NICOLE SIMMONS, ON TRAVELLING IN BULGARIA, NOT VISITING THE SAME PLACE TWICE AND COLLECTING ART

interview and photography by Anthony Georgieff

Nicole Simmons is the wife of Eric S. Rubin, who has been the US Ambassador to Bulgaria since February 2016.

Nicole Simmons.jpg

Nicole is also an epidemiologist and international health expert with 20 years of experience managing and developing technical assistance, training and research projects. She is currently a part-time faculty member in the Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, with a current project evaluating an early childhood development programme in Swaziland.

Nicole was born in New York City, but grew up largely in Minnesota and is now permanently resident in Washington, DC. She is a graduate of Harvard and Johns Hopkins University. In addition to her four resident postings overseas Nicole has extensive experience leading projects in Ethiopia and Bangladesh. She is proficient in Russian and Thai, has a working knowledge of French and hopes soon to attain proficiency in Bulgarian.

As a foreign service spouse Nicole has lived in Kiev, Chiang Mai, Thailand, and in Moscow. In all three previous posts she held full time positions working in US supported programs in international health and development, including health and social sector reform, HIV/AIDS and maternal and child health. Whilst in Chiang Mai and in Moscow she also focused on organising art exhibits and cultural outreach. She is very interested in the potential of art and cultural events to build bridges between the United States and other countries, and to generate debate on many different issues.

Nicole's interest in Bulgaria and things Bulgarian is intense. She has been receiving many guests from the United States and elsewhere, and she has always taken them to different places in Bulgaria because she doesn't want to visit the same place twice. "I love Sofia and Vitosha. I've been to Borovets and to Bansko, I've been to Kazanlak – to both the Rose Festival and the Thracian tombs. We've also been to Sozopol and Sveti Vlas on the Black Sea coast, to name just a few. We are planning to go fishing, then we'll visit Veliko Tarnovo for the Bulgarian Independence Day and we'll stay at Arbanasi. Our schedule is quite full."

Nicole's passion for the arts dates back to some of her earliest foreign postings when she started collecting local art. In this she was assisted by both her husband and her father, whom she describes as a serious collector. One of her main interests in Bulgaria is the Art in Embassy programme run by the US State Department, which aims to showcase the work of both living US and foreign artists and enhance dialogue between them. The programme was started in 1963 and it was President John F. Kennedy who formalised it by appointing its first director. At present, there are 200 exhibition halls and spaces throughout the world where the programme operates – usually in US embassies, residences and other related spaces. "There are curators at the State Department who work closely with the various ambassadors to select artwork to be loaned for a period of three years, "says Nicole. The State Department would then pay for the shipping.

As part of the programme, there is going to be a series of US-Bulgarian exhibitions the first of which already materialised in April-May 2017. On the US side the participants included noted artists H. K. Anne, Bascove, Noël Hudson, Michiko Itanani, Cindy Litchfield and Alex Katz, while on the Bulgarian side there were Hari Atanasov, Krasi Todorov, Selma Todorova, Marin Delimarinov and Petya Deneva. The theme of the exhibition was Expressive Landscapes.

Rhodope Morning

Rhodope Morning, 2009, Hari Atanasov

 

Cosmic Wanderlust

Cosmic Wanderlust, 2013, Michiko Itatani

 

Homeland

Homeland, 2011, Marin Delimarinov

  • COMMENTING RULES

    Commenting on www.vagabond.bg

    Vagabond Media Ltd requires you to submit a valid email to comment on www.vagabond.bg to secure that you are not a bot or a spammer. Learn more on how the company manages your personal information on our Privacy Policy. By filling the comment form you declare that you will not use www.vagabond.bg for the purpose of violating the laws of the Republic of Bulgaria. When commenting on www.vagabond.bg please observe some simple rules. You must avoid sexually explicit language and racist, vulgar, religiously intolerant or obscene comments aiming to insult Vagabond Media Ltd, other companies, countries, nationalities, confessions or authors of postings and/or other comments. Do not post spam. Write in English. Unsolicited commercial messages, obscene postings and personal attacks will be removed without notice. The comments will be moderated and may take some time to appear on www.vagabond.bg.

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.

Discover More

BUY ART, GIVE FUTURE TO A CHILD
The charity exhibition Buy Art, Give Future To a Child is a chance to buy top photography from some of Bulgaria's finest authors and to help disadvantaged children to realise their talents and potential.

IF THE NEW YORKER WERE A SOFIANER...
The New Yorker is an institution; a magazine bought and read by generations for its captivating and meticulously researched, fact-checked and proofread texts, the dry witticism of its cartoons and the illustrated covers that offer a visual commentary on bot

SINEMORETS 2023: THE FAMED VILLAGE SEEN THROUGH ARTISTS' EYES
Sinemorets, which name means "blue," is one of the most picturesque parts of the Bulgarian Black Sea cove: a rare combination of pristine beaches, impressive cliffs, a river and thick oak forests.

AN AMERICAN IN BG
We had visited Bulgaria briefly and loved the rich history of the country, the traditional culture still honored and close to the surface, the welcoming people we met, the Balkan cuisine and the wines of the countryside.

COMMUNIST BULGARIA GOES TO HUNGARY
Through vivid and at times poignant images Communist Bulgaria shows what has remained of this country's Communist material heritage.

MUMMERS & MORE
Yambol, in southeastern Bulgaria, has been a hub for various folk traditions for many centuries. Nowadays, alongside Pernik in western Bulgaria, it is thought of as one of Bulgaria's capitals of Kukeri, or mummers.

UNKNOWN GREECE, PHOTOGRAPHY EXHIBITION BY ANTHONY GEORGIEFF
Yet Greece is a lot more than the well-travelled destinations such as Cassandra and Kavala.

FRONTIERS BRINGS THE AMERICAN SOUTHWEST TO BULGARIA
The exhibition was organised with the support of the American Embassy in Sofia. Ambassador Eric Rubin opened the event, together with Amelia Gesheva, the deputy minister of culture.
FRONTIERS: THE AMERICAN SOUTHWEST
"There are many such places," he continues. "Every man, every woman, carries in heart and mind the image of the ideal place, the right place, the one true home, known or unknown, actual or visionary… For myself I'll take Moab, Utah.

JEWISH BULGARIA EXHIBITION IN SOFIA
The exhibition covers some of the mesmerising and atmospheric remains of Jewish heritage in Bulgaria: from the mosaics of a 2nd century synagogue in Plovdiv, to abandoned and crumbling synagogues and cemeteries, the only reminders of the Jewish presence in
MUMMERS, CATS AND CANARIES
For over 10 years Yambol, the city in southeastern Bulgaria, has been the host of a major street festival attended by dozens of groups of mummers from all over Bulgaria.

TIHOMIR STOYANOV
Photography has of course changed beyond recognition since the digital revolution.