At six years old, it was already obvious that Ashley Daramola was artistically talented. At that time, the principal and art teacher of her southwest Atlanta elementary school pulled her out of class and encouraged her to follow her love of art. “You are talented,” her art teacher said. “Don’t let people talk you out of following this!” As Ashley got older, however, that is exactly what happened. The pressure to get a “real job” overtook her, and she dropped out of Georgia State where she was pursuing an art degree to look for a career that would be more financially stable.
At that point, Ashely set art aside for 12 years to pursue other things. During this time, she worked with young people, and her eyes were opened to needs in the mental health field. Through this, she began working with organizations that helped women and children coming out of the sex trade. It was through this work that her love and calling to art was rekindled.
Ashley says, “I met a woman through my work who was a talented artist, and I encouraged her to follow her passion and gifting in art. Her response to me was, ‘Ashley, we appreciate all you do for us here, but you’re not using your artistic gifts. You should follow your gifting in art, too.’” This woman was one of the last she worked with in that field as the call to take up her passion for art was revitalized.
It was during this time of decision that Ashley felt God leading her to trust Him fully with these pursuits. “I was at the beach, and God really spoke to me about His vastness and all the things He had for me in life.” She knew it was time to step out, leave her job, and follow His leading.
“It was 2016,” Ashley explains. “I had about $50 to my name and was living out of my car and sleeping on friends’ couches for three to six months, but I knew this is what I was being led to do. I had to totally rely on God for absolutely everything just to survive.”
Ashley knew that she had to use her strengths not only in art, but also in problem solving to build a company to fund her art career. She used what little money she had to buy paint, and a friend paid her $150 to paint a mural. That was just the beginning. She began giving “sip and paint” parties where people would pay to create artwork while they socialized. The pictures below are from sip and paint parties in Ashley's old studio.
Along with the sip and paint parties, she painted murals for businesses, schools, community organizations, and city governments. She also had unique artistic opportunities such as a partnership with JCrew in Perimeter Mall where she painted on customer’s denim jeans and also sold her artwork.
With the summer of 2019, a big change has come in Ashley’s business. She was given the opportunity to open her own art studio in the East Point area of Atlanta. “Some developers wanted me to open a studio in this area and have provided me with free rent and build outs for the space. I’ve even gotten to design it.”
On June 28, 2019, ArtzyBella studio, the name of Ashley’s business, had an official ribbon cutting, and on July 1, she opened the studio for business.
In this space, Ashley will continue to host art parties and DIY workshops but also meet with commissioned clients and even rent the space out for events. “This space is dedicated to meaningful partnerships with local schools, educators, student artists, mental health agencies, and anti-sex trafficking organizations,” she says.
The ArtzyBella studio is all about the production of beautiful works of art for a variety of purposes, but, due to her work in the mental health profession, Ashley also understands the healing and calming power of art. Therapeutic approaches to art are taught to customers to help relieve stress through visual stimulation so they feel empowered to live creatively. The studio also offers art-based services to help people experience calming and aid in creative problem solving.
A group that can especially benefit from the therapeutic benefits of art are those who serve the public, and Ashley knows first hand the stresses those in these professions face. “Social workers, mental health professionals, educators, police officers, fire fighters, and military are often overworked and underpaid. Because of that, we provide a 15% discount to any public service worker or agency who can provide proof of their credentials.”
Another major emphasis of Artzybella’s efforts to make a positive social impact is its Teacher’s Aide Program. Ashley knows from her own school experiences that many schools don’t have the resources to provide art resources or even supplies. Through this outreach effort, Ashley hopes to infuse art and creative projects into academic curriculums that teachers can use in the classroom. Ashley knows from her career in social services that, not only does art foster creative critical thinking in children and helps them become more academically successful, but it also helps children process trauma.
Because of her passion for the healing power of art, Ashley is planning to pursue her PhD in art therapy. With this degree she hopes to develop programs and help communities make decisions that will bring about social and emotional benefits of promoting art in those communities and schools. “A long-term goal is to have a model than can work in schools across the globe to show how art can be used to better students holistically. I also want to show school systems how art can increase academic performance.”
Ashley’s entire personal journey has been both a professional and spiritual fresh path. She points to God’s provision and grace throughout the whole process. “God loves me so much! He has surrounded me with people who are strong in the Lord and speak into my life. It is amazing go from just hearing how great God is and how He wants to provide for me to experiencing it!”