Gabrilla (Gay-Bre-lah) Ballard. Gabrilla is a Massachusetts-based Interdisciplinary Artist (Writer, Visual artist, Designer), musician, therapist, and mother from New Orleans, LA.
Gabrilla’s genesis with visual art started as an elementary school students in New Orleans when she drew her first picture—a sankofa bird. This picture and the colorful and vibrant colors of her city would be the beginning of an abiding love for color and pattern.
As a teen, she studied Visual Art at the New Orleans Center For Creative Arts (NOCCA)Visual art. She would continue to maintain a visual arts practices, painting murals at New Orleans Health Clinics. Over the years, Gabrilla’s art displayed in Cafes in New Orleans and Boston. Her work has been featured in the Journal for Progressive Human services and The River Valley Coop. Her work has been on exhibit at ECA Gallery in Easthampton. Gabrilla is a 2023 Easthampton City Arts Studio Artist Resident.
Gabrilla uses her art to integrate elements of the natural and the mystical. This series work is an exploration of the unconscious, the beautiful and the difficult through color.
Gabrilla loves working in abstract art because she believes it can be an invitation for the viewer to step out of their comfort zone and trust their own interpretation and recognize that many interpretations can co-exist, change each time they see it.
GaBrilla discovered her love and passion for writing, music and performance at a very young age while growing up in the Crescent City. Her parents’ extensive book and music collection, as well as growing up in a city notorious for its music, laid a lyrical and sonic foundation for the art, writing and music GaBrilla would create throughout her life.
As a writer and poet, GaBrilla was nurtured and blossomed on the poetry scenes of New Orleans in late 90’s where she became New Orleans first National Poetry Slam Champ. As a member of the NOMMO literary society, GaBrilla was surrounded by award winning writers and poets who inspired her to hone her craft as a poet and writer. In the early 2000’s, inspired by her love of words and music, as well as the musical compositions of her late maternal grandfather, GaBrilla picked up the guitar and began writing songs after spending her early college years as a powerful spoken word artist.
In 2001, she moved to Oakland where she was nurtured and embraced by a powerful, tight knit and welcoming artist community. There she created her first band, The Bloodlyne and performed at many of the great Bay Area venues, such the Jahva House, The Black Box Theatre and The Independent in San Francisco. GaBrilla has produced and released two independent musical recordings– her self-titled EP (2003) and Urban Angel Songs in 2009, and has been featured on the albums of several artists including Casamena’s Hip-Hop Meditations. Upon her return to New Orleans in 2007, She performed in Swimming Upstream, a look into the real-life stories of women who survived Hurricane Katrina, as part of V-day New Orleans. She performed with Sunni Patterson, Asia Rainey, Cris Williamson, Vicki Randle, Pamela Means and Alix Olson as a part of the EMANCIPATE Performance series at the Bowery in NYC.
In 2009, GaBrilla relocated to Boston, MA. where she performed at venues such as Encuentro 5, Haley House, the Boston Green Fest and East Meets Words as both a solo artist and with other musicians. In 2013, she formed and performed with the trio, Sistas in Song, with cellist Sarvenaz Asiedu and percussionist Nisha Purushotham. GaBrilla also spent a summer “busking” in the Boston T Stations.
In June of 2020, Gabrilla wrote, produced and released a single entitled “Even In This Storm,” featuring Singer/Songwriter and Guitarist, Miles Gannett. This song was inspired by, in support of and in solidarity with the protests across the country in response to the murder of George Floyd.
GaBrilla has shared the stage with many notable and celebrated musicians and artists such as Les Nubians, Sonia Sanchez, Medusa, Steel Pulse and Mos Def. GaBrilla possesses a rich arsenal of artistic talents and a body of written and musical work which reflects that. GaBrilla weaves soul music, world rhythms with hard hitting hip-hop beats. She cites Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Abbey Lincoln and many others as musical inspirations, as well as contemporaries such as Lauryn Hill, Jamilla Woods and Georgia Anne Muldrow.
Gabrilla takes an intersectional and interdisciplinary approach to her work. She recognizes the value and importance of multiple perspectives and narratives in the co-creation of a world where all can live well. Her interests and passion include art, mental health, food/nutrition, health policy, youth, healthy communities, and racial justice.
Gabrilla’s passion stems from her life as an artist and grassroots activist in her hometown New Orleans. With other local activists, she worked to transform the New Orleans Public School System before Hurricane Katrina. Her mother modeled this commitment to community work as a Nurse for the New Orleans Health Department for over 30 years. In the late ’90s, while working in New Orleans Public Schools, Gabrilla created and coordinated Sisterhood Unified Nation, a cross-city high school day-long conference for young women and a newsletter by the same name. Gabrilla has worked with youth in the Bay Area and the Greater Boston Area.
Gabrilla created and maintained two blogs centered on women’s wellness, from 2007-2013( Urban Mamasong and The Vibrant Mama). She founded and ran the Urban Mamasong Project, an initiative aimed at nurturing the creative, economic, and self-development of mothers of color from 2009-2013.
Gabrilla is the author of The Vibrant Mamafesto and co-editor of the Award-Winning Book, Raw Foods on a Budget (Rollins, Ph.D., 2011). Gabrilla is the founder of Radical Magical Brilliance: a wellness project which focuses on centering the well-being, joy and creative genius of Black women through community building, media arts and health education and advocacy.
Gabrilla received her BA from Goddard where her work centered on the impact of intergenerational trauma and stress on the creative and emotional lives of mothers.
Gabrilla received her MSW from Smith College School for Social Work. Her Masters thesis centered on Black women living well with chronic illnesses. Gabrilla is a certified financial social worker, an AFPA certified Holistic Nutritionist and graduate of the Soul Fire Farm Farmer Immersion Program.
Gabrilla lives, works and creates in Massachusetts with her two children.