The Real Change Portrait Project


Nick Maxwell

"Nick Maxwell" Marker & Pen by Travis Bundy
At 6’ 5”, with fire-hose-thick arms and a barrel chest, Nick Maxwell can nearly fill a room from floor to ceiling. His personality is equally commanding. At a recent city council hearing concerning a job assistance bill for former convicts, Nick’s testimony garnered a hearty round of applause. He was subsequently quoted in The Seattle Times, and the bill passed a few days later. “It was really exhilarating, man. I think I got my message across,” he said. Growing up in the Bronx in the 1960s undoubtedly shaped Nick’s gregarious nature. His mother, a Puerto Rican woman from Ponce, raised Nick and his brother by herself, but New York City had its own lessons. “I got to play with different types of people, kids from different ethnic backgrounds. We played stickball, had block parties in the street. I learned a lot.” Nick went on to complete two years at Syracuse University, but he still recognizes the importance of his upbringing. “There’s no education that school can teach you [that compares to] the things that I learned in New York.” While the city was an inspiration in itself, Nick received further influence from inside his own living room. From the first time he saw the sunny skies and palm trees of California projected from his TV screen, Nick knew he wanted to see the West Coast. Similarly, he grew up enamored with actors, especially on film. “I was fascinated with what they did, how they made fantasy become reality.” At age 25, with a passion for acting and a lifelong dream to bask in California sunshine, Nick made the cross-country trek from New York to Hollywood and pursued a fim career. He scored a minor role in a Tommy Lee Jones sci-fi flick, “Black Moon Rising,” and worked on other films and game shows as an extra. His time spent on sets meant that he learned a lot about how movies are made, but the glamour of California soon failed to live up to his expectations. In need of steady work, Nick moved north, eventually finding his way to Seattle in 1987.

Like New York, Seattle offered that big-city atmosphere, plenty of things to do and opportunity for employment. Nick found work as a dishwasher and prep cook at restaurants and did manual labor through temp agencies. Every once in a while, he’d notice someone standing on the street, selling a newspaper to passersby. But it wasn’t until 2011 that he approached one of them and inquired as to what they were doing. “The rest is history,” Nick said. Now, after a brief sabbatical in which he attended an acting workshop offered to him by a Real Change reader, Nick is selling the paper at the Bartell Drugs on Fifth and Olive and reconnecting with some of his old customers. Things have changed a bit since he last sold the paper, but he thinks they are for the best. “If I didn’t believe in this paper I wouldn’t sell it, number one. I really consider Real Change a family. I take it as that; I also take this as a job.” And Nick’s customers — or as he calls them, his “public” — await.

Artist: Travis Bundy
Travis Bundy is from Tacoma, now living in Auburn. He is the creator of the critically acclaimed comic book "Jeff" and is the Artistic Director and Submissions Director for Creator's Edge Press, an independent comic company based in Puyallup. His website is

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