Thinking Outside the Cubicle: Working Art

Stephanie is turning her childhood dream into her reality.

by Jackie

Some of the world’s most acclaimed talents have been discovered in church. Stephanie Kiah’s skills, however, were to be seen, not heard. Armed with paper and a pencil, the young artist accompanied her mother to Sunday services, capturing fellow churchgoers in detailed drawings in her notebook. Unlike the forgotten doodles in discarded marble composition notebooks the world over, Stephanie’s childhood drawings were just sketches of what was to come.

When did you first become interested art?

After my mother discovered my drawings in church, my elementary school teachers recognized my talent, and I enrolled in the Gifted and Talented Art program. I took part in advanced art classes all growing up.

Art came as a natural choice for a college major, and I attended Norfolk State University where I graduated with a BA in Fine Art in 2009. Surprisingly, it wasn’t until after college that I grew truly passionate about my art.

When did you make the decision to turn your passion into a gig?

Discouraged after not being accepted into the grad program I wanted, working a string of dead-end jobs, and being unsuccessful at landing even a simple “good job,” I decided to relocate to a place where I could try to find myself again. For me, that place was Washington, D.C. Luckily I was able to stay with my cousin in the city for a while as I gained my footing. Once I moved out on my own, my art became a necessary source of income along with my other part-time jobs in order for me to continue living in the city.

What advice would you give other young professionals who feel stuck at a 9-5?

Take some time to figure out what makes you happy. If there is something you feel your efforts would be better suited towards, research it and find out the necessary steps to get to that point. Take notes from the lives of others who have been successful in that field. Above all, follow your gut, and reach for the stars! Stay prayed up, be wise about it, and pursue what fulfills you. It absolutely won’t be easy and there are no guarantees, however, I always say, “If you’re going to work hard for someone else, you might as well work hard for yourself.”

Stephanie painted "Here Comes the Sun" to commemorate the reelection of President Barack Obama. Click the image for prints.

Stephanie painted “Here Comes the Sun” to commemorate the reelection of President Barack Obama. Click the image for prints.

What sources of inspiration do you draw from to follow your dream?

I draw much of my inspiration to follow my dreams from other creative professionals of all disciplines, especially those who have been able to make a living by making their dreams a reality.

Did anyone ever try to dissuade you from following your passion? What did you say/do?

I don’t think anyone purposely tried to negatively dissuade me from pursuing my art. However, some people out of concern for me tried to persuade me to do the “safe” option and get a “real” job. Most of that melted away and turned to complete support after those same individuals witnessed the great opportunities that came and the strides that I made with my art.

Once I made the decision to follow my passion, not everyone understood every step I took along the way. I simply knew what I needed to do to get where I needed to go. Despite any adversity that came, I just stuck with that. There was a lot of trial and error, but I’m happy that I stuck with what I knew was right for me.

What’s next for you and your work?

I hope to have my first solo exhibition his year. I also plan to put out as many new pieces and prints as possible, become involved in more events and shows, and gain more exposure for my artwork. I also plan on keeping my website,, cutting edge and current so that it not only showcases my art, but also drives sales of my original pieces and prints. Keep an eye out for Stephanie Kiah Art!

Actor and author Hill Harper admired Stephanie's work at the Inaugural Gala at the Howard Theater.

Actor and author Hill Harper admired Stephanie’s work at the Inaugural Gala at the Howard Theater.

Actress Taraji P. Henson visited Stephanie's exhibit at the Inaugural Gala at the Howard Theater.

Actress Taraji P. Henson visited Stephanie’s exhibit at the Inaugural Gala at the Howard Theater.


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