By Fitale Wari
At one point or another, you have probably spotted one of Granville’s newest members chatting, working, and even napping at River Road. From the baristas down at River Road to the students on top of hill, Ashley Connell has become friends with many members of our unique community.
I first met Ashley and his family while they tasted chili recipes at the Granville Inn’s Chili Fest last fall. Even more recently, I had the privilege to chat with him again about why Granville is so charming to him and his family.
Ashley moved to Granville with his wife, Ellen, and five year old son 14 months ago from the United Kingdom. Ashley’s past work experience is in fashion. He worked in the textile industry, owned a creative agency, and was the head of design for the largest retailer groups in the U.K. Today, he teaches at the Columbus College of Art and Design.
Ashley’s first introduction to Ohio was German Village in Columbus, along with New Albany. It was not until spring break two years ago when the trio discovered Granville and were immediately intrigued by its elegance and community feel. Since moving to the village, they have become accustomed to Granville’s hilly landscapes, Sunday walks, and Denison University students.
In fact, Ashley was on a walk with his son early one Sunday afternoon and remembered feeling incredibly lucky to live here. Granville feels like it has historical heritage, he shared.
Ashley also explained how Granville’s quaint and beautiful setting reminds him of home back in the U.K. He has never felt more at home than in Swasey Chapel while attending the Ladysmith Black Mambazo concert earlier this year (part of Denison's Vail Series). A Black Mambazo fan for more than 30 years, he was wonderstruck as he sat in the audience and watched them play. Even with a fully packed audience, he made eye contact with Joseph Shabalala, the group’s lead singer.
“It was like being in a town hall in Manchester,” Ashley said. “It was unkempt. I felt like I was sitting at home.”
When they moved to the community, Ashley was even more eager to meet the students known in town for being creative, smart, and daring.
“Denison,” he exclaimed. “It’s incredibly exciting!”
Ashley is intrigued by the creative concepts circulating through Denison’s student and faculty body.
“I’m loving the drive at Denison to appreciate the value of creatives in the workplace,” he said. “And the importance of developing an understanding between ‘academic’ creatives and ‘true design’ creatives.”
In fact, he would love to see a collaboration between Denison students and the students he teaches at the Columbus College of Art and Design.
Turning the conversation back to life “down the hill,” Ashley notes appreciatively that the kids in Granville seem to be out of the 1950s. High school students and college kids alike are extremely polite and present in their daily interactions, he explains.
Ashley has certainly found that Denison, and Granville, are not like anywhere else.