Photo by Lindy Drew

Through a multi-disciplinary design practice,
De Nichols activates changemakers nationwide
to address civic, racial, and gender equity
challenges within their communities.


Artist-activist, De Nichols, is a cultural producer whose experiences, tools, and artworks highlight and confront pressing social injustices of our time. She serves as the Director & Principal Designer of Civic Creatives, an impact design organization that helps communities champion and innovate ideas addressing racial inequity, food insecurity, youth development, civic involvement, and social conflict.

As an artist, Nichols creates works that foster empathetic activism in support of historically marginalized groups. She is the visioning artist of the Mirror Casket, a sculpture created as protest art during the 2014 Ferguson uprising and collected by the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum for African-American History and Culture in 2016. Her projects such as Sticky Note to Self and Not Just Anybody integrate art and digital media to help women reflect and respond to issues of digital bullying, street harassment, and cultural microagressions. Through her leadership with these works, the Artivists STL collective, Citizen Artists STL, and FoodSpark, Nichols has been deemed a national Ideas that Matter recipient as well as a St. Louis Visionary for her community impact via the arts. Most recently, she was selected as a 2017 Citizen Artist Fellow for the John F. Kennedy Center with mentorship by esteemed cellist and educator, Yo Yo Ma.

In her service to communities, Nichols is a national keynote speaker and lecturer, and she leads as the youngest member of the Board of Directors for Forward through Ferguson, the non-profit developed to hold the St. Louis region accountable to racial equity following the 2014 murder of Michael Brown. She additionally chairs the Board of Directors for Creative Reaction Lab, which educates and equips Black and Latinx youth to foster design-based approaches to racial issues within schools and neighborhoods across the United States.

Nichols is an alum of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts and Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis, where she specialized in communication design, social entrepreneurship, and socio-economic development. She is a John B. Ervin Scholar, Brown Scholar, and Enterprise-Rent-a-Car Scholar. Her efforts have been supported by the Clinton Global Initiative, Women’s Caucus for Art, Gephardt Institute for Public Service, Ideas that Matters, Pulitzer Arts Foundation, StartingBloc Fellowship for Social Innovation, Points of Light Civic Accelerator, Microsoft YouthSpark, and AshokaU Changemakers.

Lectures & Workshops

Presenter, Open Engagement, Chicago, IL

“Design Serves: Museum Redux,” Workshop Lecturer, Flex Design Studio, Baltimore, MD

“Designing Civil Rights,” Presenter, MICA, Baltimore, MD

“WE MAKES: Design Serves Blitz” Workshop, St. Louis, MO

“The Black Experience: Specializing in the Art of the Impossible,” Speaker, St. Louis, MO

“Renaissance Arising: Comparisons of the Contemporary Black Creative Class and the Harlem Renaissance”
St. Louis, MO

“The Need for Arts Philanthropy for Rapid Response,” Presenter, Funders Network Conference, St. Louis MO

“If We Are to Win…” Speaker, Women’s March, St. Louis, MO

“Taking It to the Streets,” Moderator, Exhibition Panel, St. Louis, MO

“Artivists Roundtable,” Moderator, Culture/Shift, US Department of Arts and Culture, St. Louis, MO

“Creative Will: How Cities Can Utilize Creative Practices for Change,” Pecha Kucha, St. Louis, MO

“Designing in Times of Social Conflict & Transition,” Affect Conf, Portland, OR

“AIGA Town Hall on Racial Justice,” Panelist, Online

“Do What Makes You Come Alive,” Commencement Keynote Address, Sam Fox School of Design & Art, Washington University in St. Louis

“Ode to the Misfits,” Visionary Awards, St. Louis, MO

“The CASE: Contemporary Art Approaches to Social Engagement,” Designing Civil Rights Conference, Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, MA.

“Stories to Action,” United Story Summit, Emcee and workshop facilitator.

“Civic Matchmaking for Civic Changemaking,” Points of Light National Conference on Service and Volunteerism, Houston, TX. Plenary Speaker.

“From Logos to Protests: Using Design to Start a Movement,” AIGA National Design Conference, New Orleans, MO. Panelist.

“The Art of Social Change: Building Community, Catalyzing Change,” St. Louis, MO.

“Civic Matchmaking through Artmaking,” Webinar: Current Trends in Public Art 2- Public Art & Social Practice (Americans for the Arts). Presenter.

“Ethics and the Artist: Failure in Social Practice and Community Engagement” #FailureandArt Symposium. Panelist. St. Louis, MO.

“Living Out Your Calling,” Keynote Address, Youth Summer Leadership Summit. Memphis, TN.

Clinton Global Initiative University, Opening Plenary Student Speaker. Phoenix, AZ.

“Storytelling Toward Action: A United Story Workshop,” MONUMENTAL Youth Service Learning Conference. Washington, DC.

Mind the Gap, Local Perspectives Panelist. St. Louis, MO.

“Thoughts on Life Mastery,” Keynote Address, Financial Freedom Seminar, St. Louis, MO.

“Unlocking the Creative Capacity of Youth,” TEDxFurman U on Redesigning Education. Greenville, SC.

AshokaU Exchange, Innovation Presenter. San Diego, CA.

“Catalysts by Design: Exploring the Intersectionality of Design and Social Work,” IGNITEBrown, Brown School of Social Work, Washington University in St. Louis. St. Louis, MO.

“Creative Catalysts: Our Visual Becoming,” Women’s Caucus for Art Art+Social Justice Conference, Regional Arts Commission, St. Louis, MO.

“We Are Stronger than Your Violence,” Convention on Youth Violence, St. Louis, MO.

International Festivals and Events Association Annual Conference, St. Louis, MO.

“Becoming More: A Call to Action,” Graham Chapel, St. Louis, MO.


2017 Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellowship Recognition
2016 St. Louis Visionary Awards Recipient
2013 Microsoft YouthSpark, Finalist (Design Serves)
2012 Cordes Innovation Award, Semi-finalist
2011 Sappi | Ideas that Matter, Recipient, COMMON Hoops
2010 Gerry and Bob Virgil Ethic of Service Award, St. Louis, MO
2010 Langston Hughes Award, St. Louis, MO
2008 Memphis Truth Award, Memphis, TN

2016 Board of Directors, Forward through Ferguson
2015 Chair, Board of Directors, Creative Reaction Lab
2014 Featured Innovator, Clinton Global Initiative University
2013 Featured Innovator, Clinton Global Initiative University

2017 Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellowship
2014 Points of Light Civic Accelerator (CIVICX)
2013 StartingBloc Fellowship
2014 Finalist, Echoing Green

2012 George Warren Brown School of Social Work, Brown Scholar
2006-2010 John B. Ervin Scholar, Full academic scholarship and stipend, Washington University in St. Louis
2006-2010 Enterprise Rent-a-Car Foundation Scholar
2004-2006 William H. Sweet Scholar


2015 “Mirror Casket” (2014), National Museum for African American History and Culture, Smithsonian.

Apr 2017 “Denotations,” Taking It to the Streets: Arts Alive on the Streets, Kranzberg Art Gallery, St. Louis, MO

Mar 2017 “Sticky Note to… Love,” The Clothesline, St. Louis, MO

Jan 2017 “Black Notes,” Taking it to the Streets, Gallery 210, St. Louis, MO

Oct 2015 Arts in Struggle, Satori Gallery,
St. Louis, MO

Sep 2015 IMPCTXDESIGN, 14.15, Regional Arts Commission, St. Louis, MO

July 2015 With, Not For, Regional Arts Commission, St. Louis, MO

Jan-Apr 2015 I Have a Right To…, Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, St. Louis, MO

2014-2015 Moments of Silence: Visual Responses to Ferguson, Various Galleries, St. Louis, MO

2010 Profile Me: An Art Exhibition on Racial Profiling, Washington University, St. Louis, MO

2007 Echoes of Truth, Memphis Coliseum, Memphis, TN