With their plans to transform Peoria’s old Greeley School into a community arts center, Jonathon and Nikki Romain are a hard-working, dynamic force to be reckoned with. A graduate of Bradley University, Jonathon is a nationally-known artist and entrepreneur whose work has been showcased on television and in museums, galleries and exhibitions across the country. He is also a prolific motivational speaker—sharing his remarkable, against-all-odds journey from a 15-year prison sentence to the top of his field in order to inspire others to achieve greatness.
A graduate of Columbia College Chicago, Nikki Romain is a multi-talented singer, actress and performer—a veteran of musicals and theatrical productions across the country, from Godspell to The Wiz to Steel Magnolias and more. She also wrote, produced and played in Lost and Found, her one-woman show, which tells the story of how the arts saved her life. After setting aside her own creative projects to focus on raising their child, Nikki is now serving as executive director of ART, Inc. (Artists ReEnvisioning Tomorrow), the nonprofit organization she and her husband founded to nurture Peoria’s vibrant arts community and guide youth toward a positive and constructive future.
- What was your first job? Jonathon: Working construction at the age of 12 for $50 a week. Nikki: Retail for Contempo Casuals in Fox Valley Mall.
- What song always makes you happy when you hear it? Jonathon: Donny Hathaway “A Song For You.” Nikki: Whitney Houston ”You Give Good Love.”
- Proudest moment/achievement: Jonathon: Graduating from Bradley. Nikki: Writing and performing my one-woman show.
- Greatest fear: Jonathon: Waking up one day and wondering, what if? Nikki: Getting Alzheimer’s and forgetting my loved ones.
- Three things I’d want on a deserted island: Jonathon: oil paints, canvases and paint thinner. Nikki: My iPad filled with music, podcasts and Audible; a notebook for journaling; and a pen to write with.
- What’s your idea of perfect happiness? Jonathon: Living in a world where people treat each other with consideration. Nikki: Living in a world where race and class are not used to demean one another... Oh, and the cost of flying is equal to buying a bottle of water.
- What is your most treasured possession? Jonathon: My wife and children. Nikki: Jonathon, my husband, and Kennedy, my daughter. Wait, people aren’t possessions, are they?
- Who are your favorite writers? Jonathon: Alexandre Dumas, Richard Wright, Toni Morrison and Alex Haley. Nikki: Sarah Jones, Paulo Coehlo, Tananarive Due and Suzan-Lori Parks.
- What are your quirky habits? Jonathon: I like to bust out with a freestyle rap that usually sounds horrific. Nikki: I flow in and out of various accents in any given conversation.
- What would you do with a million dollars? Both: Create a community art center. a&s