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.

Nico Franc | Recording Artist | Music Producer

After choosing to do all the things that made me miserable in my life, I finally tried the opposite, which means that I finally chose myself. After doing so, I discovered that artistic self expression was a clear root to joy and happiness in my life. Nothing matters more to me than the people in my life, and sharing with them the art that I love to make. Read more>>

Jonathan Burns | Physical Comedian

I remember when I went to college I started as a Computer Science major. I always liked computers and technology, but when I took my first class I quickly realized it wasn’t the right fit. The professor was bland, I didn’t relate to many of the other students, and I barely passed. The next semester I switched my major to Art. My advisor mentioned, “I’ve NEVER had anyone do that before?!” which made me think I was making the right decision. As soon as I walked into the art building I realized that was my place! My professors were colorful & fun, and best of all I was getting rewarded for being creative & unique. I found “my people!” Since then I continue to seek out creative people and find ways to turn my interests into my career. Read more>>

Barry Schwartz | Photographer, Educator, Writer.

Rather than pursuing my career, it pursued me. I’ve been creating things out of nothing, and paying attention to art and how it is made, since I was a child. I starting photographing seriously in my early teens, darkroom on the floor of my bedroom and all, but by the time I turned twenty thought I did not have what it took in terms of grit and, no small thing, money. Every few years, however, I would find a camera – even a borrowed one – and dive back in. I started getting published in local papers in my twenties. Then, I would put the camera down again. This pattern repeated for many years. In the meantime, I was lucky enough to get some ad-hoc training in critical thinking from a first-rate mentor, learned to write non-fiction, and was published a lot. I wrote a screenplay and short stories and children’s books (not produced or published). Until I was thirty, I was a dedicated amateur musician, singing in choirs and in bands (three-octave range), where I also played percussion. Starting in my early twenties I developed a career as a self-employed carpenter, contractor, and designer. Read more>>

Mackie Kravitz| TV Producer & Host

Growing up, I was always involved in the arts. Both of my parents worked in the entertainment industry and I knew I wanted to follow in their footsteps from a very young age. I participated in musical theatre summer programs and was heavily involved in my high school’s theatre program. This later inspired me to pursue theatre in college at USC. I took many acting and film courses and my spare time was spent producing and hosting live TV for their student-run network, Trojan Vision. In college I was more set on being an actress than a producer – in fact I had absolutely no idea what being a producer even entailed. What I did know was that I loved the fast pace of working on live (or “unscripted”) TV and how every single day brought a new challenge. When I graduated college most of my friends went into comfy corporate desk jobs like consulting and sales and I knew that was not the path for me. Although working as a freelancer seemed daunting at first, I knew my heart was in it for the right reasons and if I remained passionate and worked hard it wouldn’t be an issue. I graduated in May of 2019 and 2020 was a rough year to say the least. Read more>>

Reese El Don | Artist , Songwriter, Military Veteran & Philanthropist

I personally pursued an artistic / creative career solely on expression and service to humanity. What pushed me to do so was the many souls I would cross paths with and find that my words, presence or aura affected them in a positive manner. I’m a empath in which i can feel energies, emotions and spirits of individuals and connecting that with my passion of music / creation was the best way to serve humanity. Read more>>

Noam Dromi | Emmy Award-winning Writer/Producer, Marketing Executive and Gigital Strategist

I wrote my first book when I was 7. My family had moved to this country a year and a half earlier and I had difficulty making friends, which inspired me to write “People Who Are Friends – A Guide To Having and Being The Best Buddy Possible”. It made me realize the power of words to convey ideas, elicit emotions and find my voice — not that I understood that on an intellectual level at that age. By age 17 I was a published and produced playwright, by age 20 I sold my first teleplay, by the time I was 30 I sold my first film project which went on to get produced and made nearly $100 million at the worldwide box office and I won my first Emmy before I turned 40. While I’m proud of these accomplishments, what has continued to drive me throughout my career is the same thing that inspired 7-year old me — the power of storytelling, the realization that the written word can transform people’s perspectives, help them to develop empathy and expand their notions of what’s possible. Read more>>

Liz Vacco | Dance Educator & Founder of Petite Feet Dance

I feel most passionate about what I’m doing when I am being creative. This has always been the case. I have a five year old daughter and recently, when I watch her play, I notice how she is so fully immersed in what she’s doing when she’s drawing stories or acting them out, creating characters or inventing a new song. I was the same way at her age and I feel like the love of creating in that way has stuck with me. Without that, it’s hard for me to imagine being truly invested in what I do every day. The other thing I love about a creative career is that it is hard for it to get boring. There are continuously new discoveries to be made and new ways to go about the work. Just watching another teacher or taking a class myself can give me new ideas of how to approach a lesson and then that allows for a new experience the next time I teach. Read more>>

Maria Staroselets | Creative Producer & Director

Since I was a kid, there was not a single day without making up a new story. I always had a feeling that beneath the boring routine, there has to be some sort of a magical mechanism that sets our world into action. And I always felt the urge to discover this mechanism. Or to create one of my own. That’s the main reason why I became a Producer/Director. I strongly believe that an artist has to be this weird mix of a scientist, a philosopher, and a magician at once. There are many great examples of creativity and art being the engine for progress. Remember Tsiolkovsky’s ideas of future space facilities? Or Jules Verne’s books on underwater travel? After all, it was their visualization of the future that became the basis for scientific developments. Isn’t it exciting, building the future with the power of your imagination. Read more>>

Stephanie Satie | Actor/ Writer/Solo Performing Artist/Educator

Anything else was unthinkable. As a child, all I wanted to do was dance, and I did everywhere. My parents took me to see dance and to the theatre from the time I was four years old. Even as time passed and I wanted a broader career in the theatre – as an actor and writer – performing seemed to be my mode of expression. Also, the theatre was friendly and open. From the first day of rehearsals, we became a family. Read more>>

Rick Craft | Director/Photographer

When I was in middle school, I remember doing a mock-career/living budget for math class. We had to look at a local newspaper and find job postings and take one of those with the hourly wages/details provided. Then, we had to do the same for an apartment, a car, insurances etc. Keep in mind the internet wasn’t as prevalent for listings/businesses as it is today, so we physically had to call into these offices and ask for quotes. After getting my job as a pizza delivery driver with a Toyota pickup truck, living in a one bedroom apartment and factoring in the minimum groceries to survive, I was feeling good… I was theoretically an adult with all of my own stuff! Then came the math… With my hourly wages, I was going to be short every month by $600 or so. Most people in the class came to this same conclusion and our teacher took the moment to lecture everyone on why schooling was so important. It felt like an episode of scared straight where we stepped into D-block and would end up holding the pocket of some dude serving a life sentence if we didn’t go to college immediately after graduating. Read more>>

Mike Martucci | Wedding & Portrait Photographer

As far back as I can remember, I’ve always been drawn to all things artistic and creative. For me there is no separation between work mode and personal mode–it all has to do with looking at things creatively. I can’t imagine being separated from that, even just professionally. Wedding photography is a natural extension of my love for appreciating and creating art. Read more>>

Ken Flewellyn | Painter/Gallerist

Growing up I was constantly wrapped up with creative endeavors. When I was young, I played a few different instruments, was an amateur photographer, and had a love for building. I built my first computer at such an early age I thought I’d get into computer science or engineering¬¬. At some point I realized I was more interested in learning about aesthetics. I could still tool around with functional projects and let what I learned about design augment everything from there on out. That love of design started in a very mechanical fashion; giving life to projects whose function outweighed their form. As I digested more art my taste changed. Function became less of that spark and form was suddenly much more important. I’ve always been a proponent of monetizing passion to create a career. One life to live and all that. Read more>>

Larry Nguyen & Wendy Tuan | Partners & Principals

Art and creativity are important parts of our identities, not just as professionals, but fundamentally as people. We both have been quite interested in the arts since childhood, and studied creative fields in college. This passion and love for creative work have been the driving force for our careers and why we started (our studio) Outfit Branding & Design. The inherent quality and process of design — creation, problem-solving, expression, communication — these present a myriad of exciting challenges that make our work fun, interesting, and meaningful. Because no two projects are exactly alike, we continue to grow, evolve and learn as creatives.  We also find great joy in seeing our work help clients find their voice, and to see our ideas become manifested tangibly, whether it be a logo, packaging design, a website, or in a retail space. It gives us an enormous sense of purpose to see our work live on in different touchpoints, as if we are leaving a kind of legacy. Creativity is one element that defines our humanity, and something that enriches the world in its celebration of seeing things differently. Read more>>

Kasey Holt | Violinist/Composer

I choose it continuously. What we do with our time is a choice we all make all the time. When I was a kid, my answer to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” was always something like “a violinist, and an astronaut,” or “a violinist, and a writer,” so for me it wasn’t necessarily like I made a decision and that was that, but it’s within music I can create the space I want to discover and explore, and I can compose a melody that communicates an idea. The reason I still play the violin and create music is that it fulfills me, and I’m learning all the time. When I pay attention there’s always something new to learn-whether it’s composing with a different kind of harmony than I’m used to, or using my fingers or body differently to achieve a certain sound or texture, or sometimes on the more technical side I’m learning things like what kind of mic to use, where to position it, how I want to edit the recording so it captures what’s in my mind…it’s an endless universe to explore. Read more>>

Deborah Aschheim | Artist

I always wanted to make things and express myself visually. But in college I wound up majoring in Anthropology, which I hoped would give me a rich life of experiences. At the end of my studies, I had a crisis with the eurocentrism and colonialism that haunt that discipline, and I decided to try to use art to do what I had hoped to do as an Anthropologist: connect with all kinds of people, share our worlds and lives. I am happy that I have a public practice that lets me be an artist in society, not removed from it, using art as a way to engage with diverse communities and share stories across the urban space. Read more>>

Sean Pettis | Filmmaker & Witch

At the risk of sounding dramatic, I’ve always felt dead when I’m not creating something. Life in the human form is fleeting. The most we can hope for is to have enough time to create something that will outlive us. This isn’t about legacy or vanity, it’s about leaving behind a piece of you for your loved ones to hold onto. When you put yourself into your art, you become that art. When you’re physically gone, your personality and philosophy remain. You continue to actively participate in the discussions that were most important to you whenever your art finds a new audience member. Art has the uncanny ability to penetrate the psyche and open up people to new methods of living. To me, being a filmmaker has always been about changing the world. Read more>>

Shanna Castro | Destination Wedding + Lifestyle Photographer

Growing, if you asked me, I wouldn’t have considered myself an artistic or creative person. But, if you were to take a look at my parents house + go through their storage of old memorabilia, you’d find a LOT of random art projects, film photos of blurred scenery, discarded + dried out markers and DIY dolls made of old pantyhose. Growing up an only child, I found myself enjoying my free time exploring a variety of crafts that I would gift any one of my extended family members. I remember when our school would allow cameras at school, I would shoot a ton of photos so that I could re-live that day once the photos were developed. I would show my parents + tell them stories that accompanied the images + those stories/photos would be saved as core memories. That’s when I realized the power of a single image. There are so many images that have been captured throughout my life that I can happily look back on + feel like, for a split second, I’m transported back to that exact moment where I can re-visit that moment, feel those emotions + enjoy an unfiltered pure moment of joy. Read more>>

Yanis Zambeis | Freelance Artist

Having been an artist for as long as I can remember it naturally appealed to me, the concept of doing art for a living. For a long time I wanted to draw comic books so illustration was my primary focus, but I also liked weird and surreal art. That became a big part of the body of work I create especially since its what got a lot of people’s attention. Finding this as a possible direction for my art I went with it, which worked out because its the most relaxing part of art for me. Read more>>

Dani Scaringe | Dancer, Animator, Tattoo Artist

I knew that I would never be fully and truly happy unless I was doing something I loved. I feel the most alive and the most myself when I’m creating, it only made sense to turn it into a career. It allows me to have spontaneity and variety in my everyday, while also allowing me learn new things and perfect my craft. I love getting to collaborate and bring other people’s visions to life, it is so rewarding to be able to create something impactful and meaningful for others. Art helps me process, and in doing so, can help other people relate to you on a, sometimes, uncomfortable level. It creates a hidden support system that can provide a lot of comfort and relationality between total strangers. I knew I wanted to facilitate that in any way I could. Read more>>

Ericali Johnston | Painter and illustrator

I feel that I am in the beginning stages of truly pursuing a career as a freelance artist. For me I have worked many jobs over the years and while I have learned and grown from these different experiences, I didn’t feel creatively fulfilled. I wanted to express the different ideas in my mind and do what I love most. Read more>>

Wendy-Sème Orleans | Filmmaker

Art is a representation of life, and art is a place where we can truly be free. I want to spread joy to the world is the reason. People tend to seek safety in life, but the arts allow people to feel thrilled while still being safe. It is our jobs as artists to take them on a ride worth remembering. Read more>>