Artist on the Rise"The social scene isn't pretentious. You can have conversation with anyone."
Artist K-Fai Steele uses her creative gifts to not only design works of art, but to help people reach their career goals.
Steele, who favors ink and watercolors to create charming, whimsical drawings and illustrations, works as a computer assistant at one of the city's Free Library Hot Spots. The computer lab is located at the Village of Arts and Humanities, which offers a multitude of after-school enrichment programs in economically challenged North Philadelphia.
Her flexibility as an artist helps her identify ways of helping people at the lab, whether they are 16 or 70. Most do not own their own computers and are seeking help with preparing resumes and using the Internet to find and apply for jobs. The kids arrive after school; earlier in the day, many of the kids' older relatives come in.
"I love working with the teenagers," Steele says. "They are passionate. They are all very creative. When they talk about things they are very idealistic and very fresh and they are not jaded, which is amazing considering where they grew up. They have this amazing outlook on the world and they think they can do anything and I do my best to steer them to the right resources to meet their goals."
Recently, the Village, taking notice of Steele's artistic skills, commissioned her to write and illustrate a children's book, which will provide a history of the Village while also serving as a guide. She plans on documenting her progress on a blog.
Steele lives "where three culturally different neighborhoods — Northern Liberties, Kensington and Fishtown — converge." The area suits her, enabling her to walk or bike to many locales.
"I love walking around here to get coffee and breakfast and food," she says. "You can always find cheap food to eat. You can also find expensive food. I love the Milkcrate for coffee and breakfast. You can get a breakfast sandwich for $3, and it's really good. Dmitri's has Greek Mediterranean food. It's amazing, really delicious food. It's very small, a BYO, and very affordable."
Sometimes she rides her bike to her favorite art supply store, Artist & Craftsman Supply, in Center City Philadelphia. Other times she's at Book Corner, a used-book store. "I go there and I'll get a stack of books at one time and it only costs like $10."
The opportunity to visit local galleries with friends, many of whom are also artists, contributes to the area's robust social life.
"It's why I moved here," Steele says. "The social scene is fantastic. I hang out with a lot of creative people, and everyone is always down to go camping or have a party. Philly has a pretty tight and active social scene. You'll go to any event in the city, and you're bound to know someone there. I also like that the social scene isn't pretentious — you can have conversation with anyone."
Check out K-Fai's Philadelphia.