Then & Now: The Evolution of Soul-inspired Storytelling


Since I was a young girl, I have enjoyed drawing and exploring my creativity. When I was in elementary school, my art teacher was attuned (rather than annoyed) with my behaviors and consequences. I had a feeling she was aware of the turbulence in my life; that’s why she took me under her wing when she found out I was in trouble again. Instead of detention, she volunteered to watch me during recess in her art room.

While I “volunteered” in her art room, I cleaned every shelf and all of the art supplies. The attention she gave me, was not a reward for my bad behavior, but it was an expression of care, which changed my life. I remember writing “Art is Cool” on just about everything because she also taught me how to become a better artist. She also invited me to join the art club and welcomed me to her house with the other students; that’s when I saw a horse for the first time. She also chose me to be art student of the month and took me to Wendy’s when they still had a salad bar. She gave me drawing challenges, my very first canvas, and advice. She told me that she believed in me and I had the choice to always be & do better.

One of my favorite memories was when our art class would sit in the midst of our mini- school arboretum and draw. She sat on a tree stump, with a pencil behind her ear. I would watch her draw portraits and was completely in awe of her. She became my hero and I knew I wanted to be an art teacher when I grew up. She helped me develop a growth mindset, before it was ever a buzzword in 2015.


When I went into foster care in eighth grade, she found me and sent me a gift and letter. I still have these items today. She let me know that she would always be there for me. During 1996, when I was a senior in High School, I did a career internship with her because I still wanted to be an art teacher. My foster foster drove me about an hour to her school, just so I could have this experience. Even though I would never get licensed as an art teacher, I would always have a desire to pay it forward and make a difference.


During my final semester of college, she attended my senior art exhibit. It was surreal. She was one of the few people who knew me my whole life.


When I had a child, we reconnected again, this time, she met my son, my most creative expression ever. I didn’t feel any judgement from her; I was a struggling single mother and she still loved me. She invited us for dinner and my son met her horses!!!!!! It was surreal. She was still in my life.

In 2015, she attended a Mother & Son Art Exhibit. She always has this way of showing up in my life and I am so very thankful for her.

2020 Reflection

My art teacher instilled within me, a soul-inspired purpose & passion to always strive to do my best and to create with passion. She never knew that when I was in elementary school, I was being sexually abused by my step father and that I was afraid for my life. She didn’t know that my mother and I fought almost constantly and that she repeatedly yelled that she wished I had never been born. It was in fifth grade, my mother grew even more violent and threw a chair at me. She also hit my body with wooden utensils until she successfully broke all, but one of them. Life was tumultuous, painful, frightening and I never knew what to expect. My art teacher’s compassion changed my life.

When I think about the evolution of my journey, I think about the transformation cycle that has revolutionized my life. Arts, writing and speaking have all been tools of empowerment that have helped me become a soul-inspired storyteller; creativity has helped me to overcome and reflect with intention as a motivator to take action. Soul-inspired Storytelling is a process that I have developed, which includes 8 steps: 1) Learning, 2) Listening, 3) Discovering, 4) Fostering stories, 4) Waiting (for it…), 5) Being Open, 6) Developing Insight, 7) Taking Action, and 8) Growing & Changing.

By learning to write, vocalize, and illustrate my story, I realized that I could help others take one step at a time and enact meaningful action in their own lives. Vision boards, mapping, doodling, imagining and understanding our stories through the arts is a way to capture a-ha moments and be inspired to create change every single day.

This Past Week……

A couple months ago, I was invited to join the TEDx Cincinnati Team as a visual artist. I created maps for each of the TEDx speakers. I listened to their talks multiple times to capture their stories. On Thursday, August 27, we gathered at the Main State Event in Oxford at the Holiday Auto Drive-In to watch the TEDx Cincinnati talks. I handed out all the framed maps to each of the speakers and I saw my drawings on the big screen. The whole experience was amazing. I have always wanted to be a TEDx speaker; it’s been on my bucket-list for a long time. I honestly feel like I have so many ideas worth sharing. I have never advanced past the submission phase and have always received the email notification that states that “This year, there were way to many submissions and we can only pick a select few; thanks for your submission.”

Instead of living with regret, I kept my resolve and moved forward. However . . . this year, COVID-19 happened. All of our lives have been turned upside down, but nothing hurts more, than to know that 182k people have died in the United States. I could get political, but I am going to save that discussion for the experts.

This year, a door was opened and I gladly walked through to discover the following lessons…..

  • We are all the same. -Dr. Sanjay Shewakramani
  • Give First. -Kent Wellington.
  • Inspired people inspire people. – Sole Bros
  • Stay true. -Jenn Jordan
  • We can eradicate poverty through the power of the font. Renee Soward
  • We can change the story of our city & nation. -Dora Anim
  • We need to Advocate, Empower & Educate. Dr Somi Javid

I want to extend a huge T H A N K Y O U to the incredible speakers, team, ambassadors, sponsors and guests; you all made this event, an evening to remember. It gave me the opportunity to draw, be creative and hopefully, be a blessing to others. This process helped me fulfill my soul-inspired purpose. Thanks for inviting me to be a part of the team; it was so much fun to celebrate every speaker while promoting their idea worth sharing!

In closing, I want to encourage you to take the time to dig deep and do something brave to advance your purpose and passion. Draw or write down your strategy, from the first step to the end-goal, make a bucket list, and go for it every single day, even if it seems impossible, uncomfortable, or frustrating. Things can change course at any moment; what was once impossible becomes possible, what was uncomfortable becomes enjoyable, and what was frustrating becomes a blessing. Please remember, it’s more than a map, it’s a pathway to reaching your full potential.

Soul-Inspired Reflection

  1. This Are you ready to take that next step and explore your future?
  2. What five people/experiences have influenced or changed you the most?
  3. How can you promote a growth mindset?

Mapping is a way that promotes discovery and understanding of myself and others. It’s a process that happens simultaneously while listening/learning.  I strive to practice reflective listening by opening my heart, soul and mind while drawing. Fostering storytelling is important in my artwork and it helps me process my experiences while also celebrating other people’s voices. I seek to synthesize and harvest information while visually celebrating a-ha moments.  I am not just recording output, but I am striving to unravel the meaning and essence of our stories.

-Kimberly Rhyan, TEDx Cincinnati Visual Artist & Soul- Inspired Storyteller

@soulinspiredkcr (Instagram & Twitter)

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