The bizarre Jacksonville Jaguars 2019 season opener resulted in a brutal 40-26 loss against the Kansas City Chiefs, leaving ejected linebacker Myles Jack on the bench and injured star quarterback Nick Foles on the field. Luckily, Jags fans are resilient. While exiting TIAA Bank Field, some fans ducked down in distress, but others held their heads high, ready to move forward. And while their heads were up, they may have noticed a giant set of golden eyes peeking at them through a colorful wilderness. It’s Nicole “Nico” Holderbaum’s mural, recently finished in August and giving fans not just a silent, strong staredown, but a proud communal masterpiece.
“I mean, it’s a huge deal,” Nico said about her being commissioned by TIAA Bank Field. “It’s the Jacksonville Jaguars, so I was very excited and honored.”
Jaguars fan and home opener attendee, Will Clancey, noticed the mural immediately when approaching the tunnel.
“It’s really nice work,” Clancey said. “It’s bold for sure, really draws your eyes up.”
A bold mural for the Bold City, Nico wanted to create something iconic without sacrificing personal style. She’s always enjoyed painting big cats and tropical plants. Just add a dash of signature pink here, some cool blues and purples there to contrast with the warm eyes and voilá.
Of course, painting such a detailed mural wasn’t that simple.
“It took nine days and it was pretty intense,” said Nico. “I had an assistant who I’ve been teaching help me. For him, it was like boot camp because was so detailed. Using spray paint takes a while to learn. I learn every day, every time I use it.”
She explained that regardless of how long anyone been in the arts, there’s always something to learn. Nico’s work can be found throughout Jacksonville, particularly downtown in schools, parks and the recently opened Boys & Girls Club Citi Teen Center in Springfield.
“I just painted a huge mural in the gym,” she said. “The Boys & Girls Club is also putting forward money to pay a group of local artists to come in and paint murals there, too.”
If it’s not apparent already, Nico is extremely active in not only the Jaguars community, but the entire city of Jacksonville.
Her social activism to help those in underdeveloped areas sprung a variety of projects for children such as the Kids Mural Project that was initially created for downtown Jacksonville’s 2015 One Spark event, but then exploded into an artistic movement, benefitting hundreds of underprivileged kids. The Citi Teen Center murals are an example of its work.
“That’s my main focus right now, in terms of giving back, because if I’m not giving back, I feel like I’m dying inside,” she laughed sincerely, but with a hint of guilt. “I’ve decided to take time to work on myself and build my own personal career so I can be better equipped to help the youth and other artists here in this city.”
Nico’s goal is to use her platform to create opportunities for struggling, young and local artists.
“Teenagers are exactly who I want to work with and mentor,” she said. “They’re at an age where they’re aware of what goes on in the world, but that’s also when you’re so full of doubts and insecurities. Having one person show you that you can do it can be life changing.”
Nico hopes to open doors for young artists in impoverished areas when Jacksonville yearns for its next splashes of color, striving to be “the glue that connects everybody together,” she said.
“I would love to see more murals around town, especially places outside of downtown,” Clancey answered after he saw Nico’s Jaguars mural. “A great place to me would be the flyover at Kernan and Beach. Seems like it would be a great canvas for someone.”
Maybe Nico can recommend someone.
To follow Nico’s work, visit www.nicosuaveart.com or follow her Instagram accounts, @nicosuavalicious, @kidsmuralproject, @werisemvmt and #duvalgems.