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Gift Horses

Ashley Collins’ inspirations fuel her philanthropic career

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More than 25 years ago, Southern California artist Ashley Collins embarked upon a difficult and demanding journey. In pursuit of her art and a workable career, she placed herself in wickedly challenging circumstances. Misunderstood and rejected by her family throughout her youth, Collins moved to Los Angeles at 17 to paint, but the early struggles of her career offered little solace from the pain and loneliness of that separation. In California, she lived in dangerous places, barely had enough to survive and was often in harm’s way while eking out her humble painter’s existence. Looking back on it, the arduous journey was classic Collins—a difficult creative process that manifested as a remarkable gift. From that early matrix of rejection, doubt and pain came paintings of radiance, calm and inner strength. Collins’ paintings also serve a philanthropic function–they create literal opportunity and hope for people around the world who may have believed they had none.

Artists work for a living. But for Collins, sales of her work benefit more than the artist alone.

“I changed the way I operate exhibitions so that now almost all of my shows benefit the needs of others in some way,” Collins said. From starving artist to a leading female painter, she finds herself in a remarkable position. For the last several years, a portion of her sales is donated to a host of beneficiaries around the globe, including school children in Mozambique and children with cancer in Idaho. The graciousness of her actions mirror the artist’s soul—she has, along her journey, found a purpose and a means to affect change for others who are less fortunate. While Collins may not have personally experienced such generosity in her early years, she has embraced her own innate ability to give.

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