Artistic and creative careers are among the most rewarding, but they also come with unique challenges. We asked some of the city’s best creatives to tell us why they choose to pursue a creative career.

Brandon Pokowski | Actor

I can’t imagine doing anything else. I was told when I was little to do the one thing in life you cannot live without. For me, that became acting; it naturally came to me. Just five years ago, I didn’t know where my life was going to take me. I wouldn’t have considered myself artistic. I was the type of person to remain out of the spotlight and draw no attention to myself. A switch flipped once I discovered acting. It brought out a new person that I enjoyed being and a feeling of passion that I never felt before. I’m happy to have the opportunity to pursue what I love and work with other creative artists that share similar interests. Read more>>

Casey Dworkin | Founder and Creative Director of Sylven New York

I believe that risk taking and entrepreneurship are incredibly intertwined. As a Founder, risk has been a huge part of my entire professional journey, but perhaps most prominently so with launching my own sustainable shoe brand, Sylven New York. While starting my own business at a young age felt risky in and of itself, it was also a risk to create footwear from new and unique materials that even my heritage Italian factories had never heard of or worked with before. Those risks may have presented their own set of challenges (i.e. extra development time and costs for our artisans to learn how to work with materials like apple leather – our go-to vegan “leather” crafted from organic apple waste) but as just about anyone talking about risk will share, the risks are offset by their rewards. Here, the reward is that we get to be one of the first American brands creating high-end footwear out of a brand new plant-based vegan material. To me, taking risks is really equated with doing things that make sense for you, and in your own way. Read more>>

Cora Chung | Composer & Cellist

I always knew music was my calling, but I didn’t know where life would lead me. I was lucky to start classical music training when I was four and learned various instruments and music styles growing up. I had great opportunities to play in the professional orchestra, produce a high school musical, conduct a girl choir, perform Taiwanese opera and Nanguan music at high attendance events. Every little achievement made me question more about my life journey. There’s always so many new things that can be learned and explored which excites me. Every new challenge is like an adventure to the unknown. I always want to be a great cellist. When I first performed in the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) in Beijing with the orchestra, I had goosebumps the whole night. I thought it might be the highlight of my life. Years later, after I start my career as a composer, when the short film I scored “Disconnected” premiered at ArcLight Cinemas in Hollywood. Read more>>

Ashley Zabarte | Sculpture Artist

I used to think that a creative career was an impossible thing. Becoming an artist was an insurmountable task that I would never accomplish. My journey through other careers to being a stay at home mom to being an art student has taught me that it is impossible for me not to work as an artist. There will always be some aspect of me striving to create and learn something new about myself through art. There will always be new mediums I want to explore and that want is such a deep desire that I simply cannot deny it. The career that I have made for myself has allowed me to explore so much of myself and express the creativity that feels integral to my survival. Read more>>

Marc Robillard | Musician/Producer/Singer-Songwriter/Composer

I’m definitely the kind of person who always needs to be creating, building, working on something that inspires me and hopefully will inspire others as well. I really don’t think pursuing an artistic or creative career was a choice to tell you the truth, for me it was just a direction I’ve always gone and continue to go on a daily basis, like a never ending road. As cheesy as it sounds, it really chose me, now my undertaking is trying to make it work in this life of mine. Read more>>

Giannis Koudounas | Musician & Trumpet Player

From a very young age, I knew that music had a special place in my heart. Music was one of the few fields that genuinely fascinated me,, and I was always eager to learn, explore and be creative. One of my first contacts with music was when I saw Mike Lovatt, a British Trumpeteer and one of my “trumpet heroes” and now teacher performing on BBC Proms. I was captivated by his beautiful and expressive sound and outstanding performance. That was when I knew I wanted to pursue a similarly successful career as a musician and trumpet player. During my undergraduate studies, I discovered and explored the musical theatre industry, which pushed me into taking new challenges to become a better version of my self as a performer every day. Another reason I chose to pursue an artistic career is that, in music, language barriers are shattered. People can converse and connect while creating meaningful and communicative music together. Read more>>

Sam Gutterz | Hip Hop Artist

The love of music. The love of creativity. This isn’t all about making it big. Would that be nice? Indeed. The opportunity to be a creative through adjoining rhyme schemes, expression of self, my situation, whether current or past, where you have the opportunity to give the listener a feeling of relatability, hopefulness, a sense of achievability is a feel good for a creative as myself. Having the listener relate to one’s music would be my greatest achievement when it comes to fulfilling a project. It’s like a breath of fresh air in an early summer morning right before picking up the homies up for a road trip, “We’re not there yet, but we’ll be there soon enough.” I’m big on keeping it real, keeping that creative expression transparent, in means of realness of self and thoughtfulness of the audience. I’m an avid old school hip hop listener, that’s where my creative side gravitates towards, with the inclusion of this up to date sound. Being a positive creative is important to me not only for the listener, but for our future. So why did I pursue this you ask? To be heard. Read more>>

Lisa Mansour | Artist

I was 46 years old when I was brave enough to pursue an artistic career. Back in college I majored in marketing and worked in the field of advertising – the most creative outlet I could find in the business world. Still, art was an important part of my life. I was happily painting or taking classes and workshops whenever I could. My daughters would come home from school with pictures drawn of our family and I was always depicted as Mommy the Artist. This made me dream of going back to school to study art, and to live up to their perception of me. And, I’ll admit, I always knew there was an artist inside of me. 9 years ago my dad died of pancreatic cancer at the young age of 70. I realized that life is so short and I felt compelled to pursue a formal art education. I was accepted into the Post-Baccalaureate program at Laguna College of Art + Design and graduated in 2017. My journey as an artist may have started later in life but I’m proof that you are never too old to pursue your dreams. Read more>>

Suzy Mae | Artist & Freelance Ad Strategist

I desire freedom. Creativity represents freedom. The ability to make something new with my hands or my mind. The power to create a vision that others can tap into and experience. Sharing what I feel is clearest when I voice it through a creative expression. The idea of inspiration leading to reception resulting in new streams of thought is intoxicating. When I was young, I aspired to become an artist, or a sculptor, or a filmmaker. I wanted the ability to make my vision come to life. I had limited control as a kid, and art was the place where I could imagine and create secret ways of living my life. Alternate universes. Complete control. Art in action. Today, my creative endeavors include thinking quietly and putting words to paper. I enjoy planning and strategizing a pathway to success. I enjoy the rush of a completed painting, the satisfaction of a team effort coming to life, and the dedication to craft and growth. I’m a painter, a writer, a thinker and a filmmaker. I don’t limit myself, because creativity, to me, is freedom. A pass to happiness. An opportunity. Read more>>

Chelsea Shorkey | Brand Strategist + Designer

I firmly believe that the artistic and creative things that excite and inspire as in our youth are rooted in us. As we grow up we often find ourselves veering away from these things, possibly towards more “practical” or “safe” career choices. Some of us find our way back and some are courageous enough to pursue these creative passions. The inspiration that I have found in my creative business brings so much light and energy into my life and the opportunity to work with creatives every day who inspire me so much is such a gift. I am so glad that I made the decision to return to my childhood creativity. Read more>>

Chloe Sapienza | Owner & Creative Director of Telescope Studio

Creativity is deeply woven into the fabric of my being. Growing up in a family of artists exposed me to many forms of creative expression at a young age. Design took hold as a way to merge my arts background and my propensity for mathematics and invention. When I’m creatively solving problems, I’m the truest version of myself. It’s something that I love innately, have spent my life honing, and it brings me true joy. My hope is that this translates not only to my business but to all facets of my life. Read more>>

Mysty Lawrence | Creative Director

Some things in life come naturally and others we work hard to be great at. Being an artist and pursuing a creative career was something that I was destined for. I’ve always been someone to think outside the box and knew that I wouldn’t be happy in just a 9 to 5 setting. Being a creator fulfills me in ways that completes me. I feel that each day has new purpose because there’s so much to create. Being an artist is second nature for me and I can’t see life any other way without. Read more>>

Braxton Holme | Model & Stylist

I decided to pursue a creative/artistic career so that I could create a world for myself where I felt normal. I wanted to create a world where I could let all my wild ideas fly and transform myself and others into individuals of their own personal liking – regardless of the thoughts and concerns of anyone else. Read more>>

OTA Studios | Content Creators

One reason we pursue an artistic career is that it allows us to take a simple idea and utilize technology in our own artistic way to bring it to life. On The Air with Joe and Blair came to be from just a simple idea of a fully automated talk show and we successfully executed it, it wasn’t easy but that’s part of the creative process. Our content has expanded way beyond just that. We added in Vlogs, Skits, On The Street interviews, Podcasts, and all sorts of different content. Even when it’s hard to make content or get writer’s block, it’s very inspiring to look back at old videos to see what we’ve accomplished and how far we’ve come, it makes it all worth it. Read more>>

Sam Aleks | Artist & Writer

I never though of creating as a career, I still don’t. In a way it’s more of an extension of myself. When I was just getting into it, it helped me get a better sense of what was going on in my mind. I would paint something, whatever came out, and then try to understand what it was. This process helped me dissect how I was feeling. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to understand myself a bit more, and the motivation behind painting and writing stories has evolved as well. I’ve always viewed artists as messengers. Those with creativity and skill are inherently tasked with diving into themselves and understanding the world around them. They do this to present others with a safe way of experiencing reality and making sense of their own situations. They help us feel less alone. I now view my work as playing this kind of role. In particular, the best part of pursuing a creative career has been giving my work to others. That’s ultimately the reason I’ve kept it going this far. Read more>>

Giulia Dukes | Singer-Songwriter, Violinist & Film Composer

When I was very young my parents realized quite soon that sports weren’t something I was very good at so they decided to try with different activities and one of them was music. I was 4 when I took my first piano class and after that it soon became very clear to me that music was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I immediately felt like I had found what I was meant to do and the moment I really became sure was when I wrote my first composition. It was just a simple piano tune but the way I felt, and the way I still feel nowadays whenever I’m composing, well, nothing has ever made me quite as happy and satisfied with myself. I pursued an artistic and creative career because it’s the only thing that keeps me constantly entertained and that never tires me. It’s the only thing in my life where it doesn’t matter how much time is going by, I don’t even realize it! And especially in a moment like the one we’re experiencing now I couldn’t be happier about my career decision because at least I get to write all day and night and that is all I could ask for. Read more>>

Garrett Nobriga | Musician

Well luckily for us it was an easy decision to pursue our music career. It’s definitely what makes us feel fulfilled so it was a no brainer. We can’t imagine doing anything else, and we feel fortunate enough to have such strong feelings about our chosen career path. Read more>>

Mildred Saldana | Illustrator

This wasn’t something that I chose because I was *good* at it. The decision to chose a career path as an illustrator only got serious one month before my high school graduation. I was fully interested in becoming a paleontologist or actress. Late start, but I was fueled with excitement, passion, and curiosity to learn. Sure, I had taken lots of creative extra credit classes and art classes during middle and high school, but it was never something I took seriously as a future career. Once I was serious about pursuing an artistic career, I was enamored with how many ways art can be displayed and used. Book covers, consumer products, concept art, etc. It made me love the career more and more. A career where I could scream my passions with the use of colors, design, and imagery. I just knew it was meant for me. Read more>>

Danielle Dawn Lewis | Florist and Wedding Stylist/Planner

When I was in college I attended a student art showcase and there was this one titled, “I have a dream and I have a job”. Those words have stuck with me in the back of mind for years now. “– I have a dream and I have a job,” As a child I was really creative, cutting up clothing and glueing them together to make new pieces, always drawing, making hand made cards, dancing, and singing. And this creativity wasn’t something that I grew out of. In fact, I don’t believe that anyone needs to “grow out” of creativity and imagination– I believe that it is essential to our being as well as essential to our world. I had several jobs before choosing to pursue floristry and wedding design and coordination and in each of those jobs I found myself saying, “I have a dream and I have a job.” There was peace in knowing that each of those jobs were truly a stepping stone and just as integral to my journey as where I find myself now, but there was still an itch because I knew I wasn’t supposed to stay there. Read more>>

Justine Gera | Dancer & Fashion Creative

My goal was to always purse a professional career in dance. As a Canadian, I wanted to be able to work in the U.S. since I was around 15 or 16 years old. I took dance very seriously and with more experience and training, I wanted to continue and take what I have learned into pursuing a career out of it. It is just truly always what I have wanted to do. I do have other passions other than dance however and it is to work in the fashion industry. Also a creative career choice! I ended up going to college back in Canada and studying the business of Fashion while also working in the dance industry. My even bigger goal was to be able to balance both passions — which I can happily say, I am doing just that!. Read more>>

Jay Long | Queer Music Artist

I like to believe that a creative path chose me. Music speaks to me like no human can. The process of music making is my church, my therapy, and my meditation. When I am at a loss for words, or cannot process my own emotions, I find the mindfulness I need in making music. The career has just made sense. Doing this thing keeps purpose and excitement in my life, so how can I make sure it never stops? I know I will never stop doing it, so it seems only natural I make it my career. Read more>>

Heather Yesenia | Actress, Photography, Artist

I’ve always loved everything related to art, I loved to draw because I loved to combine bright colors, like the ones I used to see in my backyard. Growing up I always had a crazy imagination; I grew up very shelter from the world for a little bit but even as a young kid I would explore the ideas in my head and growing up surrounded by nature and trees help improve that imagination. I always liked performing, creating and making people see things from a different point of view; as an actress I can tell stories that can help others relate to a certain situation and tell stories that will be someone’s escape for an hour or two. As a photographer I love capturing moments and build memories that show certain emotions, shooting film photographing has helped me slow down and really take in a moment before pushing my shutter button. Read more>>

Megan Frances | Artist

I vividly remember, even as a very young child, the resounding sense of gratification I felt from creating something entirely from my imagination. I also recognized early on how absorbing the process of creating could be. I loved that feeling of being transported. Even if I didn’t analyze it as a little girl, I instinctively knew I wanted to keep going back to the act of being engaged in the creative process. I’m still fascinated by the process. It’s a magical quest to bring to fruition something that starts as a flicker in the imagination. I thrive on the challenge of combining an intriguing original idea with the technique, perseverance, resourcefulness and drive to bring that idea to life. Read more>>

Arly Stroben | Clothing Designer & Seamstress

I pursued an artistic career because I was an extremely creative child and my mother noticed it early on. She always pushed me to do something with it but most of the time I didn’t listen. I can remember her telling me to be a designer of some sort and scoffing at her suggestion. Once I went to college and started exploring majors, none of the options seemed right for me. I took class after class and was about to give up on school but then decided to take a Fashion Design course over summer and GAME OVER. I knew within my first week of learning to sew that I was meant to be a designer and to capitalize on my creativity. As soon as that course was over, I signed up for the Fall and opened my business. Read more>>

JeRonelle | Music Artist

I grew up in a musical environment so it only made sense that music would go on to be my main career lane. Whether I was at home watching old Gospel music videos that my Mom had recorded on VHS, riding around the city and singing along to songs on the radio, or even singing in choirs at church and school, the element of music has always been present in my life. Even as I got older and pursued high education in bigger cities, there was no other career path that had any sort of appeal to me except for music and the arts. Read more>>

Aria | Recording Artist & Life Coach

I moved around a lot as a child and never had a physical home base. Music and art gave me a home to come back to no matter where I was in the country. It helped me express myself, move through trauma and discover self love. Through having terminal cancer twice and relearning to walk and talk again after my car wreck it is the one thing that has always been a constant healer in my life whether it be calming anxiety, nerve pain, helping me relearn to sing or heal my heart. Read more>>

Christos Joannides | Creative Director

As long as I can remember, since middle school and onward, all the way through college, I always found math, physics, economics and any other “mundane” class to be, well, mundane. As soon as I entered an art class, or a photography class later in college, or a humanities class or an art history class, it felt so much more engrossing. Learning about the chiaroscuro in a Rembrandt painting or the shadows in a Bresson photograph was so much more captivating than any mathematical theorem. So knowing that I would never be a banker or an accountant, I followed my heart and invariably pursued creative work or work that entailed some spark of creativity. That passion fueled me to start my own design firm back in 2008 and I am happy to say that I still bring the same enthusiasm to each new project we take on and I still get that adrenaline rush when we complete a project and the client is happy. Read more>>

Janice Daoud | Celebrity Makeup Artist

I have always been a very creative person, My art work was featured at the local art gallery when I was in elementary school at the age 10. At a very early age, I’d study my mom’s Vogue Magazine’s like they were the Bible. I loved the models, the fashion, the glam, and designers. I knew I wanted to be apart of it someday, never knew what part of it but I wanted to be involved and have my work in magazines like the one I studied. Read more>>

Phoenix Liu | Video Producer

My family went through a lot of changes when I was about 10 years old. Things went downhill so quickly – during one summer, my parents got divorced, we moved away, we gave away our puppy because my mom couldn’t afford a pet anymore, my brother and I were forced to transfer to a different school, etc. While being too caught up adjusting ourselves to the new life, I didn’t get a chance to really process the trauma of having a “broken family”. It all hit me at once when I was in middle school where I found myself surrounded by girls from wealthy and seemingly perfect families. I realized that I was different but not in the way I wanted. The only thing I found enjoyable was burying myself in numerous movies. I didn’t get to watch many films growing up, so when I “discovered” this art form in middle school, there was so much for me to explore. Every Friday after school, I would visit the only DVD rental store in town and picked out enough DVDs for a whole weekend. Read more>>

Espie Randolph III | Actor, Writer, Filmmaker

Honestly I started as a very shy child but then one day I was like “screw it” and I became the most outspoken energetic 12 year old. I ended up booking a kids sketch comedy television show where I started writing and performing and I just never stopped. Now, as an adult, on top of acting and writing, I’m making my own films and television shows. Read more>>

Quiana Johnson | Marketing Coordinator

I decided to pursue a creative career because I have a passion for bringing ideas to life! More specifically I chose Marketing because it gives me the opportunity to tell a story while connecting with a consumer. I attended the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising where I was surrounded by endless inspiration and creative peers and professors. While I decided to pursue a creative career, I will always have an analytical side to balance it out!. Read more>>

Tiffany Trenda | Multimedia Performance Artist

I pursued a career in the arts because I knew I had something important to say with a unique perspective. From an early age, I was always interested in dance, photography, video, and fashion. As time progressed, I focused more on performance and technology and conceptually about the female body and media. Read more>>

Benji Kaufman | Actor, Comedian, and Clown

I have always been a creative individual. From a young age I would love to create different silly characters using all sorts of clothing items and accessories at my disposal. I was obsessed with making people laugh and making people smile. There is a special feeling I get when I create an idea that could bring joy to other people, almost like a high. The pursuit of this feeling led me to an artistic career. Not many people can say they are still pursuing a passion they had at age 5, and I hope to still be pursuing it at age 95. Read more>>

Bryan Maurice | Actor/Producer/Business Owner

I love to entertain and create. I want to change the world one film at a time. Read more>>

Ulato Sam | Actor, Entertainer, Movement Architect

Have you ever experienced a moment where you couldn’t find the words, sound or movement to accurately express yourself? Well, I found myself in this predicament quite often growing up, however I also realized that somewhere out there in the world there was an artist, a creative, another person who had spent time figuring out that feeling, that moment I had experienced, and put it in their art. Whether a painting, script, poem, song or dance, I found that whatever I hadn’t yet the life experience to articulate was wrapped up delicately and vulnerably in the art of someone who had come before me. As I grew older I realized that in order to help someone else, someone who may have the challenge I did, I could dive into my experiences, share the experiences of others, and most importantly inspire someone else to do the same through my art. Read more>>

Darrell Simms | Musician & Artist

When i was a kid, I started to try different creative things like drawing and poetry. Music was something a friend of mine was doing and i decided to try it out. In the beginning, it was a way for me to vent and later on felt like a diary. An update of what was going on in my life. I loved the fact that it never needed to be done perfectly because imperfection is art. That is what makes it unique and real. I had never felt that way before. Read more>>

Booney | Director, Script Writer & Editor

Growing up I’ve always been interested in working with cameras either being behind them or in front of of them, I remember first watching the movie Men In Black; I was about 7 years old and seeing Will Smith just become this great actor, and at the time I had long hair. I was so inspired to be like him that I told my mom that I want to cut my hair and be just like Will Smith. About a week later she finally got my hair cut and bought me an all black suit with the black glasses so I can be just like him. Then some years later I remember setting up a still-freeze frame photoshoot with my WWE action figures with an old fashion Kodak disposable camera; having my mom go get it developed and then going over them looking at what my shots came out to be. At that time it wasn’t much, given I had no monitor showing me how the pictures were going to come out, all I had was my eyes and imagination. Once I got older I had many hobbies and different passions that only took place for a short period of time like basketball. Read more>>

Sharmaarke Purcell | Actor

My shift to acting was caused by the creative freedom in the real of film. The love of growing and creating works that can reflect my personality and love foe the craft. The unbiased and matter of fact commitment and pursuit of excellence in this realm was just something I gravitated to. Read more>>

Eva Jerkins | Professional Dancer

Honestly, because I couldn’t function without it. Though I will always try to do my absolute best at any job, I was never happy when I tried to do anything else. And in a way, having a career doing what I love feels like life’s ultimate cheat code. Besides, art is more than a career to me. It is the way I speak, the way I advocate for others, and the way I explore the world. Work doesn’t feel like work. I could never pass that up, no matter how hard the journey may be. Read more>>

Neon | Artist

I pursued an artistic career because I could truly be in control of expressing myself. Working for others comes with its limitations and parameters. Although Structure is needed, working for someone else would mean that I would be obligated to suppress my true personality. My happiness truly exudes through creativity so it has and always will be my main priority. Read more>>

Zack Djurich | Music Producer & Engineer

I never really thought there was another option. When I was really young I was drawing all the time and once I turned 10 all of that energy was redirected towards music. By the time I was 12 I was already planning on going to Berklee College of Music and I honestly didn’t even explore any other options because I was convinced it would be a waste of time. When you know, you know. Read more>>