miller Gallery in Chelsea (New York City), and traveled with her to Europe to promote her new memoir, Just Kids. Under her wing, Adam has realized the importance of the multi-disciplined artist and works towards carrying out the traditions these profound artists have had on him."

Durga; Wanders Without Cause, 2010 – pastel and chalk on paper