We had the good fortune of connecting with Steffi Hibbard and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Steffi, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I’ve thought about risk the same way anyone else does. I could see it and I feel it. I had an urge to avoid it and stay closer to what I knew and what I could rely on. I did this for years, through college and graduating and through finding a career and working full time. My friends and family supported me and helped me through my tough days. I had a roof over my head, food on the table, and health insurance but I hated every second of my professional life. It took years for that feeling of trying to avoid risk to disappear. I stopped seeing risk as something that was dangerous and started seeing it as my only way out and my only way forward; this was my savior. Risk was going to change my life. I applied to get my Master’s Degree which was an enormous risk because of the financial burden and the fact that I would no longer be able to work full time. I ended up quitting my full time career and became a full time student, as an adult. What was I doing? What did I just throw away? Five years of a professional career was burned in the flash of an email. I never looked back. I will never look back. I am an artist now. Risk is my everyday. Risk is now my companion and we walk on the same path as we move forward. I have no clue what I am doing tomorrow or a year from now and that’s acceptable. I am at peace with that as long as I can spend the lifetime I have being an artist, being who I naturally am.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Right after I graduated with my Masters’ Degree, I was fortunate enough to apply for and get hired as a Product Tester for Arteza Art Supplies. It has been over a year and a half and I am still working at Arteza. It has been an incredible career that I have been developing with the company and an opportunity that I never thought would be attainable. I am an artist with the company, I am learning so much while working with them and my fellow coworkers are awesome. It took a lot to get to where I am right now and to maintain this career it requires a lot of experience and product knowledge. It is still an up and coming company and it is fast paced. Every day is a different day; I’ve never had the same day twice. It is absolutely perfect for someone like me who just needs a constant challenge. I know that I still have so much more that I can and will learn about and there is a wonderful sense of purpose in that. I do not want to ever stop growing as an artist and at Arteza, I don’t have to stop and I won’t ever have to. They support my career and my art practice.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
If someone was visiting from out of town, the first place I would take them is the Rubell’s Museum. It is my favorite place to visit artwork, in South Florida. I always get involved in the most stimulating conversations. It’s an entirely new experience with each visit and each person I go with. For a solid and healthy breakfast, we would go to Mojo’s Donuts. For the best dinner in town, we would go to Shabo’s, in Hollywood. Drink’s and to just chill would be the Taco Beach Shack, off of Hollywood Beach. And finally, the New Englander in me always has to consider the best ice cream which would require a visit to Jaxson’s Parlor.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I have an enormous support group of artists and loved ones who have been through the thick of it with me but no one has as much as my husband and my best friend, Chris Souza. He grounds me and loves me beamingly. He has to deal with an artist so I think that shows that he is patient and caring because we are a special group of people who are hot and cold and crazy sometimes. He has supported my changes in fields of study from Chemistry to Fine Art, from teaching to becoming a professional artist. There is nothing this man cannot withstand and I am truly fortunate to have a loving and caring man in my life that has enjoyed this journey with me. When I began my MFA at FIU, I didn’t know that I would be gaining a whole new family but I did. I have kept in touch with my graduating class, my professors, and graduates who finished their degrees before and after me. We have such a strong bond having worked with one another, showing in exhibitions together, reading our theses together; there’s no going back once you’ve read someone else’s thesis. It is such an impactful point of view. The Professors at FIU, who are basically like parents to all of us, are Sharon “Pip” Brant and Bill Maguire. They’re in my head every single day, echoing in everything that I do, challenging me, even though I have graduated. They set you on a straight path; they’re honest and real and give you exactly what you need. They’re tougher than tough love in all the right ways. My list of shoutouts to MFA Graduates is a long list but each and every one of these people is so tremendously important to me. I will keep this list short for the sake of the article but they have taught me so much about artwork, technique, process, aesthetic, theory; and most importantly, friendship. Gianna Dibartolomeo and Dominique Sandoval are two outstanding women and artists that can withstand any storm and they’ve pushed my art practice to where it has gotten me today. German Ruiz has challenged my mind beyond what I even thought I could comprehend. He has introduced me to frames of references with my artwork that have helped me understand my process and my artwork more deeply. Finally, I am very fortunate to have a family that has supported me in my endeavors of being a full time artist, especially my parents and siblings. They have encouraged me from the second I told them I was applying to get my Master’s Degree. Like most people, my mom loves pretty much all of my artwork and would hang all of it up in her house if she could. She’s a ray of sunlight in my life, always. She wouldn’t accept anything less than my complete happiness in life and she tells me that and shows me that all the time.