What’s New: Introducing Our Newest Artist in Residence Ashley Kunz

We are so excited to continue our Artist in Residence program with a new local artist! Read more about what you can expect form this creative pop-up space below…

By: Niki | March 16, 2018

When we first started our Artist in Residence program, we had no idea what to expect and what the reaction would be. After hearing amazing feedback from our stores and visitors, we are thrilled to continue the program with our next local artist, Ashley Kunz!

Ashley has created a beautiful and unique space out of what once was Broadway Shoe Company, across from Gap Kids. Learn more about Ashley and her new space in our Q&A below…

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself.

I live in Moorhead with my husband, daughter and our cat. I am very ambitious and between my full time job working in HR and my painting career, I work around 70-80 hours per week. I’m a night owl and I do my best work and have the most fun in the middle of the night.  I get excited easily and love to tell stories and laugh. When I’m not working or painting, I like to watch sci-fi shows, go to concerts and spend time with my family and friends.

Q: What triggered your interest in art?

I’ve always had a great appreciation of art in all forms and took a few classes in high school but never really found my niche until 2012 when I started painting. In the fall of 2011 I decided to quit my job in banking to pursue a degree in Human Resources. After my first semester in school, I had more free time than I anticipated so I took up painting as a hobby. With no formal art education, I took to YouTube and art blogs to learn a few tricks and self-taught myself the rest. At the time, I didn’t have a studio so I set up my canvas and supplies in my living room and painted at the coffee table. I definitely ruined my couch and table but it was worth it. I really enjoyed painting and was excited to be creating something. One day I posted a picture of one of my paintings on Facebook and someone asked me if it was for sale. That was kind of my “ah-ha” moment when I realized that I loved painting and that I should pursue art in whatever capacity I was able to.

Q: How would you describe your art?

My art is considered “nonrepresentational art.” What that means is it does not represent anything in the visible world. For example, I wouldn’t paint a still-life of an apple in a bowl; I would use the colors and texture of the apple and bowl to create a painting that doesn’t resemble the subject even in the slightest. I primarily use acrylic paints but love to experiment with metal leaf, inks and resin. My paintings are bright, light and free-flowing. I love to throw paint at the canvas and let things drip. Sometimes I even smear paint around the canvas with my hands. My process can get very messy but it’s also very fun. The series I started last year involves using a rubber wedge to apply paint in thin layers to build up color. I like this process because as I apply the next layer of paint, you can still see the layers that were applied before it. It creates a unique dimension. I am also a big fan of using non-traditional tools like pizza cutters and scraps of cardboard when I paint. I’ll use just about anything that isn’t nailed down if I think it will create a cool texture.

Q: What is your biggest inspiration for your art these days?

What drives you creatively? I’m inspired by a lot of things and really, not one thing more than others in particular. I find inspiration when I’m listening to a song and it triggers an emotion or when I’m driving home from work and see the sunset. Sometimes something as simple as a conversation with a friend can inspire a whole series of work. The key for me is to absorb as much of my surroundings as possible and transfer that energy to canvas. I think the thing that drives me the most creatively would have to be trying new things. As with any other profession, sometimes you can get bored or burned out. I find if I pick up a new medium or find a new tool it can really go a long way to refresh my creativity.

Q: What would you consider as your biggest accomplishment in your artistic career so far?

It’s hard to pick just one thing because there are a lot of things that have happened that were big accomplishments at the time. If I had to pick one though, it would have to be when I was selected to be a Diamond Artist for global acrylic paint brand Liquitex in 2015. I really feel that receiving that award was the turning point in my career. The day I got the call saying they chose my artwork was the day I considered myself to be a real artist. Getting that award gave me the confidence to really put my work out there and apply for grants and other opportunities, like this one.

Q: What does this Artist in Residence mean to you?

Honestly, this is the opportunity of a lifetime! I have always wanted to apply for residencies but most of them are out of state and since I have a family and a full time job, I couldn’t really pursue them at this stage in my life. I never thought I would have an opportunity to paint in front of hundreds to thousands of people a day and I’m incredibly grateful to have this chance to share my art with the community.

Q: What can we expect to see during your time at West Acres?

I’m using this opportunity as a time to grow my work, not only in quantity and technique, but also in size. My regular studio is in the basement of my house so I’m limited a lot by the size of the work I can produce so I’m excited to “go big” during my residency. You will see a lot of bright colors and textures and probably some paint flying! If you are really lucky, you might even catch me dancing and singing as I paint. For all of our sakes I hope not but it’s definitely a possibility…. Haha!

Q: Are your pieces available for purchase?

Yes, all of my paintings will be for sale. If you are interested in purchasing a painting, let me know. I accept cash, check and card and you will be able to take your painting home with you the same day.

Q: Why West Acres? Why take advantage of this opportunity?

West Acres is known for being big supporters of local art so when this opportunity came up; I knew I had to try for it. What better place to have an art studio than in a mall, where thousands of people go every day? I really want people to know that I’m there to interact and engage with them and I want them to stop in and ask questions or just sit down and hang out for a while if they want. My goal is to create a unique experience for them when they visit. This residency is an opportunity for me to connect with people in ways that aren’t possible through social media and website posts. I want to show people why I do what I do and why I am so passionate about it.

This unique space is considered a pop-up studio, which means it is a temporary and limited-time experience! Stop by Ashley’s studio to be a part of this new and exciting concept now through April!



*Times are subject to change without notice. Please visit the studio to see the most recent and future schedules, as they become available.

Read more about past Artist in Residences’ by clicking here!


I have the privilege of being on the amazing Marketing, PR and Fashion team as the Digital Marketing Manager at West Acres. When I am not managing our social and digital platforms and brainstorming content ideas, I am the woman behind (and sometimes in front of) the camera – creating content and working with the media to create segments to introduce the latest trends! When I’m not at the mall, you can find me watching “Friends,” eating ice cream by the carton, spending time with my family and friends, feeding my Pinterest addiction or crossing off destinations on my traveling bucket list.




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