Athlete & Artist
As wish-fulfillment stories go, Nick Brown ’06 has a whopper.
A high school quarterback from California’s Central Valley who came to the University of Redlands to play football, Brown is also a lifelong fan of the San Francisco ’49ers—and a talented artist.
Now, at the tender age of 32, Brown is seeing a group of 12 of his oil paintings and two sculptural pieces displayed at the new 68,500-seat Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, one of only 23 artists and four photographers to be so honored.
“It’s beyond surreal,” said Brown, who quarterbacked the Bulldogs for a year and a half until an injury sidelined him. And to think it all started with a chance roommate assignment at Redlands.
“In his first year at Redlands, Nick became good friends with his roommate, Dave Scherer,” said Brown’s mother, Cindy. “They came from opposite backgrounds but would come to find out they had a lot more in common than they thought. They both had a deep appreciation for the arts and started to collaborate designing custom skateboards.”
After graduation, Brown and Scherer launched Miramar Longboards, which survived for five years before Brown decided to try his hand at being a freelance artist and painter. Though family and friends advised him “just to get a regular job,” Brown stuck to his guns—or his brushes.
“It just wasn’t in Nick’s being to go in that direction,” Cindy Brown said. “He never gave up pursuing his passion.” Scherer’s parents, Nelson and Dawn, threw some work Brown’s way building exhibits at the Millard Sheets Gallery in Pomona, which they managed. There he met Tony Sheets, son of the late artist Millard Sheets and an renowned artist and sculptor in his own right.
“Tony has taught me so much about my art, business and life and how to merge the three,” Brown said. “I can’t thank him enough for his belief in me.”
Brown was eventually given his own booth at the gallery. People purchased his original pieces and commissioned specific works. Sheets ultimately asked Brown to assist him in the restoration of his father’s Tournament of Roses mural, now hung in the gymnasium at Pasadena City College.
In the summer of 2012, Samantha Wendell, an artist working with Sports and The Arts, was passing through the Sheets gallery and saw Brown’s work. Sports and The Arts provides artwork and commissions artists to create original pieces for professional sporting venues. Wendell referred Brown to the president of Sports and The Arts, Tracie Speca-Ventura. Brown interviewed and presented his portfolio, and out of 300 applicants was one of 23 artists commissioned to create original works for Levis Stadium, the new home of the San Francisco 49ers, the professional football team Brown grew up cheering for. The exhibition opened August 1.
“Nick is such a wonderful spirit. He radiates positive energy,” Speca-Ventura said. “The thing that I enjoy about Nick so much is that he is like an actor who has filmed a movie that has not come out yet, but you know it will be an Oscar-winning performance. He’s really solid, really talented, and he is just about to hit it big.”