New Victory Blog

The New Victory Blog is a place to learn more about New York's theater for families and the shows we produce. Find out what we do and what we're passionate about—exploring the arts as a family.

"As it is with all children, before the adult world manages to put out their fires, Nicole was always an artist. However, in Nicole, the fire never stopped burning." – Steve Appel

Nicole at Bello ManiaGrowing up, any kid looks forward to the wonder and spectacle of the circus, but for Nicole Appel, a certain performer held a special place in her heart. Now 25, Nicole first saw Bello Nock (of Bello Mania fame) at the age of nine when he was performing with The Big Apple Circus. A professional artist who falls on the autism spectrum, Nicole has always felt a strong connection to Bello. And, while he hasn't inspired her to take up his brand of thrill-seeking acrobatics, he has inspired her artistically.

When Nicole's father Steve—also a visual artist—heard that Bello would be returning to New York City once more, he reached out to The New Victory to arrange a meeting between the two. He wrote to Bello: 

"Your performances, in the finest tradition of the circus, are islands of innocent enchantment in a sometimes broken world, grounded in an unconditional love for your audience. Nicole's drawings, in a similar way, removed as they are from the institutionalized trappings of the art world, are also islands of innocent enchantment. The two of you are, in this way, I believe, kindred spirits."

The New Victory arranged a meeting between Nicole and Bello where she gave him a copy of her drawing, Bello the Clown. We took a moment to interview her to learn more about her connection to Bello and what it was like to meet him!

How long have you been a fan of Bello's?
I'm 25 years old. I was nine years old when I saw Bello at the Big Apple Circus for the first time, at Cunningham Park, in Queens. The Big Apple Circus comes to Cunningham Park every Spring. It's less than a block from our house. The first time I saw him, he made me feel very happy. I loved him!

When did you first start going to the circus?
We started going to the circus when I was a little girl. We never missed a year. We've been to the circus at Cunningham Park, at Lincoln Center, and at Ringling Bros. We've also seen Cirque de Soleil on Randall's Island, and in Las Vegas. And, of course, we've seen many performances at the New Victory Theater. 
Nicole Meets Bello
Nicole Meets Bello!
Nicole Appel meets Bello after a performance of Bello Mania. She presents him with a custom piece of artwork!

What about Bello and his show is most interesting to you as a New Vic theatergoer? As an artist?
I've loved seeing him riding on his little bicycle, doing magic tricks, climbing chairs and poles. He's a very funny clown. He makes me laugh! 

Bello and his daughter perform together. My dad is an artist just like me. We love to draw together. It's great for dads and daughters to be able to work together. We're all artists and we love each other!

Can you tell us a little more about yourself?
I love running. I belong to The Alley Pond Strider running club. Four years ago, I ran the New York City Marathon. I enjoy camping and hiking. I've been camping and hiking in the Adirondacks, Anza Borrego, Death Valley, and Yosemite. This winter we're going camping in New Mexico near Moab. I also enjoy traveling very much. I've been to Paris and next Sunday we're going to Barcelona to visit a Spanish friend named Pilar. We'll visit the Dali Museum, the Picasso Museum, and the Miro Museum. It should be a lot of fun. I'm very excited!

Can you tell us more about your artwork?    
I do my artwork at an art studio in Brooklyn called the LAND Gallery. I go there three days a week. Since 2014 I've had lots shows at different places. I've had shows at The Outsider Art Fair for the past three years. Bello likes to make people happy. I do too! People like my artwork. I've sold many drawings since 2014. You can see my Bello the Clown drawing and some of my other drawings at the Land Gallery website.

How do you decide the focus/theme/subject of each piece you create?
I do my drawings as gifts for people I love. My drawings are about them. They show the things that they like. 

How long do you work on a piece, or when do you know that it's finished? What are you working on now?
Most of my drawings take about 6 weeks to do. But sometimes, a drawing can take a very long time…half a year or more. I know when it's finished when there's no more white space!

Right now I'm working on my Barcelona drawing. It shows paintings by Picasso, Dali, and Miro. They all lived in Barcelona. 

What was it like to meet Bello?
Bello is very handsome and kind. We hugged each other, he gave me a red rose and I gave him one too. I gave him a copy of the Circus Drawing that I did for him. I signed it, "Nicole loves Bello." He signed my drawing, "Bello loves Nicole." It made me feel very happy. I love Bello! He's the best clown in the world! I love The New Victory Theater too. It's the best theater in the world!

Bello Mania Icon Interested in getting inspired, just like Nicole? Check out The New Victory Theater’s Pinterest board to find exciting activities for the whole family!
Posted by Beth Henderson
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