Episode Two: Art With A Purpose–Uplifting the Community and Inspiring the Next Generation of Creatives
For the second installment of Everyday Muslimah, I have chosen to highlight a dope creative and community activist, Sadiyah Sabree, founder and owner of Sabree Studio.
What I love most about this series is the opportunity it gives to highlight the multifaceted nature of women, especially Muslim women of color. In a society where we are constantly placed in very finite boxes, it is refreshing to meet people who challenge this finiteness and actively explore the various dimensions that make them who they are. Because of this, I am excited to share Sadiyah’s story. She is one of those people who, in the best way possible, defies the fixed nature of our society, culture, etc.
I will allude to this in almost every article, but it is very important for me that I understand the background of the women that I highlight in my series–who they are, their passions, goals, etc. I feel that it is not only important for establishing a connection between me as the interviewer, the interviewee, and the audience, but it also adds a very interesting layer to understanding the person and their business.
Thus, I began the interview wanting to discover more. Who is Sadiyah Sabree?
A Philadelphia native, Sadiyah Sabree is a jack of all trades. As an urban planner, visual artist, photographer, and avid traveler, Sadiyah exists within multiple spaces and occupies various roles–all of which add to her personally and professionally.
Sadiyah graduated from Columbia University as a Gates Millennium Scholar and later earned her Masters Degree from the London School of Economics. However, Sadiyah notes that an important part of her college and graduate schooling was what she did outside of her academics. She was very active in her community, working to support existing youth and community development programs. She stated that she worked as an Upward Bound counselor, volunteered as a mentor for the Prison Reform and Education Project, served in the Columbia University chapter of the NAACP, and facilitated sessions as an Inspiring Leaders Program Mentor with Youth Action, a youth-led community service organization in Philadelphia. It was very clear that community was and still is an important part of Sadiyah’s story and who she is as a professional, leader, and creative–I’ll talk more about this later in the article.
She currently works in Public and Government Affairs for Philadelphia’s regional transit agency; however, previously, she worked as a commercial corridor manager for an economic development non-profit, helping small businesses obtain capital and opportunities in under-resourced neighborhoods.
What really stood out for me, in this interview, was the theme of service and a commitment to supporting her local community in whatever space or sector she is in. From advocacy and social justice to inner-city preservation and development, Sadiyah is passionate about supporting others and giving back. We need more people like this, especially from our own communities. Who knows our communities better than those who are actually from them? What experience is better than lived experience?
In alignment with her community engagement and academic and professional background, Sadiyah is passionate about:
“[increasing] access to opportunity amongst underrepresented populations at certain academic institutions and in the field of urban planning."
Sadiyah used her own experience within the field to give back. She noticed a gap and worked to close that gap by creating her urban planning series on Youtube. Her hope was, “[to create] a platform to support aspiring urban planners of color and provide transparency about what a potential planning career could look like.”
Learning about her Youtube series was very inspiring as it helped in better understanding the varied ways in which Sadiyah uses her expertise to address issues within her community and doing so in a way that gives space for others to hopefully, in the future, pay it forward.
Outside of her 9-5, she owns and operates a small business called Sabree Studio @sabrestudio, which is a visual arts brand that specializes in abstract art and wearable art in the form of hijabs.
Like many other business owners, Sabree Studio started as a hobby. During the pandemic, Sadiyah noted that she moved into a new apartment and wanted an abstract painting for her living room. She figured that it would cost less money to make her own art than to purchase from an established artist. In her process of moving into her new home and trying to find affordable ways to personalize her space, Sadiyah found that she “really enjoyed the process of painting,” so much so that it became a quarantine pastime.
Using the power of social media, she began posting some of her art and received positive feedback almost immediately
“People would ask how they could purchase, which is when I realized that I could turn my passion project into a business.”
Since then, the rest is, as they say, history. Sabree Studio has now expanded into film photography and apparel. With an interest in various mediums, Sadiyah has collections in different art forms. For example, in March of 2023, Sabree Studio released its first hijab collection called the Elements Collection. She also released Retrospective, a photo booklet containing a collection of film photographs from 2022. In addition to fashion and film, Sabree Studio also specializes in painting. In fact, Sadiyah stated, “most of my time working on Sabree Studio is spent painting. I currently do commissions and have paintings available for purchase on my website, sabreestudio.com.”
Moreover, in our conversation, Sadiyah said that her business allows her to prioritize the activities that she enjoys. It allows her the freedom to work on her art and explore different mediums.
"As a child I enjoyed drawing pictures and writing stories, and as a teenager I discovered a love for photography and videography. I realized that most of my creative pursuits as an adult relate back to the activities I enjoyed in childhood.
Sadiyah signed off by saying that she believes Sabree Studio to be important because it is a form of self-expression for her and helps to curate joy for others. She creates pieces, whether it be a painting or a hijab, to amplify one’s personal style or to add flair to one’s life.
Additionally, what is most important for her is to provide representation to others, emphasizing how:
“Muslim women can be entrepreneurs within the creative industry."
She explained that she did not know too many Black Muslim artists growing up and hopes that she can lead by example and inspire the next generation of young people to feel comfortable pursuing their creative passions.
I hope you enjoyed learning about Sadiyah Sabree and her business, Sabree Studio. To learn more and to stay updated on her collections and projects, follow her on social media (Instagram: @quesadiyah, @sabreestudio Tiktok: @sabreestudio). Also, check out her hijab collection, the Elements Collection, and stay tuned for more Everyday Muslimahs!