Stef Ratliff

There are many artists who have become fixtures in Nashville’s music scene, but most of them are either holding a microphone or a musical instrument. Stephanie “Stef” Ratliff (10) has managed to do this in an entirely different fashion. 
Ratliff, a two-time MSU graduate from Pike County, has achieved success in Nashville by having her artwork exhibited in some prestigious places in and around Music City. She has been painting and personalizing the awards that are given to artists at the Americana Music Awards ceremony by hand since 2013, creating awards for Kentucky country stars like Loretta Lynn, Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson and Tyler Childers. Many of her Americana award designs are on display at museums around the country, including Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame in the American Currents Exhibition. You can also find the artwork she created for Loretta Lynn at The Coal Miner’s Daughter Museum at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee.   

Long before Ratliff was making a name for herself in Nashville, she wanted to make her mark with her artistic mind as a kid … much to her mom and dad’s dismay. 

“It was obvious I was an artist at a young age,” Ratliff recalls. “My parents’ walls were my canvas, as well as the furniture, the fridge. Eventually, they wised up and gave me chalk.” 
Ratliff, who goes by the artist name “kyartrat,” graduated from MSU with a Bachelor of Arts in Art. She earned a Master of Arts in Art from MSU in 2018. As a graduate student, she worked at the Fuzzy Duck Coffee Shop and CoffeeTree Books in Morehead. This is where she met co-owner Grant Alden, a founding member of the Americana Music Association. He asked her to design awards for the organization’s annual awards ceremony, which led to commissioned works ranging from personal paintings to album covers.

"The Nashville Sound"
Detail shot of a mixed media painting created by Stef Ratliff (10) for the 2018 Americana Music Association Honors and Awards Album of the Year award, which was given to Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit’s album “The Nashville Sound.”

In addition to making this connection, she credits the MSU Department of Art and Design’s faculty and staff for motivating her to follow her academic and artistic pursuits. 

“I had a very successful undergraduate career and knew I would be successful as a graduate student with the help of the faculty and staff,” she said. “The best part of the department would have to be the connections I have made with other artists. They are invaluable.” 

Even though Ratliff may not be the stereotypical Music City success story, her artistic voice will continue to resonate. 

Learn more about MSU’s Department of Art and Design at