Baking for Social Justice
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, many of us turned to new hobbies and creative outlets to cope with isolation and social distancing. Art and Design alumna and artist Danielle Likvan Swanson (BFA Industrial Design ’04) decided to up her baking game. Danielle grew up baking with her mother and grandmother and has recently prioritized incorporating her Slovakian and Norwegian heritage into her cooking. As the country shut down, Danielle began using Instagram as an educational platform to learn more advanced techniques and baking skills. For Danielle, baking became a therapeutic activity that really helped her work through some of the feelings that the pandemic induced in all of us. She was eager to share her newfound skills and culinary artistry with friends and family online. The reaction was very heartening.
Over time Danielle started getting requests to order baked goods and many encouraged her to open her own bakery. Baking for Danielle was a way to express herself creatively at a time when she needed it most. As an artist, full-time employee, and mother of two, she wasn’t looking to start her own business. Danielle considered other options, “With the uptick in social justice movements at the time, I thought, how can I get my baked goods to people while also getting the word out about social issues?” And with this, the idea of Nielle Bakes began to come to fruition.
The main goal of @niellebakes, Danielle’s Instagram page, is to raise money for charities. Each month, her followers and their friends are asked to donate $20 or more to a charity that fits within that month’s theme. Each donor is then entered into the donation drive for that month for the chance to be selected at random to receive a fresh-baked, vacuum-sealed treat mailed directly to their doorstep from Danielle’s kitchen in Colorado. Donation drive themes sometimes coincide with national awareness months such as Black History in February and LGBTQ+ Pride in June. In 2021 alone, Nielle Bakes supported 82 different charities and raised $9,010 from 150 individual donors. By supporting non-profit organizations such as the Redhawk Native American Arts Council, The Trevor Project, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness, to name a few, @niellebakes is raising awareness of critical social justice issues.
Danielle also opened her custom fine arts gallery, Likvan Creative, online in March of last year. Danielle’s work ranges in mediums from acrylic, watercolor, and colored pencil to embroidery and LEGO. Her creative and entrepreneurial spirit was sparked in 2021 after the passing of her dog and entering another year of pandemic life. She started with projects related to her dog who passed in January 2021, and the demand for memorial portraits from her friends was high. She then started on personal projects and received a number of custom requests throughout the year. In 2022 she plans to focus on ready-to-purchase pieces and prints as well as playing with different sizes. Danielle has plans for an extra-large custom canvas painting to be sent to a collector in Japan, plus some mini work. Her current series, Escaping Nostalgia, will be getting more pieces added this year as well.