“My way is through my hands. I can save souls through my art.” -Ayo Olajimi
Last week I had the absolute privilege to pick this young artist’s brain. Former student of LCU, and now pursuing Advertising at TTU, his aspirations and accomplishments far surpass anything I could think to dream up.
As we sat in the coffee shop we met in, I tried to think of how to make the encounter casual, like friends getting to know each other better, but also trying to find out as much as I could about his inspirations and ideas. I tried to start simple, asking Ayo questions about his childhood to gain a better understanding of his background.
Ayo, who went by Paul at LCU, is Nigerian, and grew up according to Nigerian household standards, and I knew that would definitely have some influence on his art. He was extremely open to talk about the stories and restrictions that came with being both Nigerian and a minister’s son. Nigerians typically believe that you grow up, go to college, and pursue engineering, law, or ministry. They are extremely conservative and Ayo, who grew up oldest of six, described his childhood as “stressful” and “restricting”. He laughed about growing up with parents who don’t understand American culture: “Hanging out isn’t a thing. There is no hanging out.” He told me multiple stories of the list of questions that his parents would ask any time he wanted to leave the house full of family. He spoke of “needing to occupy his mind” and turning to art.
During high school “art was my thing. I drew.” He convinced himself that he couldn’t paint, and because of that he didn’t practice and focused on drawing. Through high school, and even now, a big influence of his is music. He took piano lessons growing up and can remember the first time he heard old school hip hop music with one of his friends.
Ayo and his closest friends started a music based collective brand in high school called “Elevaeted”. Started freshman year, a group of 3 artists, 2 videographers, and a DJ started a mission to promote self-empowerment. Ayo repeatedly expressed how much he believes that “everyone has a purpose. Our art is our voice.” How important a message to spread, for people to be confident, to be able to create something influential that has power to speak to someone else.
During his time at LCU, Ayo attended Minority Student Alliance and liked its overall theme of justice. LCU was the place that he felt like he really could be good at painting, which is evident from the pictures you see in this article. Sarah White, who doesn’t teach here anymore, was the first person to convince Ayo that he should focus on painting and could sell his art, that he can show case his mistakes and message through different styles of art. He said that he realized,
“My way is through my hands, I can save souls through my art.”
The three paintings that I first saw at the MSA meeting were incredible (see below). I was immediately drawn to them and their power. They draw attention, not just because of their size but because of their message that radiates. In fact, they were actually for an art final in Dr.Craft’s Painting 2 class. They were supposed to relate and have a theme. All three were sold by the end of that MSA event, in a way that hopefully blesses Ayo and shows him the immense talent and respect he has as an artist.
He shared with me a couple of his film ideas also that he has in the works and I’m so excited for him and his future. I’m so grateful for this insightful information that he took the time to share with me. I hope his testimony has inspired you to take your talents and use them in a way that can change someone’s perspective.
To see more of Ayo’s work, visit