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Meet Sally Murtadhi

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sally Murtadhi.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Sally. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Expression has always been an important part of my life. When I was around the age five my father used to own a store and would always take me with him to work. To keep me occupied he would make me paint and draw. As a kid, I was always in my own world. I loved fantasies like Alice in Wonderland, so art helped me express my vivid imagination. My dad was also a photographer and occasionally enjoyed writing, so that influenced my appreciation for creating as well. How and why I expressed myself evolved with time. I continued to experiment with different mediums over the years and especially developed a fondness for watercolor painting.

Art, for me, helped give me a sense of identity. I grew up suppressing my culture and background because I wasn’t surrounded by many Arabs or Muslims. I had to continuously try to “fit in” to not feel different, but that left a void within me that I filled with art. When I was a teen I thought I was going to end up going to art school, but once I entered my senior year of high school it no longer felt like the path for me. As a child of immigrants that come from an unstable country, and having numerous family members spread out around the world living as refugees I was hyper-aware of the importance of finding a career that could impact people’s lives, and provide a sense of home. My father left his home at a young age and came to America looking to seek asylum because he fought for democracy in a country that was under dictatorship (Libya). I wanted to honor the sacrifices of my parents and give back in a way that I felt fit my personality and skillsets.

Finding something that combines expression with humanitarian intentions was the goal, but I was not sure where to go or what to major in until my second year of college. I entered civil engineering my first year because I took engineering classes all of high school, but it didn’t feel like a good fit. It was during that year I discovered architecture. It felt like the perfect combination of a field that provides human impact and creativity. As I progress as a student designer the more passionate I become about creating spaces that leave people in positive mental and physical states. I believe structures and spaces influence how we perceive life, therefore, I want to create positive perceptions for individuals through design. I developed a passion about the effects of lighting and color psychology in our surroundings.

Through this journey of architecture school, I’ve also been exposed to many different materials and skills. It was my second year of architecture school where I had to sow pieces together for my art museum model and I enjoyed the process so much that I started to embroider for fun. Hopefully, once I find the time I’d like to start selling my work. It took a long road to get here, but at this very moment, I feel more myself than ever before. I’ve embraced my rich roots while still maintaining my unique identity. College, so far, has developed my character in ways I couldn’t have ever imagined. I’m so excited to see what lies ahead of me on this beautiful journey.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
One of the most challenging things, from my perspective, has been finding an identity. There are a lot of barriers and challenges that come with being a first-generation child of immigrant parents. My parents had a hard time understanding me because of our generational gap, cultural differences, and language barriers. At school, I’d feel too foreign, and when visiting family in Libya I’d feel too American. As I’ve aged I’ve realized that my dual identity is a strength. All of these struggles impacted how I used expression as an outlet. In terms of school, pursuing architecture, thus far, has been one of the most challenging things I have ever done, but it has been highly rewarding.

We’d love to hear more about your art.
I currently mostly embroider, paint, and design. What sets me apart is my ability to understand and empathize with people from many walks of life because of my background and experiences.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
In the future, I plan on focusing on humanitarian work. From disaster relief architecture, or just designs that can provide some form of healing. And of course, I also plan on continuing exploring myself and the world through different forms of art.

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