De Andrea Nichols has a passion for engaging communities in the arts. After a practicum at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, she was promoted as the museum’s community engagement manager. “This work opens the museum to be a more welcoming place and a more community-centric place,” she said.
“We’re working hard to engage with communities that the museum has yet to engage—including the neighborhoods right around the museum that may not be very familiar with us,” she said. “It’s about developing innovative and new ways of thinking about art in different settings around the city. We’re constantly looking to see if what we’re doing is working, so my work involves a lot of program evaluation and research.”
An accomplished young social entrepreneur, De Andrea is also the founder of Civic Creatives (formerly Catalysts by Design), a design-focused social venture. Her specialization in social entrepreneurship helped lay the groundwork for her current venture.
“The social entrepreneurship program at the Brown School is a journey,” she said. “Through the courses that are offered, you can go from sparking an idea in a foundation-level class, to working with other students to ensure the idea is feasible, and then building a team – both with Brown School students and students at Washington University at large. Second-year courses even help you develop your business plan, while university-wide resources can help you implement it and secure funding.”
Following graduation, De Andrea received acceptance into the Points of Light Civic Accelerator, an investment fund that supports civic ventures as they scale their social innovations.
Civic Creatives produces interactive events, tools, and products to help community members identify and actualize solutions to the issues that affect them most. Initiatives like United Story and FoodSpark highlight and address prominent interests of communities using story and food-based social interventions.
The Design Serves (D*serve) initiative, which teaches K-12 youth design thinking skills and civic engagement, was launched while De Andrea was a student at the Brown School. D*serve was chosen as a featured project at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative University conference, and De Andrea herself was highlighted as one of “Three Young People Who Make Us Optimistic about 2014” by the Clinton Foundation.