Leslie & John Nichols honored as cultural icons by Chamber of Commerce

July 06, 2011
Santa Paula News

Together and separately they’re considered cultural icons, and Leslie and John Nichols were honored as the Santa Paula Chamber of Commerce Members of the Quarter for promoting the finer things in life.

The honors were acknowledged at the June Good Morning Santa Paula, held at Logsdon’s at the Airport. 

Barbara Kroon, the Chamber’s membership services director, said the Nichols were honored “for their outstanding cultural contributions to the community... they helped to lift Santa Paula to the cultural Mecca that we are today” by their tireless devotion to and promotion of the arts. “Santa Paula has more museums per capita than Paris,” and in addition the city has the Nichols.

Leslie, an acclaimed actress, producer and director and the former longtime board president of the Santa Paula Theater Center, has been at the forefront of the Four Star Theater Alliance of Ventura County. 

Kroon noted the gallery of John, a prizewinning photographer, curator, framer and writer, has relocated. “Another reincarnation of his studio” is now located upstairs at the Santa Paula Art Museum on North 10th Street. 

Leslie remains deeply involved in the SPTC, “our own theater right here in town on the corner of 7th and Main.... If you haven’t attended before, we hope you’ll give us a try” at the upcoming production of “Black Coffee” by Agatha Christie, which opens July 8. “It’s a wonderful play and a really good reason to come. 

“Other things our theater center is involved in that fermented with myself and other members of the theatrical community” include the Four Star Theater Alliance. The alliance has joined theaters that stage a similar number of productions and have responsibility for their buildings. The theaters lend props and costumes, cross promoting and marketing each other while at the same time ensuring a constant turnover of variety without duplicating productions.

Santa Paula is also home to an active group that meets regularly, “movers and shakers, all of us involved in cultural things occurring here... we meet every quarter and share our brochures” and keep each other up to date with their programs and projects. “It’s an evening event, very short, not minutes taken, but it keeps us all up on everything we’re doing.”

John first opened a gallery on East Main Street in 1984: “And I have pictures of myself having ribbons cut with the Chambers.... I have continuously operated a gallery ever since.”

An upcoming exhibit at SPAM is Art About Ag, the result of an artistic partnership between Nichols and noted artist Gail Pidduck. Said John, “Currently we don’t have sponsors for prize money... we will be soliciting sponsorships from businesses that would like the publicity!”

The annual exhibit has “elevated not only the image of Santa Paula, but also agriculture.... That’s one of the points of it; to have people’s consciousness raised about the nature of agriculture and become better citizens protecting ag.”

John’s collection of contemporary, rate and vintage photographs is legendary. He has thousands of historical photos of Santa Paula and Ventura County that he prints, licenses and frames for sale, as well as digitally restoring old photographs for customers.

“I will be your first sponsor with $100” for the Art About Ag Show, said GMSP Moderator Ben Schuck.

“What can you do for me?” asked Leslie.

Schuck asked her if she has stage fright, “Do you still get nervous?” 

“Terrified,” admitted Leslie, “absolutely terrified.”

Schuck thanked the Nichols “for not just today, but for serving the community literally for decades” by enriching the culture, and he noted, “I love the theater center and always have a blast!”

John Macik/Santa Paula Chevrolet provides the Chamber award plaques.

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