They say that the earth without ‘art’ is just ‘eh,’ and Ashley Alder, co-founder of ANA Art, Inc., has made it her mission to prove that this saying is true. Alder dedicates her life to using her passion for art to raise awareness for multiple causes and to spark community and social changes. We managed to pull Alder away from her busy schedule for a little while to learn more about her unique career in the nonprofit sector.
What is ANA Art?
ANA Art is a public charity. Our goal is to raise awareness for any organization that has a mission aimed at community and social change. I am the main artist for ANA Art, and I create paintings to sell and donate. I also do event photography and host fundraising events. We have a small handful of local artists who have donated some of their artwork to the cause, as well. We have helped large and small organizations that benefit children, animals, the sick, and pretty much anyone in need. I am so lucky I get to do something I am passionate about in order be an agent for the community and social change. Painting is a great way for me to use my creative talents to put a smile on someone’s face and also help save lives.
Where does your inspiration for art come from?
My father is an artist so I have art in my blood, but my inspiration comes from everyday life. I can look at anything that surrounds me and see it in a new and inventive light. I would say it’s a gift to see the potential that something can be, not only in art, but in everything in life. I grew up in South Florida, so I would say I have a heavy tropical influence that flows through my artwork. I also have a love for nature in general, and I am a huge animal-lover so my paintings are pretty diverse. I would say other artists that I tend to gravitate toward are street artists who use colorful and bold styles.
What advice would you give to women who are just beginning their careers in the nonprofit world?
My advice would be to get a job, and squeeze in some time to volunteer. I say this because after graduating from college, I started a career in the corporate world and didn’t have any time to pursue anything else. After becoming frustrated in my field, I quit my job and started volunteering. Yes, we all have to pay the rent, but one thing I’ve learned is I’d rather have more free time to do what I enjoy with a smaller pay check then a job that consumes my life with no time to enjoy the bigger check. We don’t always find our passions early on in life, so don’t get frustrated if you have to try out a few different things until you stumble across something that makes you happy. I would also recommend finding a mentor; look for someone who is making a name for him- or herself and shares similar passions and ask to be a part of his or her team.
What inspired you to work full-time for free?
I’ve always had a yes mentality. When someone asks for help, I just make sure I can move things around in my schedule to make it happen. I got involved with helping one organization in the beginning, and then it just became an addiction. My mentor, Dr. Clinton Cimring, who is involved with multiple philanthropic organizations in South Florida, inspires me the most. He has taken on such a huge responsibility to help so many people and all I can do is try to catch up. He is the co-founder of ANA Art and also works for the charity full-time for free. I currently serve as the president of ANA Art and as the assistant executive director for Salty Dog Paddle, a second charity that Dr. Cimring and I co-founded. I am on the board of PACE Center for Girls, and I volunteer for a handful of other nonprofit organizations in the South Florida area.
You work for free? Don’t you have bills?
Great question, of course I have bills. Yes, I quit my corporate job to dedicate most of my time to running the charity, but I’ve always had a part-time job. I’ve played competitive volleyball since I was a kid, and as soon as I graduated high school, I started coaching girls’ volleyball on the side. While I was working on my bachelor’s at Florida State University, I was able to continue coaching and receive a lot of experience from some pretty experienced players and coaches. I continue to coach today. It is something that I love to do and helps me pay my bills while I have the freedom to work with a charitable purpose.
What do you find is most rewarding about volunteering?
Knowing that I can make a difference. I believe we wake up every day with choices to make for a reason. I find it rewarding when I can use my talents and abilities to make someone’s day more positive and even have a long term effect on their life as well. I am a huge believer in karma and try to help everyone I can. I am a huge advocate for organizations that support animals and children, as most of them are not able to speak for themselves regarding major issues.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
I think the most challenging thing for anyone involved in philanthropy is the same — we all want to save the world, and we want to do it right now. My challenge is that I wish that I could stand on top of a mountain and tell the world what changes need to be made. In the mean time, I will continue to climb the smaller hills and do what I can, and educate those that I come in contact with. I am a huge believer in education and I know that I can’t do everything on my own, as it’s a team effort to change the communities in which we live in and education is the biggest gift a person can give.
Where does your confidence come from?
I have always been independent. My parents were divorced at a young age and although I have siblings, I grew up as an only child. I didn’t have an older sibling to tell me what to expect in life, and I am thankful for that, as it forced me to figure things out on my own. My mother was a huge inspiration, as she always worked hard to give me the best education and the best opportunities in life. My family, as a whole, has always been a very positive influence in my life, always encouraging me to keep pushing forward and to continue to work hard and pursue my passion. I couldn’t be more thankful to them, as well as my friends, who have given me the utmost support along the way.
What does it mean to you to be fit to lead?
I can tell you that, in every role in my life, I’ve always been a leader, and what I mean by this is that you don’t have to have a high rank to do so. Everyone has to start somewhere, but you should always assume a leadership role. Ask to take on new tasks, ask questions, make suggestions, educate those who are around you. Leaders always stand out, so set yourself apart and think outside of the box, and always ask, ‘Why?’ I have always looked up to women in leadership roles and have tried to follow in their footsteps. Being fit to lead just means leading your life with a purpose, setting goals, and making them happen, no matter what life throws in your way.