Student explores hijabi stories through art

From the outside, Sara Filali looks like a normal college student – but once she breaks out her pad and pencil, everything changes.

At 20 years old, Filali is already a self-taught artist and successful businesswoman. Her self-owned business, Filali Studios, gives her a platform to sell her art in various forms such as prints, stickers and phone cases. She also accepts requests for commissioned art, which has included being a live painter at a friend’s wedding.

Filali makes art because she enjoys it. Selling it is only a perk, she says.

“I like doing it,” says Filali. “This is something that me, a broke college kid, can do in my spare time. Which combines what I really like doing and also what I really need – which is money.”

At the beginning of her business journey, Filali was afraid.

“I had to put a value on the art that I was originally just making for myself,” said Filali. “I was afraid that the person I was offering my price to would reject it, and therefore reject the value that I was putting in my own art.”

Hailing from Morocco, Filali feels a deep connection to her ethnicity, which she shows in her art. Various symbols that are prevalent throughout Morocco’s history show up in her pieces. Although she didn’t grow up there, her drawings take on the aspects of a culture she was raised in, inspired by the stories told to her by her parents and grandmother.

“Growing up, my culture has always been a big part of my identity – it’s a part of who I am, my language, my roots.”

Some of her pieces are illustrations of stories she grew up hearing. Others embody the strong features of Moroccan women.

“I value my roots being seen – especially living in the USA, where Moroccan culture is not very prominent,” said Filali. “You don’t see a lot of art that reflects the other side without using orientalism.”

Beyond showcasing her culture, Filali is very passionate about representation in her works. A lot of her pieces depict women like herself who wear a hijab, which is a religious headscarf. She says this is not only to represent hijabis in her art, but also because she wants to explore different mediums with hijabis as the subject.

Sara Filali with one of her paintings featuring a woman wearing a hijab. Photo by Rayan Alnajar.

“I thought, ‘What if I were to mix pop art with hijab?’ Or, ‘What if I were to mix expressionism with hijab, or collage art?’” said Filali. “The hijabi woman is not a huge subject of art or analysis, it’s always something that’s feared or othered and not very celebrated within the world of art.”

In an effort to change that, Filali has created art featuring hijabis. She has helped solidify her place in cultural art by portraying underrepresented women.

“It’s not so much doing art that I think other people would find cool, it’s more so me, as the individual, what kind of art do I want to see?” Filali says.

To view her pieces, follow her Instagram @sara_filali . To buy her pieces, visit her website

The Tampa Museum Features Who Shot Sports

The Tampa Museum of Art holds a special exhibition each moth that is dedicated to a unique topic. This month it’s Sports.

Who Shot Sports is a nine-section exhibition that contains over 200 sports photography. Each photograph included in the exhibition is accompanied by the history of the photographer behind the lens. Joanna Robotham, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, says that Who Shot Sports pays homage to the creative memories captured through the photo lens.

“It looks at not just the famous moments in art history but looks at who the photographers are beyond the screen. The whole premise behind Who Shot Sports is to give the photographers recognition and identity. Many people know the famous photographs but they don’t know who took it,” said Robotham.

The Tampa Bay area is a city that encompasses many sports teams and media outlets. Robotham and the Tampa Museum of Art decided to include Lens of Tampa Bay Sports, in order to showcase the sports versatility that the city holds.

“We worked with eight different photographers and pulled about fifty photographs of local sports teams and included that in a smaller show. So, it’s a nice companion to the larger show,”said Robotham.

The overall functionality of photography allows for individuals to emerge creativity with reality. Tatyannah George, a student photographer, says that her passion is driven by the ability to capture the beauty of the moment.

“As a student photography I would say that being able to capture everyday lives for people outside of events or things of that nature is a beautiful thing because you are able to give that moment or experience outside of actually being there,” said George.

Who Shot Sports can be viewed until April 30th.

Veteran Art Exhibit on Display at Tampa’s Riverwalk


Saori Murphy and Larry Busby had their work chosen for display outside the Straz Center as part of the Veterans Art Exhibit: Reintegration and Resilience.

“Being around the Straz and having people see that – there is a little bit of vulnerability that you kind of feel vulnerable that people see parts of yourselves,” said Murphy. “But at the same time I’m feeling really honored and respected in a way that people had come up and approached me along with other veterans.” 

Murphy’s favorite piece of artwork currently on display is called A Choice. It began as a black and white exhibit that, over time, was filled with beautiful colors which represented her emotional transformation.

“What was my inspiration for making art? Suicide. I am a suicide survivor,” said Busby. “I started getting the help I need because I was suffering from severe depression and alcoholism. That started my journey.”

After seeking help for his depression, it was suggested that Busby choose a hobby. So, he picked up his camera 30 years after being a former Navy photographer’s aid.

“I’m in a zen-like state,” said. Busby. “I’m focused on what I’m doing and the rest of the world just disappears. It just melts away and I kind of like that. It’s meditation. It’s therapy. It’s cool.”

Both Busby and Murphy see the importance in seeking help and want others to do the same. Their artwork is on display for free at the Riverwalk in Downtown Tampa until March 15th.


Local Artists Sells Artwork Antique Comics at Curtis Hixon Park

Around the holidays at Curtis Hixon Park in Downtown Tampa, it can be difficult to go shopping when the seasonal ice skating rink is only there for a limited time.

But the shops at Curtis Hixon’s Winter Village are an attraction not to be overlooked. Toward the back of the shops, a stall filled with comic books resides with an owner that has a story to tell.

Tim Gibbons, shop owner, lit up while talking about the items he was selling.

“I bought the very first Fantastic Four. I’ve had a lot of #1 Marvels. I was a DC collector from ’59, Marvel didn’t come around until ’62. So, from ’59 to ’62 I was a DC collector,” Gibbons said.

While his wares were collectibles, his heart belongs to the art. He pulled out several pieces he created that he was also selling. They included album covers that depicted of Darth Vader conducting an orchestra and playing the tuba in a marching bad.

“Right now, I do serious art. I teach over at Hyde Park Art Studio Life Enrichment Center,” Gibbons said

The artistic style of comic books are a specific inspiration of Gibbons’ art.

“It’s just absolutely gorgeous. And it turned me onto art, that’s what got me going with everything, is comic books,” Gibbons said.

Tim Gibbons will only be out for two more days, be sure to check out his collection while his shop still resides at Curtis Hixon’s Winter Village.

Photo gallery: Fun in the Sunset at Pier 60

The Sunset at Pier 60 Daily Festival is located at Pier 60 on Clearwater Beach. It is a weather permitting event that is every day from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. It starts two hours before the sun sets and lasts two hours after the sunset fades away.

At this event, skilled crafters and artisans come together to display their handmade crafts and entertainers perform their latest tricks for the public to watch. The Sunset Celebration Festival started on March 17th, 1995 and in 2015 the festival celebrated their 20th Anniversary.