WILLINGBORO, New Jersey (WPVI) -- "I was a single mom. I didn't do the arts for 20, almost 30 years," said Lavett Ballard. "But if you keep doing what you love to do, the rewards will come."
Ballard remembers getting creative even as a toddler. The arts stuck with her through her high school years as she got accepted to various colleges for her talents. But she didn't get a chance to see those opportunities through just yet.
"After I had my eldest son, I had to work," she said. "And it wasn't until years later when I decided to start painting again."
Ballard got married, went back to school, became a professor, and hasn't stopped creating art since then.
She is perhaps best known for creating collages of aged photographs on wooden fences. A mix of glue, gold foil, flower cutouts, and burnt wood brings the whole piece together. The finished pieces pair strangers together from different time periods to evoke a sense of shared experiences.
"I love doing stories of women of color and stories of people that are often forgotten," she said.
Ballard first started to gain recognition from her school thesis assignment. And less than two years later, she received a special request in an email from Time Magazine.
"And I looked at it and was like, oh, it's spam. Someone's joking with me," she said. "There is no way."
But a follow-up conversation revealed the truth. She had been recruited as one of several artists to create a tribute to the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage in March of 2020.
Unfortunately, the onset of a global pandemic coincided with the magazine's launch and curtailed the magnitude of Ballard's exposure.
And though it sounded like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, she had the chance to design the cover again.
"It was more like, does this happen twice?," said Ballard after receiving yet another request via email.
This time, Ballard was tasked with illustrating a cover based on the article titled, "Division & Destiny: How to Build A Truly American Democracy" by Isabel Wilkerson.
Her finished illustration, complete with images representing the January 6th insurrection, book-banning, and the overturning of Roe v Wade, is featured on the members' exclusive edition of Time magazine from February 13/20, 2023.
Ballard hopes that sharing her story will inspire others to work hard on their own crafts and never forget the parts of history she highlights in her art.
"We can't get better if we don't remember that ugly past," she said. "I really like the fact that I'm able to do that in my work. Give people the bitter and the sweet, which is wonderful."
To learn more about Lavett Ballard, visit her website.