Pro athletes sponsoring artists

The following is an open letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Dear Commissioner Goodell:

I’ve been a football fan most of my life, collecting trading cards as early as third grade. I’ve also been a creative and artistic person since a similarly young age. It’s in this context that I’ve recently pondered how to begin a partnership between the arts and the NFL. To my knowledge, nothing of the kind exists at the moment.

The idea, the potential partnership, pairs up athletes and artists. In its simplest form it would look like individual athletes awarding grants to artists of their choice, or sponsoring an artist for a period of time. Artists would submit portfolios or plans for a specific project, and football players would subsequently choose a portfolio or project that interested them. Ideally, the grant or sponsorship would go through a board and/or nonprofit. Participation would be voluntary.

One of the goals of the program would be to encourage athletes to support artists in their home states, to spur on the arts and artists in more rural locations, locations closer to the hometown culture of many NFL players (although this would not be a stipulation). For instance, Danny Woodhead spies a Nebraska painter’s portfolio that he appreciates, or Chris Cooley might want to help out a fellow Utah potter with a grant to set up a new ceramics studio.

As poet Kathleen Norris points out in her book Dakota: A Spiritual Geography, the arts help preserve culture and subculture. Finding writers and sculptors and painters working amidst rural cultures is often difficult. Their numbers and resources are scant in comparison to those working in metropolitan places.

Do you think this is something the NFL and its players might be interested in helping bring into being?


Paul Nielsen

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About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at

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