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.

Casey James Knight | Actor, Photographer

I knew from a young age that I didn’t want a traditional job. I wanted to have fun for a living. I know how overwhelmingly privileged that sounds, and I’ve been extremely fortunate to have friends and family who support me. I’m not someone who would “absolutely die” if they had to work a desk job. I respect all workplaces and the people who pursue those paths. But If i could do something that I truly loved for a living, I was going to do it. So here I am….sitting at a desk. But it’s my desk, in my home, drinking my coffee, telling MY cat to get the hell off the keyboard. Both acting and photography require a certain amount of time sitting at a desk. I just wanted the freedom to do it on my own terms. Read more>>

Trason Leslie | Screenwriter & Director

I never saw myself doing anything that wasn’t going to involve some sort of creativity. In class as a kid, while others would be doing work I would sit in my terribly placed assigned seat watching Nacho Libre from memory. I had been itching to do something artistic. I went to a Charter School that treated Math like the Spoiled Baby of the family and anything Art or Expressive got the same treatment as the Red-Headed Stepchild. I felt like The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, I awaited my creative release. Read more>>

Ty$tone | Musician

I’ve always had an interest in music but did not know if it was what I wanted to do. When my brother passed away, it motivated me to pursue music since he always believed in me and saw my potential. He was someone I looked up to so I did it to make him proud. Read more>>

Kaitlin Huwe | Artist, Producer, Educator

Easiest answer, is that I was born this way. Singing before I was talking, dancing before I was walking. I really think it was just due in my lifetime. The previous generations of my family struggled so much, and made so many personal sacrifices so that I could have access to the education and training that I’ve had as an artist and a human. I take this privilege very seriously and don’t want to squander it. I’m also just wired this way. Words weave themselves into songs, and life events weave themselves into stories. My brain is constantly looking for the funny thing, the beautiful thing, the truthful thing. And then the joy that flows from taking the chaos of life and distilling it into one lyric, one story, or one character is my favorite way to participate in our culture. Read more>>

Kristi Ellingsworth | Actor & Soon to be Personal Trainer

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve jumped at the opportunity to make art and exercise my creativity. Stories and storytelling felt immediately important to me. I remember flipping through countless picture books imagining my own pros and dialogue before I could read. For a while, my parents thought they might have a little three year old prodigy on their hands because I had memorized every word along with corresponding page turns to my most treasured books. As I grew older, this passion for reading expanded into film, tv, and theater. In second grade, I learned that I could participate in an actual play, and my mind was blown. Read more>>

Loren Teetelli | Goldsmith and Designer for Loren Nicole

I’ve always been interested in the arts, but also the science behind understanding materials. I originally planned to continue my career as an archaeologist, focusing predominantly on science and studying art, but not actually creating. I began taking ancient metalsmithing classes to become a better archeologist and conservator, but quickly fell in love with it and was reminded that I love to create and I love working with my hands. So I used metalsmithing to bring all my passions together; I get to incorporate science in alchemy and experimentation with new techniques, history in the storytelling and motifs I create, and art in physically created every jewel. Read more>>

Omar Madkour | Lighting Designer

I feel like we live in a world where we are trained to follow a set of doctrines and rules. We are taught what is right & what is wrong before we get a chance to think and evaluate. I think art has the capacity to challenge these “norms” I am interested in being a part of work that raises questions & triggers us to think – as opposed to giving us answers and confirmations. I am not drawn to moral stories where the protagonist wins and the antagonist rots, but rather I appreciate my career in the arts because it can be provocative and disruptive to the mind-numbing routine. Read more>>

Anna Monet | Founder & Designer

The truth is that I love connecting with people. As an artist, I want to share a piece of beauty with anyone willing to embrace it. As a stylist, I always see opportunities in dressing to bring forward your most authentic self. I believe that it is a healing practice that can bring people closer to themselves and each other. I feel that clothing and accessories designed and produced with an intention have more of that healing quality. I chose creative life because I believe that observing and engaging with art has the ability to transform lives. Beauty is universal, and good sustainable design can impact our planet in very real ways. I think that every object produced today should remind us of our humanity, bring us closer and remind us that we have a responsibility to take care of our planet. Read more>>

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I’ve always wanted to pursue art. To be honest, I’ve never really been able to imagine myself enjoying doing anything else. Ever since I was in second grade, I had wanted to be a photographer and I actually still do camera-work from time to time to this day. However I think I’ve really found a home within textiles and that’s my main pursuit. I really love working with my hands and bringing my colorful little ideas into reality. It brings me so much joy. I wouldn’t want to do anything else. Read more>>

Jane Kelly | Multi Media Artist and Designer

As far back as I can remember, there was never any question in my mind to be anything other than an artist. That was the answer I gave when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. Luckily my mom (who was an artist herself) recognized this in me and supported my blossoming creativity by giving me art supplies for birthdays and holiday gifts. I was shy and somewhat dyslexic, and always felt that art was a clear channel I could turn to as a way to express myself. Read more>>

Jacqui Blue | Documentary Filmmaker, Writer and Hypnotherapist

Creative outlets have always made me feel fulfilled in life whereas nothing else ever really has in the quite the same way. I figured if I could use my creativity as a career, I’d be satisfied with my profession and as they say, when you do what you love and love what you do, you never really “work” a day in your life. Read more>>

Alison Rubens | Actress

I decided to pursue an artistic career as an actress because I have found my purpose in serving others as a storyteller. The deepest stories and performances are a catalyst for people to laugh, cry, reflect, and feel. Stories allow us to celebrate our differences and also our similarities. It allows us to travel to different places, different times, and different worlds. It is powerful to listen to a story because it has the capacity to open one’s perspective to the deeper essence of what it means to be human. I have always known that I wanted to be part of that form of art. Read more>>

Lamont McNair | Hip-Hop Artist

MontyKong pursued a creative career because it is a way he is able to connect with his audience. Everything from the storytelling and the character he displays ,allows his words to be felt in a strong meaningful way. Read more>>

Adrien Myles | Singer/Songwriter

The best career choice is a career that chooses you. Ever since I was a child, I emulated the behavior of a sponge. I am a vigilant observer. I pick up on everything and I am distinctly meticulous. My interest for so many vastly different fields has always been an internal conflict. I feel like there are so many careers that I can find incredible success in, but each day when I wake up, I know that my gift for music is my purpose in this world. Read more>>

DORA SIYI WU | Documentary Filmmaker

I made my first documentary around 2012. I was selected to join a voluntary program to make a social issue documentary in Cambodia. I was so shocked by their educational situation there. Can you imagine those poor Cambodian families, do you know why they are so poor, but they just keep having babies, like every family has more than 5 or 8 kids Read more>>

Jocelyn C Chambers | Composer-Creative

I always have multiple ideas buzzing in my head at any given time, and I am therefore always pursuing multiple forms of creativity. I have hundreds of notes with flavor concepts, cake designs, music melodies, apparel ideas, and even a list of places I want to own real estate. Not creating isn’t an option that I have in my DNA, so the way I see it, I had no choice to pursue a creative career. One of the things I love most about being an entrepreneur is that I’m not limited in my creativity, which is why I bake on top of writing music for film and ads. I get to express my multifacetedness in the way that best serves me when I work for myself. Creativity is who I am. Read more>>

Lisa Mason Lee | Actor and Filmmaker

Choosing to pursue a creative career was the ONLY option really. I mean what else was I good at aside from the Arts? (Cue the crickets) My earliest memories of happiness entailed coloring, painting, acting, dressing up, tons of pretend talk shows, movies and theatrical improv performing with family and neighborhood homies. I never wanted the fun and happiness to end so I kept it going into adulthood. Which wasn’t that controversial of a move in my family… yet we’ve had the “get a real job” conversation many times 🙂 Read more>>

Chelly Jane | Audio Engineer & Songwriter

Initially when I first started on my journey I was pursuing a singer/songwriter career. As a female when you are first starting out in the entertainment industry there’s a lot that goes unsaid that you kind of just have to already know. One of piece of information that I wasn’t aware of was that not all engineers are the same. When I was going to school my Professor DAVID COLE, was always professional, knowing of all things audio, and made the creative process a blast. Fast forward to the real world that wasn’t the case. I always felt that the engineers I worked with didn’t really cater to my sound or knew how to properly record a singer/songwriter, that ultimately led me down my path of audio engineering and being self sufficient in my creative process. Read more>>

Tracy Richardson | Painter/Sculptor

Why did you pursue a creative or artistic career? I have always been an artist and as a kid growing up in the early 1960’s, I wanted to be a photojournalist. My parents had a yearly subscription to National Geographic magazine and I was fascinated by the pictures of people and places that were so different from my surroundings. The images fired my imagination and influenced my life and still does. I come from a family that is very creative on one side and conservative, businesslike on the other. I was influenced very early in life by the music playing in the house and my parents were co-owners of an International art gallery in the 1970’s. Read more>>

Bobby Adams | Product Developer & Artist

Growing up I was always surrounded by makers. My mom and grandma loved crafting, my dad and uncles were building race cars and in high school I took as many hands on electives as I could, welding, woodshop, photography, film making, and sewing. My brain loved solving tactile problems and putting in the hours to acquire new skills and that hasn’t stopped. Being an artist allows me the space to explore and bring my wild ideas to life every single day. Read more>>

Alisha Garz | Graphic Designer & Writer

Since I can remember, I’ve always had a passion for creative arts. When I was a little girl, my mother always made sure I had something creative to do using my hands, whether building dollhouses out of old shoe boxes or playing with those nostalgic art sets filled with everything from clay, color pencils to paints. It became an escape for me since I was a child and still is to this very day. Read more>>

Stefanie Lau | Los Angeles-based arts administrator and theatre producer

I grew up going to schools in Asian American and Latinx neighborhoods. I knew as a kid that the news, movies, tv shows, books – basically all media – did not represent or tell our stories. And as I got older, I saw that when our communities were included, we were reduced to stereotypes and tropes. In high school I decided I wanted to be a journalist so I could write about our communities. I pursued journalism all through college … working for my school newspaper, getting professional internships … but as I learned more about the industry, I realized getting to tell the stories I wanted to tell in mainstream media was going to be difficult. Read more>>

Aleen Khachatourian | Artist & Writer

We are creator beings by nature and to be human is to be an artist. It has always been a given for me. Expression and sharing are not what I do, they are how I function. Freedom is one of my core values. My spirit feels more expansive than I can try to perceive. To wake up and craft my days exactly as I want, when I want, where I want. Infinitely. I know that I’m here to lend a unique frequency to the collective (as is every single human being), so it has always a priority for me to curate my life to allow for that. Read more>>

Sienne Josselin | Storyboard Artist & Illustrator

I can’t not art. It’s sort of like the benefit of exercise, it feels really good physically, mentally, and emotionally, and the more it’s done, the more everything comes back into balance. When I’m not doing art, I don’t feel good and I get very anxious! It’s naturally a part of my rhythm, whether I’m doing it professionally or on my own. I think a career in the arts was going to happen some way, somehow. If I’m not storyboarding, I’m in the ceramics studio, or keeping up with voice lessons, or drawing in my sketchbook. I’m addicted to creativity! Read more>>

Leah Ashton | Singer, Songwriter, Artist

If you take a deep dive into my family’s collection of home videos on VHS, there’s footage of my 5th birthday party where I’m asked what I want to be when I grow up. I confidently answer “a singer!”, and I can honestly tell you that nothing has changed in the 29 years since then. I’ve always wanted to pursue a career in making music and haven’t ever seriously considered a different path. Read more>>

Lunarcode | Alternative Rock Band

It is in our blood, we all come from families who have some sort of music in their background. We definitely aren’t the 9-5 type of people. We need the freedom to try new things and be creative. Since we were young we all have been involved in music; Our drummer was in band at his school, our singer worked at his school’s radio station, and our guitarist started gigging at the age of 14. Read more>>

Kelechi Urama | TV Writer

I grew up with an enormous love for reading and devoured basically anything I could get my hands on– children’s books, magazines, the nutritional labels on Ketchup bottles. As long as words were involved, I was excited to take them in. And from a very early age, that love of reading morphed into a passion for writing. Not only could I read about different stories and worlds, but I could also create them too! And I did, filling numerous spiral notebooks with fictional stories over the years. Read more>>

Sweet Gav | Musician, Audio Engineer, and Artist

The basic reason is simple: music and art bring me the greatest fulfillment and focus in life; however I didn’t always know I would pursue an artistic career. It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I definitely didn’t know going into college– it took me ’til my senior year to truly realize that performing my music live and making art would be the driving passion in my life. It took me even longer to learn I had a strong passion for audio engineering. I guess what I’ve learned so far in my 24 years is that it’s okay to take things slow and really develop yourself rather than rushing towards a finish line. Enjoying the process will only bring about more happiness and an inner sense of success in the long run. Read more>>

KAVON WARD | Founder of Justice for Bruce’s Beach/Reparations Activist/Spoken Word Artist

An artistic/creative career actually chose me! The art of spoken word has been part of my life since I was a teenager but growing up, I wanted to be a lawyer and so I was extremely studious. I started utilizing the art of spoken word as therapy as it was my saving grace, over a decade ago, when I sued the national non profit I lobbied for and when there was an uptick of black people being murdered by police. The first piece I performed was my ‘I am Trayvon Martin’ piece which won me awards and led to an opportunity to open for rapper/actor/activist Common. Read more>>

Gabbi Soong | Graphic Designer

I originally was going to be a dentist actually. I never really considered pursuing any creative career growing up. I had an appreciation for art, but I’ve always had difficulty trying to make it growing up. I could never find the reason to make anything or express myself through the medium. I’ve always been more of an analytical thinker anyway, so naturally I was drawn towards the STEM subjects, went to school to study biology, and ended up pursuing dentistry for that reason. Read more>>

Kuya Ky | Human & Artist

I chose an “artistic” career because I rather go throughout life singing and dancing, having a good time, than sitting behind a counter or in a cubical. It’s not the most financially sound route to take, but I’m fairly simple and don’t require a lot to be happy. Read more>>

Anthony Avaylen | Designer & Visual Artist

I’m very grateful to have grown up in Orange County. I grew up with strong, supportive parents but also grew up with amazing artistic grandparents who each come from a musical and fine arts background. This exposed me to the arts at an early age, yet I never really saw it as a career for me. Sports and friends were way more important to me than art. If you’re raised in OC, action sports brands, local or global, are everywhere. It’s kind of what you grow up with. These California lifestyle brands really caught my eye with the art they were creating. Read more>>

Marlena Miller | Photographer, Sculptor & Storyteller

I’ve gravitated towards photography and art for most of my life and that expression has been one of the many layers of who I am, so the pursuit of a creative career seemed to happen naturally. I moved to California from the West Texas border-town of El Paso, to further my education at California College of the Arts in Oakland. I was fortunate to have been mentored by compelling the iconic artists Chris Johnson, Tammy Rae Carland, Jim Goldberg, Todd Hido and the late greats Larry Sultan and Sue Ciriclio. To this day I still carry their messages of creating truthful, candid and visceral work. Read more>>

Benton Preciado | Cellist and Cello Instructor

Its hard to name just one reason I decided to pursue being a professional cellist. As a kid, I wasn’t the nerdy Straight A type. Nor was I the sporty Jock type. To be honest, nothing really peaked my interests until I was first placed in a music class (by complete accident). It took some time, but I finally found something I had a passion in, and that I was good at. Read more>>

Jesse Gonzales | Music Producer & Artist & Actor

Growing up I never fit in with others and knew from a very young age that I wanted to work in the entertainment industry. Fantasy, pop music, anime and horror movies really made an impact on me as a youth. I did not do well in the generic school environment and standard learning, unfortunately, standing out for my nerdy personality only made it harder to be liked and understood. My dreams were always too far out or “impossible“, but they were what kept me alive through some of the most difficult times in my life. I knew if I didn’t take risks and listen to the voice inside I wouldn’t be pursuing my dreams today. Read more>>

Hollei Day | Rapper & Singer/Songwriter

Music is written in my code and it just became unavoidable that I had to choose this path. I think you when you truly passionate about something even through all the pain and rejection, you come right back to it. It just is. Music is me. I know I do this because I have to. I gave everything else a fair shot. Nothing can make me feel the way music does. Read more>>

Julia Weisberg | Film Director & Writer

When I was child I sought things that made me feel special or unique in some way. During that pursuit, I discovered I was a clumsy, aloof child; not good at sports, math or science. I certainly was no Spielberg running around with my friends making movies. I spent much of my childhood alone, I didn’t have many friends growing, but I was far from lonely.  I made-up fantasy stories in my head and lived in them for many years. I created entire worlds, people and situations, all centered around me, a 9-year-old girl from Santa Rosa. Read more>>

Sarah Schriner | Sarah Schriner | Creative Manager, Music Publishing & Sync

I have always been drawn to creative pursuits, specifically in music. I began singing (constantly, and at times to my parents’ chagrin) from a very young age. I remember as a child having to make a choice between swimming and taking piano and guitar lessons, and jumping at the chance to touch something musical. I had a Yamaha keyboard my parents bought so that I could practice at home. It seemed HUGE to me then, as a little elementary school girl.  Read more>>

Meryl Nicole Taylor | Actress, Fine Artist & Dancer

I would say it chose me hence no regrets. My upbringing was very eclectic, rich and colorful which has given me much to work and play with. I’m never at a loss for material or inspiration and I love the power of creating. It’s very fulfilling and satisfying especially when a character or piece is completed and one can stand back and admire the process and beauty of it. With art one can get away with saying something that otherwise might not be heard or acknowledged. It’s magical and transformative. Read more>>

Skip Press | Writer / Editor / Screenwriter / Teacher / Writing Consultant

When I was seven years old, I was coming home from my girlfriend’s house on an autumn day. In my small town in north Texas, a crisp wind was blowing over sparsely traveled streets and I was happy. As I stopped to cross, the breeze lifted up some fallen leaves that danced magically before me for a moment, then moved away. I stood transfixed, absorbing everything around me, and thought “This will be a remarkable life.” Read more>>