PERSONAL JOURNEY: Artist rediscovers passion after family loss

Art is therapy for hair salon entrepreneur Donna S. Ball.

Sometimes it takes a major life event to unlock the creativity that is said to live inside each of us.

That is what happened to Donna S. Ball to reignite her love of painting.

Ball lost two of her sisters — the youngest, Charlene Hughes, and the oldest, Rhonda Richardson — to lung cancer in 2021 and 2022.

“I was very close to my sisters,” Ball said. “They were my biggest cheerleaders whenever I had ideas about something.”

But until Richardson passed in June of 2022, Ball hadn’t focused on her artwork, thought she completed her first painting in 2019.

“I realized I enjoyed painting and drawing,” Ball, a Huber Heights resident, said. “It was therapeutic for me.”

Ball has lived in Huber Heights for 27 years after growing up in Dayton View and graduating from Colonel White High School in 1974.

“I would go to art classes in high school, and I knew I had a passion for it,” Ball said. “But I would start and then the bell would ring, and I would get frustrated since I couldn’t finish.”

Ball, 68, has rediscovered that passion she had as a teenager.

“I picked up a pencil to pass the time while a repairman was working at my house,” Ball said. “I just started sketching.”

Since becoming pregnant at 19, Ball’s life has been mostly about raising her family and working.

“I wanted to become a nurse I thought,” Ball said. “But once I got pregnant, it gave me direction because I knew I had to take care of a baby.”

She started working at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in the Computer Center and then at Miami Valley Hospital

“I knew I wouldn’t go far without more education,” Ball said.

She decided to go to cosmetology school in 1986. It took her two years to complete the course work at Carousel Beauty College in Dayton because she was working two jobs. She opened her first salon in 1994.

By that time, she was a single mother of two young daughters.

“I have a very strong work ethic and mainly I wanted to work in my own atmosphere,” Ball said. “I always felt like women of color deserved so much more in salons then what they were getting at the time.”

That first salon, called Donna’s Hair Studio, on Salem Avenue took a lot of “blood, sweat and tears,” to become successful Eventually, though, Ball moved the shop to a bigger location in Trotwood and leased the salon on Salem Avenue.

“I felt like God was getting me ready for something again in 2007,” Ball said. “I opened Ti Simone Full Service Salon on Troy Pike in Huber Heights.”

Named after her daughters, Tina and Taisha, this salon became as successful as the others. And since moving to Huber Heights after marrying Jonhenri Ball in 1996, it made sense to have her business close to home. A few years later, she moved Ti Simone to a larger space on Chambersburg Road in Huber Heights.

Today, Ball continues working and focusing on healthy hair, about two days a week. Her salons remain successful, and she has a manager and a team of independent contractors.

She also allows time for her art.

Ball experiments with different media, from watercolor to acrylic to oil. She has also tried working with charcoal and fabric.

“I’d finish one painting then go get another easel and start again,” Ball said. “My husband asked me what I was going to do with all of it!”

At first, Ball’s “art therapy” was just something she intended to keep to herself. That was before she went to North Carolina to attend a friend’s art exhibit in November of 2022.

“When I came home, I started looking at my paintings differently,” Ball said. “I decided to work towards my own show and gave myself a deadline of July 9 of this year.”

By that time, Ball had 37 pieces to display in her salon and ended up selling 80% of her artwork.

“I had no idea people would enjoy it as much as they did,” she said.

A self-described loner and “private person,” Ball intended to keep the show intimate and only invited her closest friends. But those friends asked if they could bring friends and before the end of the show, nearly 100 people had seen her artwork.

“People asked me why I wanted to keep it private,” Ball said. “They told me I needed to step out because everyone needed to see my artwork.”

After that experience, Ball decided to continue creating and painting what she enjoys, not intending to take orders or commissions.

“I just want to keep having fun with it,” Ball said. “At some point I would love to take a class, but I feel like I’m learning all the time. God will let people see the beauty He has placed in my artwork. That’s the most important thing.”

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