On Wednesday Sept. 5, senior Nick Cook was selected as one of the five winners of the San Francisco Muni art competition, which included some of the most skilled artists in the Bay Area. Since January of last year, newly decorated Muni buses of San Francisco have been rolling through the city streets, bringing ordinary buses to life with art. This year the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, San Francisco Beautiful and the Poetry Society of America have partnered up to give artists in the community an opportunity to compete and display their artwork on the buses. Cook saw this an artistic opportunity as well as a platform to spread a message.
“I have the ability to spread a message [through art]. I want to use my art ability to spread a message of love, especially on the buses that are going all over the city. I have somewhere I can put that message and have it go everywhere,” Cook said.
The Muni Art Competition was the ideal way to support Cook in spreading his message. Since 1947, San Francisco Beautiful, a non-profit organization dedicated to making the city a more colorful and culturally diverse place, has made efforts to improve the civic beauty of the city. They have not only introduced art to the Muni buses, but have also completed different projects in the community, such as planting the Civic Center Plaza Victory Garden and building greener schoolyards. San Francisco Beautiful collaborated with The Poetry Society of America for the competition, jointly creating the theme for this year’s competition: “The Art of Poetry in San Francisco.” Cook’s work fit the theme with motifs of love spread throughout his piece.
Cook, an Advanced Placement (AP) art student, likes to think that there is more to art then what is presented on paper.
“I like color and I’m a quiet person. I like to have my clothes or art make a statement. Before someone comes up to talk to me, someone can get an idea of who I am as a person,” Cook said.
For Cook, creating images for himself is not the only reason for his artistic drive. He hopes to also make his art more well known across social media, which he also uses as a platform to express his unique personal style.
“Pictures of me are received better than my art. That’s the way people use Instagram. If they see something they recognize, they can stop [scrolling through their feeds], but I want my art to become something that will make people stop scrolling,” Cook said.
The Muni Art contest was Cook’s first official competition as he only started taking his art seriously last year. Cook believes his style of art is unique when compared to his fellow contestants.
“I use childlike mediums like collage or crayons, and it’s a professional competition, so obviously I’m going against people who have already gone to college or art school. I think it’s funny to be doing something childlike in a professional place and still compete with other people,” Cook said.
Cook’s current art teacher, Lauren Bartone, admires his distinct style and effort to broaden his practice, both artistically and personally.
“He has his own distinctive perspective on fashion and design. It’s interesting to see him take that perspective to traditional assignments I give drawing and painting students,” Bartone said.
Not only does Bartone recognize Cook’s willingness to try new techniques in class, but also his motivation to take the next step and enter his work into recognized competitions.
“I always share art competitions with students, but every year there are very few students who apply and submit work. It’s exciting to see someone make amazing work and connect with a larger audience,” Bartone said.
While Bartone continues to guide Cook in class, she is not the only person to notice Cook’s artistic abilities. Senior Ulla Wilcox, another AP Art student, has seen Cook’s artistic work develop since the beginning of freshman year.
“Nick has a very unapologetic way of creating art. He doesn’t follow the rules which is great and that’s what makes it interesting,” Wilcox said.
Voting for the Muni Art Competition ended Aug. 31, and Cook received the news of his achievement on Sept. 5.
Now that Cook has made a difference with his art, he hopes to carry his artistic abilities with him after he graduates. He hopes to attend Parsons School of Design in New York to pursue fashion or textile design, or to independently create his own clothing company. No matter what direction he takes, according to Cook, he will continue to spread his unique works of art and message of love with the people he meets along the way.