Maker Profile: Carrie Boucher

Carrie Boucher’s Nomad Art Bus is changing lives, one t-shirt at a time.

When Tampa Bay native Carrie Boucher returned home from art school in Chicago, she made her way in part by teaching art in the public school system. But she got frustrated by how low a priority art sometimes seemed – her classes would be canceled for standardized test prep sessions, or troubled students would be pulled out as a form of punishment.

To Boucher (pronounced, in the French style, boo-SHAY), that seemed silly, since art was so valuable for the most troubled students. “Art would give them another avenue to explore. [And] a lot of time the kids who were being pulled out were the kids whose families wouldn’t have the resources to seek out extracurricular art activities.”

Eventually, she decided that she could reach more kids if she were mobile, instead of stuck in a classroom. She’d seen the Bluebird Books Bus, a mobile library started by Creative Pinellas Executive Director Mitzi Gordon – and she ran with the example.

“I put it on the bus so that we could go into the neighborhoods and reach people.”

A little over a year later, Carrie devotes herself full-time to the Nomad Art Bus – a full-length bus, packed with art supplies and kid-sized work surfaces. The bus travels between schools, festivals, organizations, and events around the Bay Area, giving kids a chance to get in touch with their creativity. Nomad provides after-school enrichment at underperforming schools and art therapy for recovery programs, while taking time to drop in at events like Localtopia, Pops in the Park, and First Night.

For Boucher, dedication to the Nomad has meant working hard and living a leaner lifestyle. She’s constantly developing funding sources and partnerships, but also teaches private metalworking workshops on the side when she needs to. “There’s often such a big gap between what we do for money, and what we do to make our lives better . . . I’m kept alive by the generosity of other people. I have an amazing network of people who want me to keep doing what I’m doing.”

T-shirts are one way people support Nomad’s mission. At first Boucher provided them strictly to volunteers, but people liked them so much she started selling them. “People want to support what you’re doing, but they want to walk away with something, too.” Boucher designed the funky ‘seal’ design herself, at first putting it on kids’ shirts – but it wasn’t long before adults clamored for it.

Carrie hopes St. Pete Threads will help make Nomad’s merchandise more accessible – while making sure plenty of the revenue returns to Nomad. “The exposure is going to be so much more,” she says. “We have [shirts] on our little tiny website, and at events,” but as the name implies, it’s tough to find Nomad in the same place twice. “It’ll be nice to have a place where I can send people . . . if someone got one, and wanted one for a friend, they’d know where to go.”

You can pick up a Nomad Art Bus t-shirt right here – it’s a great design, supporting a great cause.