Nicholas (“You can call me Nick—either is fine”) Carter is just plain fired-up about art and the people who create the art. As he speaks about his gallery, Alternate Reality Art Gallery, the brightness in his eye and expressive body language leave no doubt the man loves art and artists.
“I am interested not only about the work itself, but also about the person who is behind the work, the person who created it. “
“I look for artists in our own community and throughout the State of Mississippi. And it is all word of mouth. Sometimes an artist finds me.”
Almost by accident, he services a niche clientele who own a musical instrument that they want decorated. It all started when Nick, floundering around for something to donate to a fundraiser for 100 Men Hall, decided to decorate with paint a beat-up guitar someone else had donated to the cause.
People started asking him to decorate their guitar; he grabbed onto the challenge and now has decorated a number of musical instruments.
“This is art added to art (the musical instrument itself) which is then vibrated to make music. I love the artistic integration flowing from one thing to another.”
Nicholas launched Alternate Reality Art Gallery two years ago. “It’s a place for artists to meet artists and even to create things together.”
“We can be sounding boards for each other. And working together creates a sense of energy that inspires new ideas.”
Nicholas’ gallery is located at 441 Main Street, on the ground floor of his own living space. His living quarters on the second and third floor of the building are open spaces filled with light from the floor to ceiling windows that overlook Main.
The adjacent silver-colored one-story building directly on the corner of Main and Old Spanish Trail is the office for unabridged Architecture, the firm that also designed the buildings. The building’s unusual design has been the topic of much conversation in the community, especially when it was first constructed. However, all agree that a century from now, it's still going to be one of the most distinctive - and talked about - buildings in the Bay.
He remained a working artist throughout his travels, augmenting his artistic work with employment in the hospitality and restaurant industry.
The kind of guy who easily can converse with friend and stranger alike and experienced in the hospitality industry as well, at present Nicholas is happily engaged in managing Bacchus on the Beach, a popular restaurant and bar across from the Pass Harbor. He does everything from ordering supplies to hiring staff. “It’s a family-run operation and it’s fun and exciting to be a part of it.”
Although Nick grew-up in Gulfport, he has always liked Bay St. Louis. Living here now, at this time in his life, he is full of excitement “about showing people it is possible that you can do what you want here.”
If Nick has a philosophy, it’s about taking charge and generating the momentum yourself.
He counsels: “If you’re going to have fun, make it happen.”
And he puts his money where his mouth is. No couch potato, Nick is studying to get a pilot’s license to operate a Cessna plane. “It’s a challenge. It’s a part of the brain I don’t regularly use.”
When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, Nick was living on a mountaintop in southern California called Big Bear. But he still had family on the coast, and he felt drawn to come back home. Unable to make contact with loved ones for days after the storm, Nicholas just knew that he needed to return.
“I wanted to feel the sand in my shoes. The mountains where I had been living are beautiful, but I realized I was homesick for the Mississippi coast, the place where I grew up.”
Volunteering at 100 Men Hall has created an opportunity to grow his gallery with more than art alone. Kerrie Loya, the CEO for 100 Men Hall, has added to the gallery an eclectic line of organic products that are designed to help achieve one’s wellness goals. Organic products for the body and hair, yoga mats made from organic material, and even individualized yoga instruction can all be had at the gallery.
The gallery, now in its second year, had its second “Fabulosity Pop-Up Boutique Sale” on Second Saturday in March. Quite a success, the sale of high-end fashion and accessories at low-end prices will end in late April. For the time being entrance to the gallery is by appointment only.
“When I was a kid, the Bay seemed like such a faraway place,” Nick recalls. On those rare trips the family took to Bay St. Louis, Nick remembers good restaurants and good food. Sounds like Nicholas Carter has truly come home, and knows it.
“I have a true appreciation for the beauty here,” he says quietly.
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