Ashley Miah: Her Legacy and Impact on NYC Artists
By Shay Lopez
Ashley Miah also known as Lee Lee La Cubana is an Afro-Latinx artist from the Lower East Side. While she currently works professionally as a Social Media Manager and Graphic Designer she also manages her brands The Culture Candy and heART Con plus her personal brand. She has also been recently honored as one of New York’s 20 in their 20’s for 2022 by Crain’s New York.
Ashley started art at a young age, she recollects an art teacher she had in middle school who interned at Fiorello H. Laguardia High School who exposed her to the possibility of testing into the high school. With that she also shares how grateful she is to have gone to a zoned school that had art program funding in her urban community. Since her acceptance to LaGuardia Arts as a Visual Arts major Ashley has been practicing her art. “I began to consider myself an artist when I started college. I was often blessed with commission requests in acrylic, photography and graphic mediums in my late teens and early twenties which allowed me to develop the business mindset involved with becoming a modern visual artist,” she shared.
When you visit Ashley’s portfolio website you get a bit about her and a look into her style of work, “I enjoy invoking nostalgia in people. Using pop-culture references and memories from my experience, I create contemporary pop-art pieces that represent a memory for me but also provoke a memory or feeling for the viewer,” shares Ashley. The pop-art style that she currently includes in her works was inspired by the feelings she had while pursuing her BFA, “I felt restricted by the formal and classical training I was being re-taught yet did not relate to the free-er forms of abstract expressionism.” During the time of her undergraduate career she began to notice her neighborhood and community disappearing and dispersed from gentrification, “I began wanting to make work that was related to my identity and experience while also allowing viewers who identify similarly to connect with their experience and memories.” With starting this new style Ashley also discovered that her goals as an artist could be achieved from methods used by inspiring pop-artists from prior decades; and she shared a special shoutout to Warhol and Herring. As we continue speaking about the development of her contemporary pop-art Ashley mentioned that her favorite piece is, “Jessica Rabbit’s Vogue Cover, she opened up many doors for me and was an empowering piece.”
Not only is Ashley Miah an artist but she also manages her Art brand titled, “The Culture Candy,” which is an urban art brand and artist collective that works to provide urban NYC artists with showcase opportunities along with developing community art enrichment programs for local NYC urban communities. It was founded by Ashley Miah and Zalika Sterling, both female artists of color who are seeking opportunities in the NYC art world.
While working at the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office, Ashley Miah felt as if she was not pursuing a career inline with her creative passion or representation of her cultural background, “one of my best friend’s at the time and co-worker has similar ambitions and together we decided to take the steps to pursue our passions while providing like-minded individuals the path to pursue theirs as well. We both felt that the universe placed us in those positions to meet one another and move on to a much larger creative journey with a purpose and cultural impact. The mission of The Culture Candy is, “to preserve classic Urban New York culture through artistic expression and branding.” The mission is created and executed for the people by the people, and through their “For the Culture” slogan they are able to help their audiences express their individual ‘why’ in what motivates them to create whether that be in the visual arts, music, fashion, etc.
Much of the work done by The Culture Candy has been dedicated to encouraging young minority creatives to pursue their artistic passion, goals, and dreams through community involvement programs and gallery pop-ups in NYC. “The Culture Candy provides those opportunities for aspiring artists. In curating events, we have created a community of diverse artists, curators, and creatives in the underground art scene. In partnerships, we have been able to expand the NYC underground art scene network by sharing opportunities with other curation teams and presenting artists with opportunities outside of our company,” shares Ashley Miah.
While much work has been done with the young minority creatives, The Culture Candy has also done much work in support of minority youth. “We partake in many community outreach events and take up charitable contributions to give back to the city that we call home, NYC. We have partnered with The Summer Youth Employment Program to teach young artists how to start their art careers, raised money for homeless New Yorkers, provided food donations to hungry New Yorkers and partnered with the School Girl Foundation for community projects, in support of minority youth in Harlem, NY.”
While Ashley Miah has done so much through her own artistic practice and the development of the art brand The Culture Candy, the work doesn’t stop there. She is also the founder of heArt Con. heArt Con was developed in, “efforts to bridge the gap between the contemporary and underground art scenes in NYC, I came up with the concept of an annual art convention that showcased new, upcoming and discovered talent surrounded by an art week for New York City in the Fall of 2021.” Ashley and her team formed heART Con and began participation outreach to museums, foundations, galleries, pop-up curators, tattoo-shops and restaurants to launch a recurring NYC art week this year before introducing the convention next year. Through their hardwork and dedication to the mission, the team has received positive feedback on their mission and was able to secure participation from many businesses including ARTECHOUSE NYC and Chelsea Market. “Recently, it has been brought to our attention that after outreach was conducted to museums and foundations that have been operational in NYC for decades to participate in our art week, they have formed together to organize a museum based art week in May to maintain their leadership in the art scene,” shared Ashley.
Ashley also shared, “in light of New York City’s newly scheduled art events, we decided to sway in the direction of representing the underrepresented in bridging the gaps between the contemporary and the underground art scene, for artists unknown in the museum world, heART Con will brand its heART Week as New York’s Undiscovered Art Week and will provide opportunities for underrepresented artists to showcase their work and connect New Yorkers with Galleries and Art Venues that live outside of the exclusivity of museums and foundations.” The team behind heART Con is aiming for heART week to allow art lovers to “discover” artists that are not in the museum, auction house and foundation scenes along with showcase galleries that scout and discover artists and further the initiative of discovering new talent. heARt Week will take place June 22nd - 27th, 2022 and the official guide will be released soon!
And lastly before we wrapped this inspiring conversation with Ashley Miah we made sure to ask her to share any tips for aspiring artists and creatives:
“Do everything with a purpose, as long as you are working for the vision and not the money things will align. Also, take your image and social media seriously. I have a guide on how to start your art career by utilizing social networking in which I explain the importance of telling your story and branding yourself to expand your opportunities as an artist!”
Be sure to follow Ashley Miah @leeleelacubana ; The Culture Candy @theculturecandy & heART Con @nycartcon