Nick Burns uses vibrant colors to create relevant art. Photo by Will Crooks.

For Greenville native Nick Burns, creating art is an act of bravery. He teaches this creative bravery to his son and his students at Let’s Dance Studio in Mauldin, where he’s taught for 12 years.

“I try to show that … just to get a whole different look in terms of what makes a black man strong,” Burns says.

Brute or aggression does not show masculinity, he says. “Sometimes, it’s just in being brave enough to take a brush and just stroke. That’s where it’s more power for me.”

Calling himself a makeshift artist, Burns uses materials around him to create vibrant art. “Sometimes it’s with a can, sometimes it’s with a pencil, but I’d say it’s more freedom abstract,” he says.

Whether it be caricatures, graffiti, graphic design, murals, or choreography, Burns says he wants his talent to point away from him. His artist tag, Ninja Picasso, plays off that humility.

“I like to create works silently to let it speak for itself,” he says. “I honestly just want [my viewers] to see whatever gifts that I bring or show that it’s not from me and it’s all God-given.”

Burns offers a program called Streetlightx Creative Arts to kids who can’t afford dance classes. There, he teaches hip-hop dance as well as graffiti. “I try to use my gifts to serve the community, which is why I’m here.”

Black History Month gives Burns an opportunity to highlight others. “I can make a mark, and it be relevant,” he says. “I really feel like beyond skin color, beyond limitations, you can inspire, you can make an impact, and you can reach out to people.”

In the Greenville art scene, Burns feels a lack of acceptance toward new artists. “I would love to see us just relax a little bit and give other artists a chance to show their light to inspire more people,” he says.

Burns’ work can be seen on Instagram @theninjapicasso.

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