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Nikki Giraffo

Co-Founder & Director of Programming

Nikki Giraffo, originally from New Jersey currently resides in the Western Avenue artist community of Lowell, MA. She received her Bachelors in Fine Arts from Alfred University and her Masters in the Arts of Teaching through Tufts University.

As an artist Nikki specializes in large-scale mural work, painting, and collage. Her technical approach is based in experimentation with unconventional materials and alternative collage processes.

As an educator and co-founder of Refuge, Nikki has taught art in a variety of settings from residential programs to Advanced Placement level high school art.

In her last 8 years of teaching, she 

has mentored upwards of 500 

students and 68 have pursued college education in art related fields as well as architecture. Her teaching style tailors to the individual through differentiated instruction, encouraging young artists to find confidence in their own artistic voice.


Check out her artist page at:

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4 Nichols

Co-Founder & "Build Something" Director

4 Nichols was born in Gloucester, Massachusetts and has spent most of his life traveling the globe.  He is a veteran, a practicing installation artist, as well as a woodworker. He is an advocate for the Natural Sciences and holds a Bachelor's Degree in Environmental Geology from Salem State University.


Sustainable design, planning, and utilization of reclaimed materials are often the focus of his projects.  With prior experience as a certified instructor in the United States Air Force and nearly a decade of crafting experience, he prefers a straight-forward, hands-on approach to any projects that he leads.


As a co-founder of Refuge and a mentor through the Mural Crew program, 4 is a strong advocate of critical thinking, positive youth engagement, and individualized artistic expression.   

Check out his personal page at:

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Julia D'Angelo

 Mural/Community Projects Coordinator

As an artist, a teacher, and as a writer, Julia works to balance beautiful, natural, and satirical elements in her practice. She continues to strengthen her art making with a deepening appreciation for intuitive design, character development, and funny little things. She finds new inspiration through teaching, writing, and process oriented creation.


Julia studied studio art and digital media at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY. She became a certified Visual Art Instructor through Massachusetts College of Art and Design and is currently a full time teacher. She is pursuing a Masters in Curriculum and Design as well as ESL certification at Fitchburg State College.


Check out her artist page at:

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Courtney Wilson

Portfolio Development Specialist

Courtney Wilson, a recent graduate of Endicott College earning BFA with a concentration in Art Therapy and a minor in Graphic Design, works as an instructor at Refuge Lowell. As a working artist and designer, Courtney is constantly drawn to creative solutions and ways to reimagine. 


Courtney is a mixed media contemporary artist inspired by the high impressionistic style and the illusion of light reflected on surface. She enjoys the juxtaposition of abstraction vs. realism in art and explores the different boundaries it can offer. In fine arts, she specializes in painting, charcoal, and graphite. Courtney is drawn to different material usage because each can provide a different element to the surface and collaborate to a finished product. 


Courtney is a former student of Nikki Giraffo's from Central Catholic High School '12. Courtney and Nikki have been working together at Refuge since '15.


Check out her artist page at:

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Stephanie Cabrera

Photography & Fashion Design Specialist

Stephanie Cabrera (b. 1994) is Greater Boston based photographer and designer. She received a BFA in Photography with a minor in Fashion Design at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Her work focuses on family history, and the cultural dualities of being first generation Latin American in the USA. The themes of immigration and displacement are subjects that often appear in Stephanie's work. 


Her approach to image making combines the digital photograph, text, and appropriated imagery. She enjoys to explore narratives and how photography can exist both as an individual image and in book form. 


Stephanie has worked in a variety of styles such as fine art, weddings, and product photography. She has been part of the Refuge team since December 2017 as a teacher’s assistant to Nikki Giraffo, and has documented Refuge student’s portfolio work for college application. 

Stephanie is a former student of Nikki Giraffo from Central Catholic High School '12. 

Check out her artist page at:


Andy Comeau

Portfolio Development Specialist

Andy Comeau received his Bachelors of Fine Arts in Painting from the Massachusetts College Of Art and Design. He is currently completing his Master of Arts in Teaching in Art Education at Tufts University in affiliation with the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. 

Andy enjoys spending time in his studio creating paintings, drawings, and mixed media works. His current body of work explores how traumatic experiences influence and change the ways in which the mind works and how one creates.


Andy is a former student of Nikki Giraffo from Central Catholic High School '12.  

Check out his artist page at:

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Crystal Montas

Illustration Specialist 

Crystal Montas is a designer and illustrator living in the Boston Area. As a designer, she takes on the challenge of analyzing architectural drawings from the perspective of a client to make drawings graphically easy to read and analyze.


As an illustrator she takes a similar approach in striving to translate the concepts and intentions of her illustrations from her mind onto paper. Her choice inspirations for her art center around her interests, including: plants, birds and various animals, video games, animated shows and movies, as well as fairytales. She seeks to take inspiration from both art and design so that her sources of inspiration stay varied.

Crystal has a Master’s Degree in Architecture from Wentworth Institute of Technology, and is on the journey of becoming a licensed architect. She has been a part of the refuge team since 2019. 


Crystal is a former student of Nikki Giraffo from Central Catholic High School ’12.

Check out her artist page at: