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Empowering young girls of color with art that looks like them

Video by Shawn Likely

Katurah Ariel says she started drawing images of young African-American girls because she didn’t see any when she was a child.

“When I was younger, I couldn’t find paper dolls that were brown,” Ariel says with a laugh. “So I made my own. And I did that as a six-year-old little girl.”

She created over a thousand of those brown paper dolls and eventually turned that childhood passion into a very grown-up business.

“I always knew I wanted to create art, I just didn’t know how to turn that into something profitable.”

Working in her studio in Gahanna, Ohio, Ariel creates images for shirts, hand bags, notecards and more and then sells them at her online store. Many have playful images of young African-American girls. Others have slogans meant to inspire, like “Be Your Own Superhero.”

“My art is intentionally empowering. It deals with issues surrounding the black community and black women and girls specifically.”

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Ariel’s work has also been featured several times in “Essence” magazine. But not all of her creations are light-hearted. Many pieces show struggle and pain.

“I think showing both sides of the black experience is important,” she said.

Ariel is working on a children’s book that is meant to inspire and empower young girls of color.

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This report originally appeared on PBS station WOSU’s “Broad & High” show. Local Beat is an ongoing series on Art Beat that features arts and culture stories from PBS member stations around the nation.

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