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BWW Blog: Gift of Time - Part 2

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A few weeks ago, my professor Chelsea Nicholson told me to, "Take advantage of this gift of time that we have right now. Do something creative." These words inspired me to reach out to a few alumni, including Chelsea herself, in order to hear what individuals in the "real world" thought about creating during quarantine. So what creative endeavors have Samford alumni been up to during this time of isolation?

BWW Blog: Gift of Time - Part 2
Chelsea Nicholson bares her soul as Sally Bowles in Virginia Samford Theatre's Cabaret.

Chelsea Nicholson, Samford's superb Musical Theatre professor, receives joy by pursuing creative activities.

Inspired by her hero, Dolly Parton, and studying the history of the instrument, Chelsea decided to learn the banjo. Chelsea states, "My dream is to be able to tell stories through song on the banjo." Reading scripts and writing poetry are Chelsea's other creative activities. Chelsea has often found solace in her art; she says, "I've always turned to art in times of drought, whatever the drought may be."

Sharing stories is at the heart of all Chelsea Nicholson's artistic works.

"Even when I'm not involved in actual theatre work, my creative pursuits come back to storytelling," says Chelsea. Chelsea believes that creating is an innate part of being human and states, "I feel like when I'm not creating, I'm not living up to my calling." Chelsea further says, "Nothing negative is going to come out of creating, it can only affect you and others in a positive way."

Chelsea Nicholson encourages others to get creative in order to find community.

Chelsea says, "It's been so much fun to do the creating, share the creating, and see my friends and students creating." Many of her students have kept Chelsea updated on their creative progress. Chelsea finds inspiration through watching others' artistic works. She states, "When you watch someone else create, it gets your own mind spinning on how you want to create."

BWW Blog: Gift of Time - Part 2
Ben Tidwell celebrates the beautiful "mornin'" in Samford University's A Grand Night for Singing.

Ben Tidwell, talented songwriter and performer, makes art that is as brilliant as it is honest.

During this time, Ben has been writing music, transcribing previously written songs, auditioning, and continuing his vocal exercises. In regards to a song that Ben wrote about quarantine, Ben states, "I wanted to write a song about where I'm at and I think where a lot of us are at. It's nice to give people something that ministers to them, but also doesn't shy away from the hardness of reality."

A self-proclaimed procrastinator, Ben Tidwell relies on deadlines to motivate him.

Ben says, "Deadlines are the best thing and worst thing. I am the kind of person that procrastinates the heck out of everything." At this point in his artistic career, Ben's work has relied "on other people giving [him] deadlines." Ben states, "[My creative work] has happened because of an outside force." Finding accountability is important in Ben's artistic process.

Faith and difficult experiences are where Ben Tidwell finds the inspiration to create art.

Ben states, "Praise be to God that in my weakness, I am able to create something greater than myself." Many of Ben's songs come from the hardship that he has faced. Ben says, "When bad things happen in my life, I can turn that pain into art: something beautiful and worth sharing." Ben encourages others to make art during tough times saying, "Be honest with yourself. You can't get to a place of redemption if it's not [difficult] first."

BWW Blog: Gift of Time - Part 2
Kendra Ball curses the princess as Modron in Samford University's Sleeping Beauty.

Kendra Ball is a current graduate student who is developing creative ways to reach others with art.

An innovative artist, Kendra states, "I started what I'm calling a remote storytelling collective," which she describes as an online space to share creative resources, like story prompts and other artistic ideas. Kendra's storytelling collective can be found at and she would appreciate your engagement. In addition to this project, Kendra has been writing plays and reading material from emerging playwrights.

Sharing imagination is what Kendra Ball considers a major factor in making connections.

Kendra says, "A lot of people are feeling disengaged from one another, so a great way to spark connectedness is through sharing our imagination." In regards to turning her ideas into projects, Kendra believes community and engagement are two key elements to any creative project. In her "remote storytelling collective," Kendra works to build community through engaging content.

Kendra Ball believes how we are now pursuing creative works will shape the future.

"This time that we are spending doing remote work [will] influence our world moving forward," says Kendra. Kendra is excited to see how this time of isolation will change the way we do and share creative activities. In order to find creative inspiration, Kendra states, "Creating is about finding moments of joy, so I would encourage people to look at their own life and [see] what creates the most joy for them personally and where they see joy in others."

In conclusion, Samford alumni are finding ways to utilize this gift of time by creating art.

I hope reading words from these amazing individuals empower you to go be creative. Where do you find inspiration for your creative endeavors? What is at the heart of your work?

*I would like to extend a special thanks to my professor, Chelsea Nicholson, for inspiring this series and sharing her artistic works with me. Also, I would like to thank Ben Tidwell and Kendra Ball for graciously taking the time to speak with me about their creative projects.


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