Ashley Kunz isn't afraid to be adventurous when creating her vibrant abstract paintings.
In addition to the standard paintbrush, the Moorhead-based artist experiments with rubber spatulas, pizza cutters, knives, foil, sponges and other fun tools to add dimension and texture to her work.
"I love going to hardware stores to find new materials to work with," Kunz says. "I pick up whatever I think will work, and if it doesn't, I just try again."
Her innovative spirit and upbeat attitude are how Kunz got to be where she is today. The self-taught artist began painting in her basement studio only six years ago. With no arts education background or experience, she never thought she'd become an "artist".
But over the years, she's exhibited her work all over the community, received grants from The Arts Partnership and Lake Region Arts Council and gained worldwide recognition when acrylic paint brand Liquitex selected her as a Diamond Artist in 2015.
Her artistic journey continues to twist and turn, because as of March 3, Kunz is the new Artist-in-Residence at West Acres Mall.
In her studio - located next to Regis Salon in the JCPenney lot - Kunz will paint, sell her work and engage West Acres shoppers with her eye-catching art for 20 hours a week until April 30.
Kunz says the extra space will allow her to create much larger paintings, which was never possible in her basement studio.
"I'm really grateful to West Acres for giving me this opportunity and for investing so much in me," Kunz says. "As an artist, it can be hard to market yourself. With this (residency), customers are coming to me - if they want to," she adds with her infectious laugh.
Alissa Adams, senior vice president of marketing and business development at West Acres, says Kunz's artistic excellence, vibrant personality and plans for visitor engagement during her time at West Acres made her a perfect choice as the next artist in the program.
"With our Artist-in-Residence program, our goal for our visitors is to make art and the creative process approachable," Adams says. "We want to create an engaged experience in which our visitors can learn from an artist (or) simply gain inspiration or happiness from their art."
Other artists who have participated in the program at West Acres include Emily Williams-Wheeler and Ryan Fritz.
Kunz consulted Williams-Wheeler and Fritz to get tips on how make the most of the opportunity. Because she still works full time and has a family at home, she wanted to be as prepared as possible.
But she's excited to meet new people, showcase her talents and encourage people to get more involved in the local arts community.
"Hopefully I have lots of people coming in that aren't used to being in an (artistic) environment, that they get comfortable with it and start going to other (art events), too," Kunz says.
Adams says West Acres Mall strongly believes that supporting the arts and artists in our region can help create a better quality of life for everyone in our community.
"We're honored to be able to provide a platform to connect them with the community," she says.
If You Go
What: Ashley Kunz pop-up studio
Where: West Acres Mall, 3902 13th Ave. S., Fargo
When: Weekday evenings and Saturday afternoons until April 30. For a more detailed schedule, visit ashleykunzartist.com.
This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a nonprofit organization cultivating the arts in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo. For more information, visit theartspartnership.net.