CHICAGO HEIGHTS | Prairie State College art student Ashieka Daniels had been a hairstylist for 17 years when she decided to go back to school to study art.
She has had a very successful beginning to her educational journey, including being named “Best in Show,” during the 2014 Illinois Community College Juried Art Exhibition hosted by Governors State University for her painting, “Dreams in Hope.” She also had her sculptures, “Pots of Gold” selected for the 2014 Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference Juried Art Competition.
Her artwork most recently was selected for the graduate art exhibition that was on display in the Christopher Art Gallery at PSC through May 21. The pieces on display included "Conceptual Self Portrait," "Gifts," "Women," "Natural Beauty," and "Climax 2."
Daniels says her selection as Best in Show during the ICCJE was “a thrilling experience.”
“There were many great pieces of artwork that were exhibited with mine, and I am thankful that the juror chose my piece,” she added.
While her formal training in art is relatively new, she says art was always a part of her life.
“Creating artwork for me is like breathing fresh air. It takes me back to my childhood days when I would draw, paint or color just for the fun of it," she said.
“Growing up, my sisters and I were immersed in the arts. My parents were collectors of a painter by the name of Samuel Akainyah. They gave him one of his first art shows in our home in the 80's.
“Throughout the years, I have been to countless exhibits that he has had at his downtown gallery. I have found inspiration through him as he gives narratives and history on his ark work,” she added.
Another artist who further pushed Daniels to pursue her talent was African international artist Abiola Akintola.
“I had just started to dive into painting, and he saw some of my paintings in my home studio,” she said. “He told me, ‘This is art. Make this big. Make it very big.’ And, so I did. In fact, it was that piece that I submitted to Governors State University that won Best in Show.
“He was the first person who saw the gift of art in me and pushed me to where I am now,” she added.
The 1994 Oak Park and River Forest High School graduate said her initial motivation to go back to school was her son, who is going to start college in the fall.
“I couldn’t let him beat me to it,” she joked.
Daniels is experimenting in all forms of art as she navigates through her studies. “Painting, sculpture, encaustic paint … Whatever medium touches my hands, I am able to do something with it,” she said.
Daniels is a wife and mother of three who owned her own hair salon, Honeycomb Hair Studio, in Oak Park, Ill., for five years. She did attend college after graduating high school, including some time at Northern Illinois University and Triton Junior College, where she played basketball.
“School was hard for me then,” she said. “I went to school to have fun.”
However, she added “becoming an entrepreneur was easy for me. It also gave me a creative outlet. I was born to work and create with my hands.”
But, after many years as a hairstylist and business owner, she decided it was time to make a change and use her creativity in a different way. She knew, however, that her lifestyle change would not be without challenges.
"My decision to stop working and go back to school full time was not the best financially, and the cost associated with tuition and being/becoming an artist, including materials, can add up,” Daniels said. “I know that my dedication and hard work now will pay off greatly in the future."
Daniels’ goal is to earn a fine arts degree with a minor in psychology, and perhaps even a master’s degree in art therapy. She says her goal is to become an international artist and have her pieces in galleries around the world.