Intentional Allyship and Diversity in Design with Dwell with Dignity’s Ashley Sharp

Growing up in a multi-cultural household and having diverse experiences shape her life, Ashley Sharp was shocked to find that artwork wasn’t very diverse and was made pretty much for the elite – and that didn’t sit well with her.  Now as executive director of Dwell with Dignity, Ashley is trying to end poverty and homelessness through design.


Jackie Ferguson:  Please welcome Ashley Sharp to the diversity beyond the checkbox podcast. Ashley is the executive director of dwell with dignity, a nonprofit group of interior designers and volunteers dedicated to creating beautiful and comfortable homes for families struggling with homelessness and poverty.

Ashley, thank you for joining us today. 

Ashley Sharp: Thank you so much for having me. 

Jackie Ferguson: Of course, Ashley, let’s begin by talking a little about how you got into interior design. 

Ashley Sharp: So that is a very interesting journey. So I am technically not an interior designer, so I don’t have any background or trade. However, what I do have is a very story, nonprofit management background.

So I began working my first nonprofit job at the Dallas symphony orchestra here, obviously in Dallas, Texas. And I just absolutely. I fell in love with arts management. I had always been a dancer and I grew up thinking I’m going to move to New York and be a rock hat. Uh, that, that just wasn’t the lifestyle that I wanted to pursue.

And so. Being able to positively impact the arts in another way was really important to me. And so when I realized that that was a career path that I could pursue, I just jumped into it. So I had the privilege of working, not only for the symphony, but also working for the Nasher sculpture center, which is a beautiful public sculpture garden here in Dallas.

And I just absolutely loved being able to influence people and impact them through aesthetics, through art and, you know, really just. Finding that way to connect and inspire others. But then I realized that there was something missing. And so I left the organization and started looking for ways to get more personally involved with making a difference.

And I found myself working at a social services organization, uh, helping women transition out of homelessness and poverty by providing career counseling, job coaching, parenting classes, asses. And I realized that. The world that I have been exposed to in the arts was not the real world. Um, and so I was really shocked to find out that Dallas has poverty problem was so pervasive and that there were people living in their cars and that, you know, when you go to New York or San Francisco, you expect to see people on the streets.

And it’s just, that’s part of. The city, but in Dallas, I, we realized that there were so many people in need. And I think the biggest thing that shocked me was what we call the working poor people who are working three jobs and still cannot make ends meet. And so that’s really when I felt called to pursue this more, uh, not just as a, as a job, but as a career path, as something I wanted to dedicate my life to.

Full Episode Transcript

Ashley Sharp on Linkedin

Diversity Beyond the Checkbox is brought to you by The Diversity Movement, hosted by Head of Content Jackie Ferguson, and is a production of Earfluence.

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