When Ashli Ognelodh left her home base in Atlanta to spend time in Baton Rouge during the pandemic, she never expected it to be a career-changing move.
“I really enjoy this organization,” she said when talking about her new role as Artist in Residence at The Walls Project. “I’ve been a part of a lot of art organizations and I’ve never seen one function this way. It’s very personable. It’s very transparent.”
Ashli has worked in Jamaica, New York, Miami, and of course, Atlanta.
“I came to Baton Rouge during the pandemic. I need a break from Atlanta,” she explained. “I was completely exhausted and if I’m being honest, I wanted something different. I just didn’t know what.
“It was calm. It was quiet. It was intriguing, endearing, and I love that,” she added. “And so I was just like, what could you lose if you moved here for a couple of months, which has now turned into two years.”
During her time here, Ashli has completed five murals for The Walls Project and has assisted on other projects as well.
“I was laying in bed scrolling on Instagram and a Walls Project reel just popped up somehow, randomly, in my algorithm,” she said when recalling how she learned about the organization. “I clicked on it and you guys were doing a volunteer event with Bryson and Skinny Dope at one of the parks.”
Ashli went out to the volunteer event and her involvement with the organization took off like a rocket. Along with her work as an artist, she is filling in for Morgan Udoh while she is on maternity leave. If you haven’t heard, Morgan is having twin girls and her due date is in November!
“Shout out to Morgan because she’s always the head honcho,” Ashli said with a laugh. “No one can top her. But I’m very much looking forward to taking on the challenge. I do think I can be an asset here.”
Her skills as a painter are clear, but that’s not all she enjoys about the world of art.
“I’m a creative, but I also love arts administration,” she said. “I think it’s important for every artist to at least have some concept of arts administration.”
Ashli’s career in the arts was actually a pivot from what is considered a more traditional career path.
“When I was 21, I was in church and the Holy Spirit was like, I was you to quit your job and pursue art,” she said. “I was working at a bank at the time and was about to be
promoted to a personal banker, and I just had this shift and I was very adamant about not doing it because I was like, I want to make a good living. But it was just aching and pushing at me. And sometimes when that happens, you are kind of forced to do it.”
For the last 13 years, she’s put all her energy into becoming a professional, working artist. And the piece of advice she was given when she was still a student at Georgia State.
“I was on the bus in Atlanta and a guy told me, you can be a C artist if you are an A+ marketer,” she recalled. “And that was probably the best advice I was ever given, because he was absolutely right.”
Establishing relationships and being open to opportunities are her key pieces of advice to share with young artists. That mentality is exactly what landed her here at The Walls Project and the reciprocation is why she’s decided to stick around.
“No one here gives me the feeling that they are unavailable, or that there’s any entitlement or anything like that,” she explained. “You find that a lot in the art world. People want to feel important and then it becomes very cliquish. I don’t think there's anyone here that I couldn’t ask for a hug if I wanted one.”
If you see Ashli out at a mural event, make sure to go give her a big hug! Until then, learn more about Ashli on her website!