Tyler Thrasher is an artist, scientist, husband, father, and popular influencer on social media. His profound impact on fundraising has only occurred with the help of his followers and he continues to be humbled by their support. To date, his fundraising initiatives have raised over $75,000! That money was distributed to several key causes focused on the Black Lives Matter Movement including distribution of over 400 science kits to Black kids during quarantine. He is passionate about his work and acknowledges that he has reached his level of success only through hard work and plenty of pivots along the way.
Nancy: Tell us about yourself:
Tyler: I grew up in Tulsa and attended Booker T. Washington High School. I’m happily married to my wife, Molly, who is a photographer and together, we have one son, Nova.
Nancy: How did you get into art?
Tyler: I grew up with artists in my life. When I was younger, I remember watching my dad as he sketched. I fell into art during high school. There was an art teacher at Booker T. Washington, Jennifer Brown, who happened to be walking by me one day as I was sitting in the hallway sketching. She noticed my drawings and suggested that I take her class. She actually had my schedule changed to include her art class. She believed in me. I would say that I became an artist in high school. I remember thinking that I was going to do art for a living no matter what. I owe her a lot for believing in me.
Nancy: Did you feel like your parents were supportive of art?
Tyler: Yes, absolutely. My parents were so supportive of me being creative. They didn’t discourage me and actually encouraged me in my art.
Nancy: You have your hand in art, science and horticulture. The combination of mad scientist and artist is extremely unique. How did that come about?
Tyler: I’ve always been a wildly creative person. Always making observations and recording them. I am also full-on chaos. I look at the world as art and combine the free-flowing with the analytical. I came to it naturally.
When I was younger, my dad owned a plant nursery and he took me to work on the weekends. I had 8-10 massive hoop houses where I could explore. I had all these plants and nature around me. I looked forward to going and turned the green houses into an adventure where I spent countless hours hiding among the plants and peeked out an employees and customers. At one point, we also lived in a little living quarters in the green house. It was a unique experience that not many people get to have. I loved it and really found my love of plants and horticulture during that time. I was interested in making observations in nature at a young age.
Nancy: Knowing what you know now, what would you tell your younger self?
Tyler: We live in a world where anything is possible. There are people making a living doing any and all things. Whatever you want to do, you can do it. No matter what you can think of, you can do it. There are no rules – people think there are certain rules, but there are no rules. The best thing you can do is take the first step and be ok with adjusting your plans to get to your end point. You will get there! Whatever you’re thinking of isn’t that crazy, you just have to be willing to do the work.
Nancy: How did you start working in conjunction with STEMcell Science Shop in Tulsa?
Tyler: The owners, Terry and Jess Mudge, are good friends of ours. I have a lab and artist studio in the back of their shop where I am able to work on my art that combines with science. I think what I do speaks to children and adults. Kids are full of curiosity and excitement and love the crystalized insects. My hands are deep into combining art and science. After meeting people at my art shows who bring their kids to meet me, I have learned that they need to see Black artists and scientists doing what they love.
Nancy: What was quarantine like for you?
Tyler: Quarantine has been an interesting time for everyone. I observed that people were spending more time at home and realized they needed more art for their walls. Some of the best sales I have had during my career occurred during quarantine. At the same time, I noticed the call for a little more initiative and more action towards social outreach and creative outreach. That attention helped me shift my focus – knowing I can do so much good – to a fundraising initiative to support the BLM Movement. I believe it’s easy to do good if you have all the ingredients – my theory is: if you don’t do good, what good are you?
Nancy: Can you tell us about the amount of money you raised and some of the programs where it was donated?
Tyler: At first, I was turning art and science into a creative community outreach by making science kits in my lab at STEMcell Science Store and giving them to Black kids and their families during quarantine.
Then, in order to raise more money, I designed and sold a t-shirt with the goal of raising $5,000 to help the Bail Project; an organization that pays for the bail of protestors during the Black Lives Matter Protests. My followers blew me away with their support – we raised $5,000 in about 20 minutes and $75, 000 in about two and a half days. I was able to put that money towards many worthwhile organizations.
We ended up donating $20,000 to the Bail Project, along with money to the Loveland Foundation (gives Black women access to counselors and therapy), Terrance Crutcher Foundation and Black Artist Collective called Black Moon.
Nancy: Relevant to the Black Lives Matter Movement, what was your experience like growing up in a dominantly white culture?
Tyler: I grew up with a white dad who talked with me about how to act in certain situations – warnings that I still think about everyday.
My first experience with racism was in elementary school in the fifth grade. I opened up my history book and I remember the first image I saw was a Black man hanging in a tree. As a kid early on, I learned there were definite threats. After that, I just had to acclimate. I didn’t experience active racism until I went to college in Springfield, Missouri. One thing I didn’t learn about was the Tulsa Race Massacre. That was a hard thing to digest. Currently, there is a lot of activism and pride, hope and change that I can see happening in Tulsa.
Nancy: What is your current perspective of raising your son, Nova, in Tulsa?
Tyler: I believe wholeheartedly in change. It is uncomfortable, it is hard and it is yucky but it is necessary. I remain fully optimistic in the future.
Nancy: What’s next for you?
Tyler: I am starting a group called the “Do-Good Gang” for people who want to collectively enjoy art and do some good in the process.
Check out this local artist and find out ways to purchase items and/or make donations that will do more good at www.tylerthrasherart.com and Instagram: @TylerThrasherArt