And now for something completely different

Nick Wilkins has been putting smiles on faces for decades with lessons learned from his schooling at clown college in Venice, FL. It’s easy to enjoy the animated face paint, colorful costumes, and clever tricks he teaches the students, but it goes much deeper when you sit and observe his class for a day. Sitting in a room with 14 enthusiastic students, Nick said, “We don’t use that word in here” as he motioned to the whiteboard spelling “can’t” with a large cross mark over it. “Because of the ‘can’ mentality, I taught six students to juggle in 10 minutes,” he proudly stated.

It is clear Nick’s “can do” outlook has infiltrated the class. At the beginning of each day, students walk in and eagerly begin working on their juggling skills. Every open area in the room is filled with a student working with bean bags, rings, scarves, balls, devil’s sticks, and diablos to master their skills.  “I love your enthusiasm” and “You’re awesome” are common comments Nick uses to encourage his students.

When asked what he likes most about the class, Nolan R. said, “It’s fun. We spend time doing things you don’t do in other classes. We do physical activities; we’re going to do stilts!”

A sense of anticipation and excitement filled the room as eager hands went up to volunteer to be the next one to receive a clown face painting. Random selection determined Nate D. to be the lucky one. Nick asked Nate, “White or character?” Nate enthusiastically said “White!” and the clown face style was confirmed. Nick informed the class that white face is the fastest face painting to do. When he began at Ringling Brothers, face painting took him an hour and forty minutes every day, but he eventually got it down to 40 minutes to put his face on and only 5 minutes to remove with some cold cream.

Nate carefully selected black lips and the style of mouth he preferred along with his nose color of red. When asked how he felt with his face completed, Nate said, “I feel like no one is going to take me seriously today, and I’m fine with that.”