We had the good fortune of connecting with Kim Steele and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kim, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Risk-taking has been the most lucrative way I’ve cultivated confidence and built trust in myself. When I moved from Los Angeles to New York to pursue a career on Broadway in 2016 with no job, no apartment and a modest savings I knew was taking a risk. But I was comfortable with that risk because I had already laid the foundation of a strong work ethic, a resilient mind and a completely unreasonable desire to sing showtunes in public that nothing and no one could discourage. There was no world in which I was not going to try. Effort can be terrifying because it robs you of every last one of your excuses. Imagine trying your hardest at something and still failing. Yikes! But for me, the real terror is the possibility of wondering if I could’ve gotten further in my career or made a bigger impact with my art if I really gave it my all. As for Broadway – spoiler alert – I don’t have to wonder.
Each time one of these calculated risks pays off it nurtures greater trust in my own intuition, intelligence and creativity to take me where I want to go. And each time a risk doesn’t pay off and I fail, I make it a point to learn the lesson and then forget how I learned it. I’m sure I’ve failed at something in life but I can’t remember anything about it – and don’t remind me!
Today I’m back in Los Angeles with a new set of challenges, new creative projects and new fears. But everything I want is on the other side of fear and I’m going to go get it.
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.
I’m drawn to protest art because it frees artists from the limiting notion of making art for art’s sake. To me art is about a personal relationship to the truth. That truth can be subjective. A lot of things can be true about a painting, a drama or a dance. In politics, not so much. Either something is true or it isn’t. But democracy is looking more to me like an aesthetic. It’s looking like a museum painting that you or I can sit in front of and decide what is true about it and what is not. There are facts and there are alternative facts. There’s the news and there’s fake news. So now it is the job of myself, the artist, to illustrate the truth and defend it. Enter protest art.
There is a myth of neutrality which claims that artists should just make art. In a work of art that rejects that myth and actively challenges systems, the beauty of that work is the truth of it. The truth of it’s politics becomes art. In protest art, beauty and truth are one.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
First up – The Last Bookstore in DTLA’s old bank district! They have a very sophisticated and chic curation. I love to catch a concert at the Greek Theatre or a movie at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. A Griffith park or Runyon Canyon hike is a must for inspiring views of the city. For an outdoor workout, the track or the steps at UCLA’s Drake Stadium will get you right together. Craving pizza after that workout? 800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria is where it’s at! Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
So many individuals in the LA theatre scene have hyped me up for the last decade! We are small but mighty out here. Shoutout to the UCLA Department of Theatre, and to LA theatre icons Brady Schwind, Sheldon Epps and Darryl Archibald!
Jocelyn Bold Paul Smith Photography