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.

Ella Kweku | Actress & Model

Nothing else made sense to me but doing what made me happy. I always loved singing, dancing, being on stage, putting on long dressed and coming up with little scenes where I could play in character. I loved entertaining the people around me and I would always find new ways to do so. I understood at an early age that I could give hope to people, inspire them to dream and I decided I wanted to be a part of that. The story of my life begins with very little hope; a brothers death, my biological mother leaving and a children’s home. My father always fought for my sister and I but he had little rights as an immigrant without papers in Spain. Hope arrived when Julie Forrest came into the picture, she’s the person I consider my mother. I think those first years of my life had such a strong impact on me, I just wanted to make people around me happy and to be seen. Read more>>

Julana Dizon | Model & Travel Blogger

I pursued a creative career in Entertainment for the sole purpose of a better lifestyle. Before this, I had a 9-5 full-time job. It felt so unfair to spend the majority of my life working for others in order to pay my bills and fund my dreams, and often left me so exhausted that I didn’t have the time or energy to actually do anything I wanted. Once I began modeling and blogging, it gave me the chance to work on my own terms. I am now able to make more money, have more free time, and even get paid to travel! Plus, I control my whole life schedule now. I vacation when I want, work when I want, and spend almost every day out enjoying the world. Read more>>

Brittney Boyce | Nail Artist & Founder

I always wanted to do something that I would love for work. Something that I could always enjoy. I have an eye for detail and I wanted to use that for my nail art. Read more>>

Patrick Mattes | Director

Simply put, self expression. I believe that focusing ones life on artistry and creativity is the truest form of self. It allows me to be who I truly am. I’ve found that there is no faking it when it comes to a creative career. This path in life has forced me to express who I truly am as an individual and straying away from that would reflect poorly in my works. Read more>>

Tessa VonderHaar | Actress & Comedian

I pursued this career path because performing was my very first love. Since the time I was in preschool, singing, dancing, performing, telling stories, and getting on stage was the most magical, powerful, and wonderful thing to me. Watching the great comedians and actors on TV and films showed me a joy for life which came naturally to me, but I grew up with a tumultuous home life that was almost too hard to bear. Film, TV, laughter, and performing became my only reprieve. When no one else was there for me, these performers showed me the way. They reminded me I could laugh — and literally saved my life with the gift of laughter. And in my own healing and growth since then, I have come to know deeply that my talents are meant to do the same for others. Read more>>

Sam Spence | Photographer & Art Director

Having grown up adopted from South Korea and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, I have always known the meaning of standing out. I grew to love the arts at a very young age because it was my earliest form of expression. Dance and photography in particular were my splash of color in what seemed to be a very black and white world. Knowing my creativity was limited by my environment, I escaped life in Kansas City at the age of 14 to travel and seek a lifestyle that was rich in diversity. Since then, I have never been interested in the ordinary or pursuing popular trends. My background as a contemporary dancer has influenced my love for capturing movement and the human body in its unique form. Read more>>

Simone Vitucci | Cellist & Portrait Artist

I started to play cello just before my 10th birthday, and found myself mesmerized from the start. Hours would pass, almost unnoticed, as I tried to get a beautiful tone out of the instrument and inject musical character into the rudimentary pieces I was learning. I never really thought about what I would do as a profession, but kept honing my skills, driven both by a true love for the instrument and the gorgeous music written for it, all while being cheered on by my parents and inspiring cello teacher. By the time I was 15 I had played solo with the Cape Town Symphony orchestra (my hometown orchestra), and won numerous awards and accolades. The following year I was gifted a beautiful old French cello and traveled to the United States for the first time to attend the Interlochen music festival on a full scholarship, with an anonymously donated airfare – thank you, whoever you may be! Read more>>

Kyleen Likas | Dancer & Actress

I pursue an artistic/creative career because it is what fulfills me the most. Whether it’s dancing, acting, or really any creative job, I never feel like I’m “working”, and always leave a set feeling so inspired and just plain happy. I lose track of time whenever I’m doing something creative, and I think it’s that kind of thing you want to chase as a career. Read more>>

A.J. Lising | Filmmaker & Photographer

I started taking my journey seriously as a filmmaker and photographer in the summer of 2017. I was always interested in all forms of visual arts but what captured me the most was dissecting a story behind every motion picture or still frame that was in front of me. That summer, I told myself to take my videography and photography hobby to the next level so I worked on my craft as much as I could by shooting almost everything that I enjoyed – fashion, sports, concerts, and even a passion project talk show (s/o SofaBoyz!!). Literally everything. With all the experience I was gaining, I slowly started to figure out who I was as a creative and what type of stories I wanted to tell. Eventually, I started to shift my focus primarily on directing narrative and branded projects. Read more>>

Naomi August

As cliche as it may sound, my career path kind of chose me. I come from a family of musicians, so I feel I was naturally inclined to pursue this line of work. My cousins use to make fun of me for always turning everything I did into a beat or melody of some sort. If I washing dishes, I guess I annoyed them with how I would maybe bang a spoon randomly or always had a song reference to anything that was said. I promise I am not that bad now haha.. but I do still think of everything as to how it relates to music in some form. This career path has been and still is, what feels most natural to me. I couldn’t see myself sitting in a cubicle, reading a script to angry customers.. I tried it.. not my thing. Read more>>

Ramiro Fauve | Producer, Director, Designer, Musician, Singer, Writer & Painter

Well, hmmm, “pursue”. Well, my dad being a professor at Rutgers, we kids could study tuition-free. I was about 15 then, already working and eager to see the world. The idea of a life spent treating illness made teen-me queasy, so Doctor was out, and arguing the problems of strangers seemed like way too much drama, so Attorney was out. I started taking weekly, hour-long bus trips from Jersey to New York to study opera and to Herbert Berghof to study Method Acting. I think my genetic commanders had plans. Now I call that more “avoiding” distasteful careers than “pursuing” them. It’s an important difference. It’s about hanging back and making life sell you on paths it has to offer, and basically forcing fate. People really agonize over what to do with their lives, what to study, what to major in. The system demands you make your choice. Well, I’ve never liked confinement or labels, so maybe being a creative in some form was just inevitable. Read more>>

Yoshie Nakayama | Composer, Arranger, Singer & Trombone Player

Growing up in a Christian family in Tokyo, singing at the church every Sunday, having fun with my mother’s music classes that she held at home made me interested in music more than anything. After ten years of experiences from choir groups and brass band groups from middle school until the graduation from Kunitachi College of Music with a degree of music, my first job was non-music related administration work at an organization. In 2012, during the 11th year at the organization, I happily decided to pursue my career in the music industry via the second college study at Berklee College of Music. Their scholarship helped me tremendously. During the three years of my study, I had the pleasure of performing trombone and voice on over 400 recordings and concerts for my peers and mentors that I enjoyed a lot. Read more>>

Agbeko “Bex” Mortty | Thespian

I think being creative is the most primal of human expression. Nothing defines a person more than a demonstration of their creativity. It is for this reason that I have always felt compelled to be creative. I don’t feel I will be relevant in the universe without being creative. Read more>>

Samantha Sackler | CEO

I love the event industry on so many levels.  It has so many layers of creativity.  When I first got started in the business which was over 20 years ago, shockingly, I could see the incredible way this industry would evolve. It is amazing to see the growth, but what is most impressive is the level of style and creativity that is given to all the events that take place all over the world. The sky is the limit and I have seen and done things that I never thought possible. When I talk about layers I am referring to the many different vendors that are involved in the creation of an event and how they seamlessly come together to make one amazing story. Events are not just about a celebration anymore.  Events are more branded and tell a story about the couple getting married, the corporation acknowledging their sales teams or a non-profit articulating their message. Read more>>

Tara Aesquivel | Executive Director

My dad has told me since childhood, “Do what you love, and do it well enough that someone will pay you to do it.” The thing that I have loved since childhood is music and I’ve never really envisioned myself in any other type of career. My college admissions essay was about the joy I felt sharing music as a drum major for my high school marching band, and the same motivation keeps me going in every day in my current job. Music has been such a powerful force in my own life, and I love nothing more than to share that with others. Though, I didn’t identify exactly what my career within music would look like until a few years after I graduated with a music degree. I worked for a little while after college and went back to school to study nonprofit arts management at Carnegie Mellon. It was a perfect fit and I’m grateful to be able to pursue a career doing work that is personally meaningful. Read more>>

S. P. Harper | Artist

Art truly gives me energy and purpose. In choosing a creative career I am able to be around art that I love as well as work at a practice which continually satisfies my passion. Years ago my husband and I purchased a mid-century modern house wherein its restoration became a life-long project. We scoured Craigslist to find appropriate and historically correct pieces to match the architecture.   It was this mission that started me on the Eco-centric path by placing an emphasis on recycling, using salvaged materials as the basis for my art. I collect discarded children’s cloths and tie-dye them. The refurbished items are then donated to schools to assist in their fundraiser benefits.   All of this forced me to consider: What drives me? What is the reason for my being an artist? Am I getting closer to uncovering any kind of primal truth? My subject matter became the multi-faceted, reflective and enigmatic gemstone. Read more>>

Raphaele Cohen-Bacry | Mixed Media Artist

It may be more accurate to say that the arts chose me rather than I chose them. I actually resisted it for a while because there were so many other things that interested me. When I was 18 I was not yet ready to jump into the arts as a career. I went to pharmacy school to study pharmacology, botany, chemistry and so on with great interest. As a matter of fact, I am still very much involved in phytotherapy and other natural medicines, and I always study how to preserve or restore health. My interests have always been very diverse and I never wanted to limit my mind and curiosity to one area. All the different domains that help better understand the mystery of life are fascinating to me and I believe they all come together to lead us towards the best part within us. Both the artist and the scientist must have a creative mind and there is actually little difference between arts and sciences if you approach them as a way to enrich yourself. Read more>>

Jesse Cilio | Screen writer

Because I got fired from every job I ever had and I’m a felon for trafficking weed to pay off my student loan debts. And it’s the only thing that’s still magic to me since I was a child. Read more>>

Cati Porter | Poet, Essayist & Arts Administrator

Ask any artist why they create and you’ll likely get a version of the same answer: Because I have to. It’s not so much a ‘pursuit’ of a particular path. It’s like breathing; I can only hold my breath for so long before I’m gasping for air. But to say that one might be predisposed to create art is not to say that it can’t be pushed out. My mom is an example of someone who had innate talent, but whose talent was never nurtured, always undervalued — not deliberately so, but in ways that undermined her belief in herself. Growing up, we had these beautiful pencil drawings on the wall — her drawings — and on the shelf, a binder of her art. Once when I was really little we went to Yosemite and stayed in the tent cabins. There’s a picture in our family album of her cute drawing of Woodsy Owl on the canvas wall of that tent. She drew it freehand. Read more>>

Steven Marshall | Chef & Owner

We both like the versatility that being in the culinary arts allows. When you think about it while one person may have one particular food that they love more often than not people like to go out and try different things. This line of works allows us to try different foods in different regions within our state and outward. Before Covid-19 we would enjoy going on trips within California to get inspired by delicacies found in Napa, Sonoma counties ect, to out-of-state to experience the seafoods of the Pacific Northwest. Being in a creative industry experiencing new things helps spark that momentum to make new dishes and develop new flavor combinations. Read more>>