In honor of Black History Month, Visit Clarksville sat down with five community members to share their stories, their inspirations, and their messages. This four-part series highlights business owners whose impact on the community goes far beyond their storefronts. Whether that is by painting inspiring murals, providing opportunities for small businesses, mentoring students in local schools, or feeding shelters, these leaders are going above and beyond to serve Clarksville-Montgomery County.
Businesses: Drafts by Ola, DBO Creative Circle, DBO Gallery
Tell us about your businesses.
My main business is Drafts by Ola, and that is me as the artist. I started that in Nashville and expanded to two studios there before opening a third studio in Clarksville, which is where I work now.
I saw a need in the community and created the DBO Creative Circle. This is a place where creative artists can come to use my knowledge and the knowledge of other professional artists to teach other young upcoming artists. I want the community to learn about art so I do private art lessons and bring in other instructors to teach private art lessons. Within the Creative Circle, we do Sip n Paints, and we create studio spaces for different artists to come in and have space where they can learn and grow their work.
How do you use your skills to impact the community?
I go to schools, and I teach social-emotional learning through art. There are five different sections of this. The first one is self-awareness. Elementary school kids don’t know how to recognize emotions, so they act out versus realizing they are just upset, so we use art to teach that. For me, that is an introduction to art therapy for these young people. And then, I go into different high schools and talk about that, as well. I go to different universities into the art programs and talk about how to be a professional artist - how to price your art, how to sell the art and market the artwork, so that when these students graduate, they have more of a concrete thing they can do, and be confident that they can do it.
Outside of teaching, I paint murals that are interactive or build positivity within the community.
You have quite literally left your mark on Clarksville. What has been your favorite project?
I have done several murals in Clarksville, but my favorite one is incomplete. It is a 160-foot mural on the CMCSS building. I brought in Big Brothers and Big Sisters and a local elementary school to help me paint all the colors in the background. I chose a Mondrian painting for its bold black lines and the blocks of colors of different sizes because the youth must be bold and work together no matter the different shapes, sizes, and colors of the individuals to impact our city.
Donations are being raised to finish the mural. Whoever donates will get a quote to be put on there. While the parents and the Big Brothers and Big Sisters were painting the background, they also wrote down inspirational quotes for the kids. That is going to be covered throughout the background too.
I wanted to do this because there are kids who are fortunate and kids who are less fortunate who will drive down that road, and they will be going through different things, but then they will see something written by one of these adults, some of the leaders in the community, that tells them to press on.
On the top are going to be portraits of kids doing different things. Kids of all different races, abilities, and so on. There is a portrait of a little girl now surrounded by quotes. I am currently working with a donor to figure out how we are going to do it, but he is passionate about children with special needs, so he is choosing a portrait of a child to reflect that. We will do this until we get to a total of 16 portraits.
Is there someone in Clarksville’s history who has inspired you?
I was a track athlete in college, and I knew of Wilma Rudolph, but I didn’t know she was from Clarksville. Her story of having polio as a kid and becoming this great basketball player and track athlete and then going on to win three gold medals in track and field in the Olympics. She is definitely a huge inspiration. You hear about her all the time here. You can go to The Clarksville Collection and find the Wilma Rudolph kids' book which my kid has. That family has definitely had a huge impact on Black history in Clarksville.
Who inspires you today?
My inspiration is the young kids that I teach. I watch them get frustrated with their art, and two weeks later they are doing that aspect easily because they went home, they worked on it, and they grew. In my art therapy practice, one thing that I try to tell people to do is to remember how to be an infant. If we go back and remember the little kid in us, we can remember when we wanted to walk. We fell. When we wanted to crawl, we fell. When we tried to stand up, we fell. Over and over again, several times a day until we took the first step, and then yet, we still fell. But every time, we got up. The resilience to get up is the key to being able to walk, being able to run, and being able to live.
What makes Clarksville unique? Why should someone visit Clarksville?
Outside looking in, it might seem like the South is one type of way, but Clarksville is crazy diverse with all different things. I am from Nigeria, and when I first moved here, there wasn’t an African grocery store where I could buy the things I wanted, but then a guy opened an African grocery store that I go to now. Diversity in the South, like in Clarksville, is huge. I think that is a reason to visit. You have everything here. We now have the arena with more things to come that are bringing more entertainment to town. We are big, but we still have that small-town vibe, even as we grow.
What are your favorite local businesses to support?
You have so many coffee shops downtown. The cool thing is the diversity of it all which goes back to the diverse Clarksville environment. Even with several coffee shops so close, you're getting different things at each spot. Yada is going to give you a Spanish Latte. La Costa is going to give you one with cheese on the inside. Founding Frothers is going to give you coffee with the history of the founding fathers. Everything has unique elements to it.
Check back next week for the second spotlight in this four-part series.