Alumni Profile: Jasmine (Tompkins) Nikole ’06

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Alumni Profile: Jasmine (Tompkins) Nikole ’06
Jasmine Nikole Foote Class of 2006

Art is the connective tissue that binds all other facets of life. It is an educator, a healer, a diplomat, and an activist. It is at once deeply personal and universal. It is both an escape and a grounding force. Jasmine (Tompkins) Nikole ’06 knows this to be true.  

An engineer, an educator, and entrepreneur — among many other roles — Jasmine determinedly keeps her creative side active. During the pandemic she took the leap to become a full-time artist. It’s meant hard work, and requires her to make tough choices, but the rewards far outweigh any reservations she might have had.

The Early Years

From her earliest days, Jasmine knew in her heart that she was an artist. Instead of toys, she asked her parents for art supplies so she could hone her craft at home. A 5-year-old asking for paper and paint made sense to them, too — they come from a long line of distinguished artists.

“We are all creators,” Jasmine explained. “We’re writers, singers, photographers, graphic designers, painters, and musicians — on both sides of the family.”

Her grandmother and her great-grandfather were artists whose museum-quality paintings were displayed in prestigious institutions. Though Jasmine never had the opportunity to meet them — or even view their works, as they have been lost to time — she carries with her the inspiring stories that have been passed down: how her grandmother’s works were purportedly displayed at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, or how, when her great-grandfather became paralyzed, he used painting as a means of healing.

Jasmine, who is primarily a painter, can relate to that. She’s been able to use her craft to unite communities, provide a space for healing, and encourage others to embrace their authenticity.

When Jasmine came to Foote in second grade, she brought with her a talent for creating — not just works of art, but community. She immersed herself in all Foote had to offer, and stayed through 9th grade, so she could experience the China trip, and enjoy more time with her tight-knit classmates.

“We had really strong bonds,” she laughed.

She also took advantage of the varied art classes, media, and techniques that are still endemic in the Foote curriculum.

“I think the art program [at Foote] really shaped me and exposed me to the tools and skills that I use today and every day,” she said. For example, when someone asks her if she’s ever worked with clay, or sculpted stones, she can nod confidently. “The different media that I was exposed to at Foote just opens my eyes and makes me want to explore it more as an artist now.”

Applied Science and Math

Jasmine left Foote for Sacred Heart Academy, bringing with her not just her artistic aptitude (and renowned dance skills) but a penchant for science and math that led her to Rochester Institute of Technology for an engineering degree. Like the student herself, this degree was about substance and style. RIT is one of just nine institutions that offers an undergraduate degree in Packaging Science. The degree addresses the practical: how are packages designed for sustainability, shipment, and cost-effectiveness? It also addresses the aesthetic: how do products look when they’re in the package and on the shelf?

While she worked toward this career, she also got heavily involved in all aspects of college life: mentoring, community health coaching, gospel choir, student clubs, government, and dozens of other activities. Yet Jasmine never lost touch with her artwork.

“It’s always a part of me,” she said. She would carve out time about once a year to do some form of art just for herself. She was also frequently commissioned to create works for others, from portraits to wall murals (continuing the business she’d started in middle school).

After college she moved back to Connecticut, taking a job at Unilever, where she was a packaging engineer for Dove’s, St. Ives, Vaseline, Fisher Price, Conair, and more. She was also seeking out new ways to connect with her community. Again, art was the answer. She opened a paint-and-sip spot and found that while it was a way to connect people with each other, it was also a way to connect people to themselves.

“Not only was I instructing a painting session, I was also leading self-fulfillment workshops in the middle of the session. Guests were leaving with new connections to the other people around them, and a better understanding of themselves and what they want to do in the future. That’s where the healing in communities comes in as well,” she reflected.

Up until then, she hadn’t seriously considered art as a career — while it’s true her family are all talented artists, “art was never looked at as a means of living,” she explained. After the pandemic hit, she began to reconsider how she was spending her time and talent. Shortly after she gave birth to her son, she found herself working from home and wondering why she wasn’t putting more of her energy into her artwork. She began to split her professional time between engineering and her artwork. By the time her daughter arrived, there was no question about what she wanted to do. She left engineering behind and put all her energy into growing her art business. 

While it isn’t always easy — she can’t always say yes to every project she’d like to take on, and finding childcare in the moment is always tough — she does not second-guess her decision.

“It absolutely was the right decision. I have no doubt,” she said. “I’m able to spend those moments, every single day, with my kids. I’m grateful for that.”

Artwork from Jasmine Nikole

Seeing People

Today Jasmine’s business, Jasmine Nikole Art Studio, is flourishing. Her website (beautifully designed by her sister, graphic designer Tiara ((Tompkins)) McKnight ’09) abounds with stunning portraits and vibrant nature-inspired scenes. It’s alive with the same energy and passion that Jasmine exudes.

Portraits are her specialty, and “seeing people” is her priority. There were so many times in her own experience when she felt she wasn’t seen, and she never wants anyone else to feel that way.

“I think this is a world where everybody is a number or a statistic, and it’s been that way for a long time. … I always want to make people aware: ‘Hey, I see you. I see what you’re doing. I recognize you. I see your strength, but more importantly, I want you to see your own strength,’” she emphasized.

This summer Jasmine brought this mentality with her into the classroom as part of Horizons at Foote’s summer program. She taught art to grades K–8, and forged a special connection with the middle school students.

“They can get so lost in their friend groups, they feel like they’ve lost their individuality,” she said.

One day she asked 7th grade students to take a piece of paper and first write down what others think about who they are. Next, she asked them to write down who they think they are. “Who are you?” she pointedly asked. After making their two lists, she told the students to tear up their first list.

“Everything on that page, good or bad, none of it matters. The only thing that matters is what you say about yourself,” she told them.

She then asked them to write down what they want to be — who they want to be — not when they “grow up,” but now.

“What steps are you taking to be that person?” she asked them. “The future is now. It doesn’t happen magically one day.” The exercise was transformative, particularly for the students who originally seemed closed off during her class. “After that they really started to open up.”

During the pandemic, Jasmine began to ask herself those same questions: “Who am I? What am I really doing?”

“I began to think, ‘Now is a good time.’ We were hit with a pandemic so you were faced with yourself. To be recognized and feel seen and be able to relate to others is very important in reconnecting after that solitude,” she said.

Yet in some ways, she said, that way of thinking really started during her time as a student at Foote.

“I think Foote exposed me to a world that I would not have been exposed to,” she explained. “[For example], respecting others is something that my family taught me, but at Foote I was able to practice it.”

Last spring, she invited the Foote kindergarten classes to her exhibit at Creative Arts Workshop: “Freedom Dreams.” It’s her favorite series, and cemented her decision to become a professional artist.

She explained, “Telling stories is very important and that particular series sent me on the path that I’m on right now, mentally, spiritually, and physically. The story behind it is that we have to strip away the technology and social norms now to achieve true freedom, which is living off of the earth and being close to nature.”

To view and/or purchase her work, visit

Save the Date: Nov. 10

For one night only, Jasmine will host an exhibit at NXTHVN: “She’s Gotta Have It: An Icon Art Gallery Showcase” 

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    Since 1916, The Foote School has provided child-centered education that nurtures creativity, excellence and joy in learning.