Alumni Profile: Nicole Caldwell

posted on April 11, 2020 by

Huge thanks to YACalum Nicole Caldwell for her fabulous interview! Nicole is a brilliant artist with a background in art, archaeology, and conservation. While she has lived, worked, and studied all around the world she currently works as a curator at Hearst Castle! You can find her gorgeous work and travel photography on instagram at @nics.pix and her wonderful illustration work at

Years at YAC?

I was only at YAC for a year or two, but I was one of the original YACsters so it must have been around 2001-2002.

"Repairing frames at the Haggin Museum... in my Wonder Woman outfit because as head curator I do what I want."

Did you go to college and if so where?

The short answer is yes. The long answer is: after a gap year volunteering in India, I first went to Cabrillo College in Santa Cruz. Then I transferred to CSUS where I majored in archaeology and minored in art. After my undergrad I did my Post Bac at SACI in Florence Italy in art and archaeological conservation, combining my love of art and history. Then after working as a conservator and curator in museums and historic homes in Israel/ Palestine and California, I quit my job and went back to school. I recently completed my masters from the University of Oxford in archaeology and earned (much to my surprise) a distinction!

Obligatory graduation pic from Oxford

Did you learn elsewhere? Where and how?

I am mostly self taught because I have a knack for getting in fights with salty old untalented painting teachers in academic settings. That is why I changed my major and eventually became more interested in using my skills to preserve artworks created by people long gone.

Tell us about what you’re doing now.

Currently I am working for California State Parks as a curator maintaining and preserving the collection of art and antiquities at Hearst Castle.

What has inspired you along the way?

I have always been inspired by the artists around me, especially my talented peers and incredible mentors.

Israel: conserving an architectural model

Favorite YAC memories?

My favorite YAC memories were of the spontaneous nacho cravings that would possess us to pop over to the nearby grocery store (this was back in the original location) to buy copious amounts of chips, cheese, and salsa; we would make mountains of microwave- nachos and share them with everyone. Also I loved how when you spilled paint you had to sign it.

A mention about the value of YAC?

YAC is inestimably valuable to young artists, the community, and the whole world! I am a firm believer that there should be a YAC in every city… so can we clone Meg & Marcia already to get that started? Even though I was only there for a short time YAC was there for me when I needed it most and definitely put me on the trajectory to becoming who I am today. Do art, be kind, eat nachos.

Italy: cleaning an ancient Roman bucket

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