GCU changed alum’s perception of what’s possible

Ashley Teshima has built a reputation as a muralist in Hawaii.

Story by Ashlee Larrison
Photos by Brandon Reis
GCU News Bureau

Teshima graduated from GCU in 2016.

Before Ashley Teshima traveled from the beautiful beaches of Hawaii to the Arizona desert to attend Grand Canyon University and eventually graduate in 2016 with a degree in Digital Art with an Emphasis in Web Design, she wanted to be a nurse.

So when a GCU representative came to her high school and told her about the University's nursing program, her dream became a reality with the assistance of several scholarships. But, one semester in, after seeing the drive and dedication her nursing peers had for the field, Teshima found herself questioning her degree decision.

“I looked around at my fellow classmates and just realized that they were really passionate about just wanting to be a nurse,” she said. “Seeing that made me realize that I just wasn’t on the same path as them.”

That’s when Teshima’s other interest, art, would lead her to the College of Fine Arts and Production for what was supposed to be a trial semester in the Digital Arts program to see if it worked out. After all, she had always had a passion for art but never thought of it as a field she could pursue because of one important obstacle:

Teshima works with 808 Urban when commissioning murals.

“I cannot see certain colors,” Teshima said.

Specifically, she has difficulty differentiating colors within the same shade, such as dark blues, purples and browns.

When Teshima enrolled at GCU, she was under the impression that the primary school color was dark blue, only to find out it was purple after her mother bought her some purple clothing before she headed to campus.

She voiced her concerns to Digital Design Program Lead Sheila Schumacher about how she could work in the field with such an obstacle, and it was there that she learned that nothing was impossible.

“She sat with me and we went over color numbers and figured out how to basically paint by numbers,” Teshima said. “It’s given me confidence.”

Having that guidance and support changed her life.

Now, Teshima can be found in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, working as a Program Manager for a custom-building company. In her down time, she is a photographer and muralist for 808 Urban, a Hawaiian nonprofit arts organization.

Teshima uses color numbers to help her differentiate colors.

“Often, students forget they can do artistic things outside of their 9-to-5 job,” Schumacher said. “She had not done street art while she was here but was a prolific student creating hundreds of pieces of work, and her move to her family home in Hawaii has offered more and unexpected ways to be creative.”

Through her work with 808 Urban, Teshima uses her artistic ability to cover negative, hurtful graffiti around the island and replace it with more positive art and murals.

“They taught me their process of healing the area and trying to bring the community to heal with them,” Teshima said. “They see hateful words and are passing by it every day, so to have something put up there that’s actually really positive for them and that they have put their hands on … it’s just way more of an uplifting area.”

Teshima working on a mural.

Though the organization is commissioned to produce murals, its work restores a sense of community and love to walls that previously were defaced. Teshima has a color checker who numbers her cans of spray paint, allowing her to identify the correct hue.

After attending a high school that had about 400 students, Teshima felt right at home with the small class sizes and connections with professors and peers at GCU. She has kept in touch with several instructors.

“I never thought I’d be able to paint murals, as I have now, with people writing on all of my cans and all of my paint stuff,” she said. “My teachers made a huge difference.”

Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected].


Related content:

GCU Today: These brothers have designs on the same path

GCU Today: Theatre grad earns scholarship for lighting design



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