Today we’d like to introduce you to Ally Grimm.
Ally, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I started creating in 2016 because I was in a negative spot in my life. I was caught in a cycle of unhealthy behavior patterns, lacking direction and motivation. With just a semester left to graduate, I dropped out of school to take a break, and in a moment of frustration I picked up a paintbrush and let my emotions flow onto a canvas. The rush I felt from exploring myself through my first piece of art was a feeling unlike anything I had ever experienced so I became instantly hooked. By my third piece, I began performing as a live painter for local electronic music concerts. The pressure of painting in public challenged me to level up my skills every time I stepped out to perform because I had a crowd watching.
Around this time, I met a DC-based Dj/producer named Jared Oppenheim (Choppy Oppy). Jared had a dream to have a record label and I dreamed of creating safe spaces for people to enjoy art and music. He took me under his wing and showed me how to manage a label and a business. We decided that we wanted to build the space and the culture that we wished we saw in our music scene. We slowly created a project to create safe, innovative spaces at music festivals that encourage “inspiration through creative collaboration”. We named the project The Gradient Perspective as a nod to the idea that our team and our work would be stronger with a range of ideas from various collaborators. Over time we grew from hosting lounges at shows and festivals to a full record label, music agency, and creative collective. Starting a business has been a challenge, but being forced to wear many hats has taught me how to thrive in my own art career as well. I have served as the Creative Director/ Outreach Coordinator, Live Art Coordinator, Agent/manager to four incredible artists, Stage Designer, Event Coordinator, Social Media Manager and every other small job in the book. In addition to The Gradient Perspective, I have also served as an Art Coordinator for Bassnectar and a number of music festivals and events. I have performed as a Live Painter for festivals and events from coast to coast and spend most of my summers traveling from event to event as a coordinator, painter, and speaker for art workshops.
Over time, art became a conversation with myself. It is my safe space. The place where I have healed my trauma, where I have learned to forgive myself and others, the place where I challenge myself, and the place where I learned how to love again. Last year, I decided that I wanted to prioritize my art career, so I left my home in Washington DC and moved to Denver to expand the limits of my creativity and growth.
The week I arrived, I was invited to show my work at Spectra Art Space for my first official art show. I have continued to live paint at local venues including Cervantes, The Black Box and some local dispensaries. I had an artist residency at Lost.InSound Studios in Rino, a collective of creators that includes musicians, photographers, painters, and craftsmen. This stay allowed me to have a private studio space while still collaborating and taking constant inspiration from other creators who are all expressing unique creative narratives.
Moving to Denver helped me to find my creative voice and style. Last October, I participated in Inktober, a 31-day daily drawing challenge. During that month, I was able to explore my ideas and fully culminate my style. Since then, I have worked tirelessly to explore shape, color and composition to strengthen my work and sharpen my creative voice through multiple mediums. My creative colleague and good friend Chris Bohlin invited me to participate in Art Basel Miami last year and try my hand at murals for the first time. This trip opened new doors and led to mural opportunities in multiple music venues including The Black Box here in Denver curated by the Apex Collective.
Now, I am continuing to explore my work and my style. I am constantly sharpening my skills and looking to book more and more murals to work larger and larger.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
When I first started painting, I was in one of the darkest times in my life. While it was difficult at the moment, I am grateful that my journey has bloomed out of struggle because it has taught me to be resilient and to prioritize my happiness. I have faced many trials along the way. Starting a business comes with the struggles of funding your own dreams, working tireless hours and making constant compromises to prioritize the success of the whole over personal ego.
My largest struggle in the music industry has been continuously carrying myself with poise and strength while being sexualized and overlooked at every turn. I worked my first industry job running the box office and a promotions team for a small venue in WV called Mainstage Morgantown. We had a female boss named Vi who was very tough on us and I never understood why she always served the females on the team so much more tough love than the girls. One night after a show, I was helping to pack up because the promoter was incredibly intoxicated and had almost dropped his own mixer. I told him he could leave for the afterparty and that I could handle the rest. When I bent down to pick up the equipment he had dropped on the ground, he stepped up to me, pushed my leg with his foot and spit on me.
“You will never be anything but scum,” he laughed. “You think you can make it? Girls don’t do this. Leave it to the boys.”
I kept my mouth shut, kept packing while he taunted me until eventually he got bored and went to his afterparty.
The next day, I told my boss what had happened and she sat me down and really broke down to me all the ways in which she was treated poorly because of her gender- promoters and managers hanging up on her because she is female, people trying to short her on deals because she is female, the disrespectful names and language she was expected to cope with. I suddenly understood the tough love- she was preparing us for the reality of the industry without us evening knowing it. At the end of it all, she looked at me and smiled. “When you have a Rolodex of haters, just know you’re doing it right.”
This has been my mantra since that day. Anytime I feel disrespected or undervalued because of my gender, I remember my value and my strength. I have learned to thrive in situations where I am the underdog and it now pushes me to put my head down and work harder to prove to myself that I am as strong as I decide I want to be. I have learned to let my work speak for me and that the best revenge is served by being my best.
My art career has been a bumpy ride as well. As artists, we constantly have to share pieces of ourselves with the world and hope that people understand and respect us in return. This is an incredibly vulnerable lifestyle and so it becomes easy to fall into a trap of self-doubt. Last December, I faced a challenge that shook me so intensely that I was forced to silence that voice and enter a powerful journey of self-discovery.
In 2017, my father was diagnosed with Lung Cancer. He was my rock, my cheerleader, and my role model. When I was a girl, my father refused to call me a “princess” because he said I was too powerful for the title, so he referred to me as his “queen”. Before moving to Denver, I was living with him and helping him as he went through treatment. Leaving his side to move was painful, but he encouraged me to follow my heart and my dreams. Shortly after I moved, his condition began deteriorating, For months, I juggled art, a full-time job, and weekly trips home to see him.
In November of 2017, he checked into the hospital and it became clear that his fight was ending. This was when I got the call to participate in Art Basel. I was torn between the opportunity to go to the largest celebration of art in the country and my father’s condition. I remember lying beside him in his hospital bed, clutching him with one hand and drawing with the other. I told him about the opportunity and he told me to go. “Nothing you do is going to stop what is going to happen to me,” he said. “Go. But go and work hard.” This was the last conversation we got to have.
I kissed my father goodbye and went to Miami to prove to myself that I could face any challenge. While I was there, I painted two large walls including one in the famous Wynwood district. I remember standing on a ladder with a spray can in one hand and talking to my brother who told me my father was going to pass within hours. I didn’t tell anyone in my group. I just put on headphones, grabbed a spray can and kept the promise I made to my father: to put in the work to make a name for myself. My dad passed the next day before I could get home to say goodbye.
My heart was broken and for months I felt lost and alone. But I have never forgotten that promise I made to him. I worked harder in 2019 than I ever have in my life and I dedicated every tireless moment to him. I don’t allow that voice of self-doubt take over now because this experience forced me to decide that I was going to stop at nothing to reach my goals. I miss my father every day and what hurts the most is that as I succeed I can’t call him to tell him what I have done, but I do it all in his memory and honor.
The girl that sat in front of that first canvas didn’t believe in herself. That girl didn’t have a dream or goals because honestly, that girl didn’t feel she had a lot to live for. Now, in my darkest moments, I catch myself talking to that girl often. I still have a voice in the back of my mind that tells me that I’m not good enough, or strong enough, or cool enough to succeed. But now, years of experiences that prove that voice wrong and that serve as reminders for what you can achieve if you just keep pushing. The thought of my potential success and the potential growth of this community is what gets me out of bed every day and helps me crush through resistance.
My advice for other women starting their journey is to learn to face fear with a bold outlook. I think as women, we are taught to seek protection in moments that are daunting, but this is how we fall into the trap of dependence. Do something scary or uncomfortable every day until you train yourself to be unapologetically courageous. Nothing in life can stop you if you know yourself, because you will always have yourself. Become your own best friend and your own cheerleader. Support the other women around you, because we are all fighting to earn our own unique place in the world against similar odds!
what should we know about A.L. Grime? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I describe myself as an illustrator, designer, and muralist. I came into my style through ink illustration and this is my favorite medium to work in, but I also create digitally, paint, and use aerosol for large scale work. I am known for very intricate, detailed drawings, colorful paintings, and bold mural work.
I would classify my work as a pattern-based, technology-inspired exploration of balance in space. I delve into the realms of masculine versus feminine, nature versus machinery and logic versus emotion to understand the evolution of social evolution of human life in the Technological Renaissance. I juxtapose the human experience with a digital inspired analysis highlighted by the dichotomy of female and masculine energies. I do this by creating portraits of powerful women painted softly surrounded by rigid, masculine patterns. I want people to understand the power of feminine energy which is intuitive thinking and emotional response in rigid, system based world.
I am launching a clothing line called “CRYBABY” that touches on this theme. For years, I have been put down in my jobs for being “too emotional”, yet all my success has come to me from moments where I have had to make quick, intuitive decisions. My father was a computer programmer, and we often would talk about the fact that humans are programming machines to become more and more intuitive within coded systems. This idea slowly began to shape how I work and how I live my life. If we are improving our society with intuitive machines, why not return to our roots and reconnect with ourselves so deeply that we too can tap into these systems and learn to become efficient and collaborative.
“CRYBABY” aims to bridge the gap between technology and spirituality through an aggressive return to emotion. I want to encourage young people, particularly young women, to become their strongest versions of themselves and tap into their highest truth so that they may freely work together to build a world where we work synchronistically towards a brighter, more sustainable future.
Do you have any advice for finding a mentor or networking in general? What has worked well for you?
Get yourself out there. Stay true to who you are and seek to build genuine relationships with others, the rest will follow.
- Original Paintings start at $200+
- Prints Available from $20+
- Available for private commissions and murals starting at a 20% deposit
- Address: 2225 W Ohio Avenue
Denver, CO 80223
- Website: https://www.algrimeart.com/
- Phone: 2024416652
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/a.l._grime/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/A.L.GrimeArt
- Other: https://www.facebook.com/ally.grimm