A memorial fund in Louie Nicoletti’s honor has helped several students with their dreams of becoming an artist.
Now, a few years following his death, Pittsburg State University students’ artwork was put on display alongside Nicoletti’s on Saturday during the Columbus Day celebrations in Columbus.
The special reception and gallery was presented at the Maple UnCommon Guest House and Gallery in Columbus. According to Patti Nicoletti-Johnson, Nicoletti’s daughter, it was the owner of the guest house, Laura Lowry-Greene, who came up with the idea to honor Nicoletti’s legacy.
“It was Laura’s idea and Laura’s drive that made this all happen and she is the one who named it Louie’s Legacy,” Nicoletti-Johnson said.
Nicoletti, raised in the Arma area, had a passion for art, his daughter Patti Nicoletti-Johnson said.
According to his daughter, at 18-years-old Nicoletti won a contest and was offered a scholarship to attend the “prestigious Art Institute of Chicago” but due to family circumstances, he was unable to attend, she said.
Instead, Nicoletti worked in Chicago for American Forge and helped his family. During a trip back to southeast Kansas, he met nursing student Mona, who would later become his wife.
Nicoletti ended up moving to Columbus where he owned and operated Louis’ Grocery of Columbus and where he also raised his children.
For 42 years, the couple ran a grocery store, his daughter said, and he didn’t know a stranger.
“My dad really put art on the backburner and it wasn’t until later in life where he started making things again,” Nicoletti-Johnson said.
He made several pieces of art for his children and grandchildren including life sized Disney characters during Christmas time.
Nicoletti was killed in a tragic accident in 2013. During his funeral his grandson Drew Johnson announced a surprise to his family, he had established the Louie Nicoletti Memorial Art Scholarship in his grandfather’s honor at Pittsburg State University.
Since then, several scholarships have been granted to PSU students. Among them are Jenna Spencer, 2015 recipient, Joshua Kukowski, 2017 and 2018 recipient and Jewell Schroeder, 2019 recipient.
“It’s really great to be part of this show and honor Louie,” Spencer said. “It’s kind of a way of thanking him, really.”