State of the Union 2018 for Steph's Studio Empire

I buried my grandmother at the beginning of the year, and it prompted me to keep a list of all the accomplishments and things that happened this year, because if this is the way I'm starting it can’t get any worse right. I will say there is something beautiful about keeping a little note open on your Evernote to track all the good, bad and shocking. Two thousand eighteen gave me all the feelings, to much up down, happy and sad.


I can't remember a year where I was thinking “you know what, let's start fresh,” but BABY, with all the blessings that 2018 has shown me. I’m soooo ready to leave it behind, because O-M-G, that’s all I can say O-M-G. Besides when you are on the journey of art stardom its easy to get caught up in work, life and love and at the end of it have no idea what just happened.

What Went Well for 2018:

I was on the cover of the Chicago Defender.

Yes, that’s right a historical black Chicago newspaper, and I’m on the cover, with a 2-page spread! *screams*. I have to tell you when I was meeting with Regina; I was NOT thinking it was going to turn into that. I thought it was a corner piece in the Arts section of the Defender and that was enough; but NOPE! God was like “Boo, dream bigger” and bam. All this goodness went down in February to Black History month, AND the month of my grandmas birthday, it was super special and so on time to lift my spirits. You can read it here.

not One but TWO Solo Exhibitions Y’all!

How do you go from zero solo shows to two solo shows all in one year? You believe in, and that's all I have to say about that., but GIRL I had to pinch myself and do a double take. I couldn’t believe it either. The first call was Alison Lacher from the University of Illinois Springfield WHAT! YES ALISON YES! I knew precisely the work I wanted to create for my solo show, the work on Black Men and their best friends I had been thinking about that is what I call “Love You, Bro.” I installed this show on my birthday, and my friend Robert came in from Los Angeles for the reception, and I even gave a talk to the students there with Tempestt Hazel about my work. My dreams are coming true over here, and your girl was also paid. I mean #livingthedream.

The second was after a studio visit with Susannah Papish and Larry Lee from boundary came by my studio to see some work. I showed them a project I had been thinking about and working on; it's a fun project where I take on the persona of amateur rapper “steph talks proper.” You see stephtalksproper believes she can become a rapper because she sees everyone else on Instagram and Soundcloud, Steph figures its easy, she wants fame and riches and sets a journey to become a rap star.

So I was lucky enough to show my progress of this project at boundary the show was called “stephtalksproper: journey of a rapper.”

I got a Propeller Grant.

So the Propeller Grant is a public culture grant funded to artists within the Cook County area. I had this idea to host a pop-up drive-in theatre in the Roseland neighborhood on Chicago Southside. We can talk about it more in detail later because I want to tell you something even more significant than the project idea. Grants are hard AF. I apply all the time and all the time get rejected, don't sweat it though keep applying for that shit., cause guess what, sooner or later your gonna hit, just like I did. My collaborator Chelsea Sinceray and I were awarded a research and development grant to further the research of Roseland Movie Nights; My 2019 has already begun to take shape.


The Museum of Contemporary Art bought ALL of my King Kerry Enamel Pins!

Pinch me, because I think its so cool that my work is sold at the MCA store. My friend Cassie came with me to see them in the store. Never thought I would make pins, never thought they would sell in a store.

Sold my first art piece Golden Kid #4

Interior Designer/Friend Kandy Christensen’s purchased one of my Golden Kids. I was so honored, and it looks so good in her home.

Launched my podcast NoseyAF

I tried vlogging, blogging but I think I have something with my podcast you guys. I have always wanted to have one and finally just did it for myself, there is soo much to learn, my goal is to get to 100 episodes then we will rethink. Just got to start and try this stuff you know. I’m super new but enjoying learning a whole new medium.


My Hommies did it big too yall.

My girl Felicia and her husband Dave purchased their first home together
Ashley is obsessed with films and started curating her film series
Lauren shadowed as a director at our gig and spoke about her directing career to date at my art show.

My trainer, Jeff, opened a gym with his wife Edna called Vive Healthy Sport.
My homie Krysta and I took an Excel class by the feminist Nicki Riks and giggled the whole way through it because.. well because we are Excel nerds and laugh about making formulas in Excel, Oh I know.. Total dorks.


I joined a gym and stopped paying my trainer

There was a point in my blessed life where I was not working out at all, decided to change it and hired ultra runner/boxer/super friendly and kind trainer Jeff. I shelled out lots of cash seeing him 3 times a week and working my ass off. It was rewarding.

Then Jeff and his wife Edna (also an ultra runner) decided to open a gym, and I  figured instead of working out with Jeff one on one, I would save some cash and workout with him in the group classes.

This was a bad move. I should have stayed training with Jeff and shelling out the cash.
I barely go to the classes Y'all. I switched up on something that was working, and it was foolish.I’ve made a mistake like this before when I was taking forever to jump to Squarespace. I’m going to get back to training, it was working. Until then though I will just keep pushing to make the group fitness classes.

Twist Your Hair Music Video still not complete

“Twist Your Hair” is the breakout single of amateur rapper “stephtalksproper” a satirical music project I’ve been working on where yours truly enters the music industry with zero music experience. I've been working on this project for a long time and its one of the most challenging works I'm making, but I can explain more of that another time.

So I recorded this rap song titled "Twist Your Hair," and I’ve been wanting to make a music video for it but it been so hard. We've had to change up crew members, rethink locations and the biggest part of the mess is that in the middle of planning prepping and actually filming this project. I have lost not only my grandmother but my aunt. Grief is tied to this project, and it makes it hard to, but I will make this video dammit!. You know when you hear artists put their souls into the work and they feel the work blah blah blah, I see what they mean now with this project. It’s heavy, and that's weird because this is the "fun project" of my whole practice...  My friend LaurynBlythe agreed to direct this video for me and has been so patient and supportive. We are almost there, and I pray that its completed in 2019. I'm also excited to share the project with you in its entirety when its time.


Grief is the big surprise of 2018. I don't even know what grief means, I understand that idea but how you go through it, manage it, define it, be in it all that therapy sounding stuff.. yeah I don't know about any of that.

I lost my grandma the end of 2017 and buried her the beginning of the year and then unexpectedly lost my aunt. It was all sudden and unexpected, and it sucks. I will probably spend 2019 learning how to manage, identify and all that other tough stuff that comes with loss. I don't want to contribute to much time to it though, but I will spend some time in it. All the blessings I’ve been given this year though has been an excellent and welcomed distraction.

I’ve had a few personal relationships also shift. Nothing is good or bad it's just different. I like change, so its okay to me as nothing lasts forever. Though I did get kicked out of my best friends wedding, so I guess that is pretty bad. It makes for a good story over chicken tenders and champagne though.


You know I always pick words, themes, and shit and I don't know if I still adhere to the word(s), but I do always keep the word(s) in the back of my mind.

My word last year was MONEY, and I didn't make any money though. But I mean.. I guess I did alright. So there is that. but I did okay. If I think about money as opportunity or experience as currency though I did well with that, so boom, see what I did there you can frame anything to your advantage #selfcare.

I’m still thinking about money though, because…I'm all about securing the bag. Does money make the world go around? Is it everything? Yes.. yes it is. LOL

I’m excited for bigger and better with the new year; I will be prioritizing my whole being and not overloading myself and also recognizing that all of this is easier said than done. I understand though sometimes it can't be helped, I'm not trying to overload myself with projects either. I love to work on many things at once, but even a playa like me can get bombarded. Its all about that time management though and being vigilant with my calendar and studio practice.

I’m so thankful that you’ve read about this, my year. Making notes and writing about this has been so helpful for me. I’m going to do it again for 2019! If you haven't created your State of the Union ( I stole this name from Jason and Caroline Zook btw) I encourage you to document your goods, bads, and surprises. You don’t have to share it all with me you can keep it to yourself.  It's your world boo, and you can do whatever you want!