Nikkisa Abdollahi

TEDxYouth Organizer, S.E.E.D.L.I.N.G.S. Stewardship
Irvine, CA, United States

About Nikkisa


I began my career as a graffiti artist at the tender age of four, perhaps earlier than some and surely later than others. Using my mother's favorite lipstick, I took to my apartment neighbor's bedroom wall to showcase my first work of art. Like many many other misunderstood graffiti artists before me, my art was savagely washed off without regard to its intended statement. About a year later, I chose my grandmother's blanket to use as my tableau. This too, was met not with joy, but with horror and disgust. (Years later, as a daughter-in-law, I can now appreciate my mother's embarrassment at this deed.) Needless to say, my benefactor chose not to celebrate my "work"; no Polaroids were snapped to commemorate these first attempts at self-expression. I vaguely recall these two episodes, and rely mostly on my mother's perturbed recollections. I do, however, vividly remember one event, which single-handedly rescued my artistic ambitions and gave me the courage to believe in my talent. It also happened to be my third and last act of using the public domain as my canvas. A lonely first grader uprooted from pre-revolutionary Iran, I chose a small, laminated wood-grain desk as my next conquest. A self-portrait, my sketch occupied roughly one-fifth of the area of my desktop. When my teacher saw my handiwork, her immediate response was to tell me to wash it off, but before I had a chance to sigh in defeat, she took a pause and said, "Well, let's just keep it for a few days. But next time, use a piece of paper." She continued to turn a blind eye to perhaps the world's earliest "desktop wallpaper". Each day for two weeks I would anxiously walk into the classroom to see if my alter-ego had survived another night from the fate of janitorial services. Like all graffiti, my work did eventually meet it's doom, but not before it served to shore up much needed confidence in my abilities. Again, no photos were taken of this, my first memory of success. Nevertheless, the image remains, archived in HD in my inner cache. Decades later, I continue to enjoy and appreciate art in all its various forms and quietly rejoice each time I witness it and imagine its back story. Today my tag is of a different sort: interior design and graphic design. I still enjoy painting on blankets, putting my signature on couches and you may even find me dabbling on desktops.

TED Conferences

TEDActive 2013, TEDActive 2012

Areas of Expertise

Interior Design, Interior Architecture, Graphic Design, Install

An idea worth spreading

Gratitude. Challenge yourself to appreciate something, at least once a day.

I'm passionate about

Incorporating beauty into elements of everyday life through art and design.


Cal State Long Beach

Talk to me about

Devising innovative ways to make intellectual pursuits appealing to our youth.

People don't know I'm good at

Sketching, writing, editing.

My TED story

About two years ago, I was researching a new school for my three boys and discovered TED through Sir Robinson's talk, "Bring on the Learning Revolution". Unbeknownst to the school we eventually transferred to, his talks and subsequent talks through TED convinced my husband and me to take the plunge and leave a decent blue ribbon school for a more complete education. Since then, I've become a TEDxYouth organizer, with the goal of bridging the gap between culture and cool; intellectual and hip. I believe that TED talks are amazing for us adults and can spark lively discussions among friends and colleagues, but if we can introduce TED talks to kids... well, it could likely change the whole trajectory of their lives, if only by a few degrees. With exposure to the innovative ideas backed by the TED platform, our kids can really effect meaningful change in their (and our) lifetimes.