Ashley Longshore: Turning Art Profits Into Plight Proceeds
Yesterday, we hopped on the phone with Ashley Longshore to see how the New Orleans-based artist is doing. It’s obvious that artists and other small businesses are coming together during the pandemic to help each other out, but what’s not so obvious are the behind-the-scenes efforts of creating, fundraising, and coordinating how to stay afloat. We decided to check in on her, and see what she’s been up to during the “stay home” pandemic saga.
At first, Longshore kicked off our chat with a little singsong, belting out, “It’s a crazy, crazy world, crazy time, crazy world!” before getting serious about today’s reality. (For those that know Longshore, they’d vouch that this wasn’t insensitive or out of character, but a testament to her honest-meets-optimistic outlook during a tough time.) A few minutes in, we felt the gravity of her work outside the studio—donating proceeds from her art sales to food banks, and collaborating with others to lighten the load however possible.
Whitewall spoke with Longshore about how her recent works are supporting food banks, which online friends are keeping her smiling, and how we can color outside the lines with her new printable coloring book pages.
WHITEWALL: Honestly, how are you doing? This is a very different time than the last time we spoke.
ASHLEY LONGSHORE: I feel an unbelievably huge responsibility to be a mama hen and take care of the people that have been taking care of me. So, we got a plan. We’re doing great, but God bless the people that are supporting the arts right now.
It’s been a decade since I cried like I did last week, though. I haven’t sobbed like that in forever. Once I got past the fear, I realized, look, I have a house, I’m in New Orleans, I have a pantry full of food. Everything is going to be okay and this is temporary. But there are people that are really screwed right now. I can’t help but feel compassionate. I want to do something. I want to help. Every little bit helps. Even if someone gives 20 dollars—that’s a loaf of bread, a turkey, some orange juice for a healthcare worker that’s risking their health and working their ass off for us right now…
WW: Absolutely. And that’s why we got in touch. We first saw on your Instagram that a portion of sales from your “Audrey” series will be going to a good cause. Can you tell us a bit about what this entails and who your proceeds are going to?
AL: 25 percent of all sales from my “Audrey” series is being donated to Second Harvest (Feeding America). I also just announced that anyone that buys product through my online store between now and Friday, I’m giving away a little Audrey—a 12-by-12 to one of those people randomly. It’s my first giveaway that I’ve ever done!
Right now, it’s going to Second Harvest (Feeding America)—an incredible organization that has headquarters all over the country. They are intending to fill every order that they are getting. There are restrictions right now on getting discounted food and things like that, which they are getting waived, but they have to go through a bunch of red tape. They are having to go buy things from grocery stores to fill these orders and they’ve never needed money this bad.
The hospitals don’t have enough food to feed the healthcare workers, and again, there are many children that will not have a meal for certain now that school are cancelled. So, I’m really focused on the food bank right now. I know that when you have a full belly, you can think, and you have to energy to deal with all the other stresses in your life.
I want to do my part and I also want to be very careful. I want to make sure I’m donating money to an extremely reputable organization where the money is going to buy food—not to pay for a band at a fundraiser. With Second Harvest, your money will be turned into food that will fill somebody’s belly and make it so that they can do their job.
I’ve already made a $5,000 donation, and after product sales this week, we’re on track to donate another $6,500 very soon. I’m sure there will be plenty more to come…
WW: Food is an important necessity—and an industry that is suffering right now.
AL: I actually just got off the phone with one of my favorite restaurateurs here in New Orleans—Ashwin Vilkhu of Saffron, one of my favorite restaurants. I called him and said, “Ashwin, who can I help?” We were taking for granted how amazing it is to go to a restaurant full of people and even wait at the bar with a martini. The service industry individuals who live off of tips now can’t pay their rent.
I would love to find an organization where I can help people in the service industry that have been laid off. The government obviously needs to produce some big bail out money for these restaurants because restaurants depend on people. I have a lot of respect for people in the service industry, so I just want to do what I can to help.
WW: Yesterday, you also released brand-new “Powerful Women” coloring book pages—available on your site that people can print out. Tell us a bit about those.
AL: My graphic designers have turned my collection at Diane Von Furstenberg into coloring book pages. We’re putting them in PDF form, so they’re free, and people can upload them off my Shopify page. Then, people might be like, “This is Florence Nightingale. Let me teach you about her; let’s color her.”
The first four names I did for the coloring books were Greta Thunberg, Nina Simone, Malala, and Florence Nightingale. Next week, we’re going to release a bunch of the presidents. I’m just going to keep doing it.
WW: At this moment, we were actually supposed to be together in New York at The Webster for the re-launch of Silhouette’s Futura sunglasses. You’re re-launching those with them, which seems like a perfect fit due to your personal style and love for accessories. Tell us a bit about your involvement with them.
AL: You know what’s funny is that when they approached me, they sent me a picture of these really epic yellow sunglass that have this big split and they’re crazy. I was like, “Oh my gosh! I bought those from a vintage shop six years ago. I painted myself wearing them and it’s hanging at the café at Bergdorf Goodman!” They were like “What?!” We were already connected and didn’t even know it. I love them, and I love the longevity of their brand. They make everything in Austria, which I think is super cool.
I’m one of those people I don’t care if the sunglasses weigh ten pounds and I do have some that my girl Karen has made for me that weigh like 4 pounds and they give you headache instantly…but, honey, it’s fashion. But these new shades that they have, you don’t even know that they’re on your face! They are so unbelievably cool and lightweight.
I think it’s so cool that a big brand like that wants to incorporate art into what they are doing. And not to keep saying it again and again, but artists need to work to make money. There is no reason to not be in a world where artists experience success and are able to have the things that they need to continue being creative while they’re alive.
So, I’m very grateful for the opportunity to work with them. I’ve painted some really fun paintings that I can’t wait to release for the event, where I’ve incorporated their eyewear. Also, people feel good when they wear sunglasses! I like to do collaborations and work with people that are bringing joy.
WW: Dare I ask if sunglasses are your go-to accessory?
AL: There was a time when I couldn’t afford to buy shit, and I would save up my little art money and buy a pair of sunglasses to make myself feel fly. Still to this day, when it comes to fashion, I spend the majority of my money on accessories. Not right now obviously, but yeah, sunglasses are the perfect accessory. They never really go out of style, and if they do, just wait five years.
WW: When recently saw your good friend, Christian Siriano, reach out to Governor Cuomo online to create masks for the city of New York from his atelier—and he got the go-ahead. Other designers like Brandon Maxwell are doing similar things. Tell us a bit about your reaction to this and others that are doing amazing things you’re impressed by?
AL: Brandon and Christian are incredible human beings. They are so kind, they have had great success. This is why I love human beings. When you go through the cycle of being an artist, the number one thing is being able to pay bills. Whether you’re a fashion designer or a writer or a chef or an artist, a creative person just wants to be able to make enough money to sustain. I think when you get to that—when you’ve worked so hard like both Brandon and Christian have—of course you’re going to give back.
On another note, I actually have an incredible artist friend—Emanuel De Sousa, on Instagram as @emanuelartist—who is a brilliant painter who’s doing art classes online. I’ve visited his studio and hung out with his wife, and I took my dad and my stepmom there. He’s just such a sweet human being.
Every day he is going live, giving drawing lessons and painting lessons, and man, I just think that’s so cool. Even for artists that want to learn a new technique! I know when I started painting, I was anxious and a nervous wreck. I love art because it saved me. It felt meditative.
It’s a good opportunity for someone to go, “You know what? I’m going to try drawing. I’m going to watch this for an hour and see how it goes.” Somebody could realize that they love art and it could bring them the peace and joy that they need—not only for this period that were in right now but for when we come out the other side of this.
WW: We follow you on Instagram, and you’ve also caused a few laughs. Are there any Instagram accounts that you’re following that you’re getting inspiration from? Any you can recommend others to follow for a smile or a laugh?
AL: Yes, @joshuastarkman. I just posted a video of him. His whole thing is, “Have a nice day!” He posts these great daily videos of people singing and doing their thing and it makes me really, really happy. I also love @themuffreport—I think it’s really funny. I’m really into @MileyCyrus—she has this show called “The Bright Side” that she is doing right now, and she’s had Jeremy Scott on and a therapist that she works with. She also had on @RickeyThompson, who’s also a great follow. @_mhsraiderettes are amazing. You know who I also love following? @The_Real_Iman! She’s got great words of wisdom every day and she’s such a positive light.
My friends at @ThePansyPatrol in Atlanta go to these LGBT events—basically any event where there would be these assholes standing there with condemning signs—and they make massive flowers on sticks stand in front of these people. Their feed is just all about love and acceptance, and I’m a big, big fan of them. I love @worldofartists—a great feed. @therealsamjones is hilarious. And obviously @thejealouscurator is one of my go-tos.
In the next week, I’m going to start a showcase, putting them out there out there so people can reach out to them. And then some other small businesses that I love. These businesses and artisans bring so much joy to our lives and I’m so grateful for that, so I want to showcase them and help them in any way I can. Thank god for all this technology right now.