We had the good fortune of connecting with Nicole Acosta and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Nicole, how do you think about risk?
I think I spent most of my life up until I was around 35 years old scared to take risks. Whether it was in my personal life, art practice or career, I had become complacent and lost a sense of who I was and what I wanted in life. This was because I became a young mom at 19 then had another child at the age of 30. I had spent years in unhealthy relationships that ultimately led me to feel stuck and lost. Once I graduated college I began to take control of my life. In 2016 I ended the relationship I was in at the time and started to focus on my career in marketing and personal art practice. None of this was easy, I knew I had to step outside my comfort zone, put myself and my talents out into the world and network. I started to really shape and mold who this new person I aspired to be was. It was scary but beautiful all in the same breath. The biggest risk I took came with big rewards though. My art began to flourish again and my true identity surfaced. Fast forward a few years I am now the Marketing Director for a local theatre company and my passion project HOOPS has gone national with plans to go international. HOOPS the stage play is currently being scripted and is set to world premiere March of 2023 in Milwaukee, WI. Additionally, we have plans to release a short documentary and coffee table book. None of this would be happening had I not took risks and reclaimed my life. I can’t tell you how many people criticized my art, who didn’t understand it, or flat out told me to stop. It took me a few years to realize just how deeply important the HOOPS Project is. Three years ago you couldn’t have told me this small idea I had would turn into something so profound and loved. There isn’t a day that goes by that I am not thinking about next steps, but at least now, taking risks seem more like opportunities to expand.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Since I discovered I was an artist back in high school I’ve always had a curiosity with my identity and growing up first generation while trying to make some sense of the world around me. I was influenced by early 90’s Hip-Hop, and the music icons Selena and Lauryn Hill. I think at an early age I realized my identity would influence my art. I didn’t realize it then but documenting my own existence would allow others to connect with me. And through storytelling and photography I’d be able to archive the importance of telling my own stories and those around me. I’ve always been an artist but as a young single mother of two, I needed to be able to support us, so, I went back to college and got a degree in Marketing. I needed to be able to support my family but be able to remain creative and having a career in marketing allowed me to do that. Now, I’m a full-time Marketing Director for a local Milwaukee theatre company and then create my own personal art on the side. My job also allows me to still continue my HOOPS Project because they understood the importance of the body of work. None of this was easy. I turn 40 in November and I’m just beginning to unravel my true self and art practice. It took many years to find my artistic voice and who I really am at the core. I knew that as a young brown woman with two kids, I would not be taken seriously. I knew that I would need to work 2-3 times as harder than anyone else to be seen and heard. My biggest lesson? Not allowing others opinions or beliefs affect me. Most the time those people have a problem within themselves and they project onto you. You just really have to be committed to your vision and keep your dreams in conversations.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I was born and raised in Milwaukee and I feel there are so many untapped places to visit and eat. But if my friend was visiting I’d have to take them to a few of my special spots. Those are: The Hank Aaron Trail in the Menomonee Valley to take in one of the most beautiful green spaces we have in the city, located on Milwaukee’s SouthSide. Right off the trail on 26th and Pierce we’d visit The Urban Ecology Center and Newline Cafe. Milwaukee is absolutely stunning in the summer, so I’m known to be outside and take advantage of patios and trails. I’d take us to the lakefront near the Art Museum to walk that back end towards Colectivo on the lake and grab a drink and catch up. Some of my favorite spots to eat (most have a patio) are Hotel Madrid at Hotel Mardid in Walker’s Point, they have the most delicious tapas and sangria flights. Then there is Guanajuato in Bay View, literally some of the best Mexican food in the city. I also give an honorable mention to Botanas because its always a good time there and the margaritas are **chefs kiss**. And if you want an array of things to sample 3rd Street Market Hall located Downtown is a fav of mine. There’s so many options to choose from and all pretty representative of the city. Zocalo is also a great spot! They have various food trucks, weekly events, and very community centered.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are many people I’d like to give flowers to but first, everyone who was in LUNA, the art collective I was a member of at the time I shot my very first HOOPS session. They’ve continued to support the project especially my good friend Katie Avila. Without LUNA, this project would’ve definitely never happened. My creative partner Jazmin who has supported me since day 1, and has helped me design the HOOPS logo, is co-designing the HOOPS coffee table book, and is now the HOOPS Project Manager. Erin Maybin who is now a co-producer of the film, has been a huge champion since this project went viral. She contacted me from NY just to share how connected she felt to the project and is now a part of the bigger picture. She keeps me motivated, focused, and pushes me to my full potential. An extra special shout out to all the folks I’ve photographed and shared space with in the HOOPS sessions in New York, Milwaukee, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Without them this project could not exist. Lastly, my parents because they put a camera in my hand at the age of 15 and my grandmother Trinidad who inspired this project after I found old B&W photos of her in her large HOOPS.

Website: https://www.atsocanicole.com/

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Facebook: Nicole Acosta

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