We asked some of the city’s leading artists and creatives to tell us about how they decided to pursue an artistic or creative career. We’ve shared some highlights below.

Jeffrey Johnson | Composer & Artist

In a way, we don’t choose the creative life – it chooses us. The art in our souls bubbles up from a deeper well of goodness and beauty that just can’t be covered up. We can try and ignore the desire to create, push it down, suppress it, crush it with practical business mindsets, block it with too many carbohydrates – and I’ve done all those things – but it still pushes to the surface one way or another. But creative work is good work – important work. And it is something to embrace and not run from. Read more>>

Gregory Schmittel | Filmmaker

I made my first movie when I was ten years old. It was a short film about the civil war. I used bottle rockets and smoke bombs for effects and my family members played the part of the dead soldiers. I love collaborating with the others and the filmmaking process as a whole. I later attended the film program at Webster University Saint Louis, Missouri. It was there that I really evolved into more of a cinematographer role. Read more>>

Quinci Freeman-Lytle | Musician, Actor, & Writer

This question is so hard to answer for some reason. From the moment I started acting and singing, I never questioned this was what I needed to be doing for the rest of my life. I want to be a part of the process. The joy that comes with creating something and making people feel feelings is wild, man. It feels powerful and vulnerable at the same time. Live theatre is where I trained and will always be my home, but my dream is in film, both on screen and off. With storytelling, the possibilities are endless. Read more>>

Joshua de Leon | Vocalist and Guitarist of One Outta Ten

I had always wanted to monitor myself, and art allows me to do that. In high school, music just became a healthy outlet to describe my failing relationship at the time. I felt very trapped in an emotionally abusive relationship, and neither me or my partner were very good to each other. Negative emotions feed off more negative emotions, I guess. I think a big part of it was that we were both young, we were both each other’s first “real” relationship, or as real as you can get when you’re sixteen. Everyone goes through crazy fluctuations in mood in high school, right? And even though I wasn’t alone in my emotional turbulence, it always feels like you’re the only person going through it at the time. Read more>>

River Jax | Artist & Baker

I’ve been into art since I was a kid. So I thought why not run a business doing what I love and enjoy vs working for someone else? I’m really happy to be able to be as creative as I want and make pieces of artwork that’s different from others. I love the freedom I’m able to give myself to just create. Read more>>

Anusha Savi | Independent Alternative R&B/Pop Artist

I am pursuing an artistic and creative career because it is a way to make a mark in the world for myself, to myself, in society, and in my communities. I truly believe that the arts are what give soul to people – the arts shaped my life so deeply. I also tried, and even had success in, other perfectly normal, safe, and “practical” careers but it never felt right for me. The problem was this: I was not connected to the work – I felt as if the work I would spend countless hours on didn’t really matter, have great societal value, or give me joy. Read more>>

Lisa Derai | Dance Photographer

For as long as I can remember, I have always been passionate about dancing, singing and being creative in any way I can. My mom put me in dance classes at age 3 and that’s when my love for that art was born. However, I quickly realized that becoming a dancer was out of reach for many reasons (various injuries, dance school tuition becoming too expensive…) Read more>>

Angélica Becerra | PhD Candidate in Chicana/o & Central American Studies at UCLA and Artist

My role as an artist grew directly out of the support from my family and my organizing experiences. From a young age, I benefitted from having family members who saw creativity as a flame to nurture, specifically my aunt Elvira, who continues to have a painting practice in our hometown of San Juan de los Lagos, Jalisco, Mexico. She took on the role of my first painting teacher and showed me through her example, what dedication to one’s creative work looked like on a daily basis. Read more>>

Darrell Lake | Filmmaker & Actor

I pursued an artistic career because I was inspired by creativity. I was a teenager in Sierra Leone, watching Terminator 2, and saw the possibilities of the imagination. It was an awakening. In that film, I saw the power of storytelling and its ability to transport us beyond our reality. That was the catalyst for me. It got me to put pen to paper and started writing my first movie. Since then, I’ve pursued filmmaking, as a writer, director, actor, and producer and have been fortunate enough to make a living telling stories. Read more>>

anastasia komar | artist, architect, designer

I graduated from the Moscow Architectural Institute with an MA in Architecture. The institute is a successor of Vkhutemas school, which was instrumental in the Russian avant-garde and constructivist movements of the early 20th century. During my study time I was more attracted to the metaphysical part of my architectural practice than its utilitarian side, exploring the ways our senses perceive the relationship between two-dimensional and three-dimensional spaces. Read more>>

Omri Lahav | Composer for Media

I’ve been playing piano and coming up with melodies since I was very young, and as a child, I remember listening to the Jurassic Park soundtrack a lot. Seriously, A LOT. While I had listened to a lot of film music even then, it was with Jurassic Park that I realized, it was somebody’s job to write that music – and I knew right then that no other job would ever be acceptable.
In all honesty, writing and playing music are the only things I’ve ever wanted to do. I’ve been working in studios and composing for plays and commercials since the age of 15, and the transition into a composing career was a natural, organic next step. Read more>>

Greg Banks | Singer/Songwriter/Musician

I chose an artistic career, to bring joy to , and positively impact as many people as I could. Read more>>

Helen Jane Planchet | Professional Stage Actress

From a young age, my parents- perhaps unknowingly- inspired my love of theatre and the arts. My mother took me to see Beauty and the Beast in theatres when it came out and even though I was only 1 or 2 years old I was transfixed by it. She took me to see it dozens of times because in her words- it was a hot, muggy summer in New Orleans, she was pregnant, and it was a cheap activity because the movie was in the dollar theatres, so she’d take me almost every day. Read more>>

Theaux Elliot | Music Producer & Engineer

As cliche as it sounds, creativity runs in my DNA. Growing up, I watched my mom pay the bills and provide for me by painting and selling her original pieces. Over time, the need to express my own creativity morphed into my love for music. Every time she painted, she would blast music and that was what stuck with me, always. When I heard the music, I knew that she would be creating. Read more>>

Kevin Good | Percussionist and Composer

I’ve always enjoyed creating and building things. When I was a kid I was absolutely obsessed with building legos. Even now I will occasionally build a lego and I’ll just following the instructions. I like to allow the process to unfold and find it to be really calming. I think I feel a similar way when I’m composing or practicing percussion, the process is really meditative and calming but at the same time incredibly engaging and involves a lot of active thinking. Read more>>

Tayllor Johnson | Poet, Writer, Performer, and Educator

Liberation. Plain and simple. Before poetry and performance found me, my world was in black and white, limited to quiet pages. Poetry, performance, and creativity gave me a voice and my world began in technicolor. I had a voice! I had a body that was mine to occupy. I could speak change; I could connect to the world beyond me! It was a truly spiritual intervention. What made me want to pursue it further is that I now had the chance to give this gift of liberation away to others who may have felt the way I felt. I was able to teach and be an example of what is possible when you hear your own voice through art. When I saw young people and even my peers seeing the benefits of giving art, writing, performance a try, I couldn’t stop… and I won’t stop. Liberation is everyone’s right. Read more>>

Sterling Boyns | Actor & Writer

“Taking risks comes with moments of fear and anxiety, because I never know how it will all pan out on the other side. At times, the trajectory of my journey comes with rejection, disappointment and discouragement. But that’s a given – no good thing comes easy. It’s also imperative for success, because I will never grow in a state of comfort or complacency. In order to achieve greatness, I have faced and will continue to face multiple obstacles. Read more>>

Antoine Combelles | Cinematographer

There are several reasons why I decided to pursue such a career. Aside from the fact that storytelling, music and visuals have always attracted because of their ability to transport you in an imaginary world, one of the main reasons was the attractiveness of accessing the world’s cultures, perspectives and customs from studying and delving into Arts. I was very attracted by the research process that is part of pre-production on a film or part of the development of an artwork or a screenplay. Read more>>

Georgina Fang | Story Artist

I feel like most people’s concern why they don’t go into art, other than literally just not having any resources, is because they think they can’t draw or because it doesn’t make much money. And they’re right but they’re also wrong. There are many different kinds of marketable drawings and arts. But we use storytelling in lots of daily things. Because we consume so many kinds of stories and media, storytelling is one of the best ways to impact people. And make a change. Read more>>

Tyrone Tyler | Recording Artist & Performer

Its the only place I feel I really belong. When I’m singing its the best feeling in the world, like I’m doing exactly what I was put on this earth to do. There is not a day that goes by where I wake and I don’t think about music. Ever since I was a child all I ever seen myself being is an artist. Every other job that I’ve had has never served me like getting on a stage and singing my heart out. When I go periods without feeding my passion I get in a dark mood, and music is the light that reminds me why I’m here. I pursued a creative career because I really had no choice in the matter if I wanted to have a fulfilled life. Read more>>

Stephy Perea | Photographer & Designer

I always had a thing for color, design and the art of creating. I was that one nerdy gal who would take pictures on field trips since elementary school. At the age of 10 I was gifted my first digital camera from my parents. It was a cheesy 2-megapixel camera but I didn’t care. My favorite part as a Photographer and Art director is the people I meet and create memories with. I met some of my close friends through working together in photoshoots. Read more>>

Héctor Oliveras García | Writer, Director & Actor

As the old adage goes: “I didn’t choose this life; it chose me.” For as long as I can remember, I’ve been creative to the core. Early signs include filling my school notebooks with doodles and comic strips, my awful teenage poetry, and the tendency to memorize my favourite monologues from film and TV and spout them out whenever possible, with little to no reason.  What really made these sudden bouts of creativity into something “real”, something that could turn my life into a living, was the amount of support I got from family, teachers and friends (in that spicy way that very close friends support you.) Read more>>

Helen Kwok | Visual Effects Artist

Growing up I’ve always been enamored for storytelling of any form, whether if it is books, comics, tv shows or films, I loved them all. I felt they added so much more color, dimension, and above all, excitement to my demanding, hard childhood life. They gave me an escape to a whole new world and become close to characters that felt like real family to me, and I think that got me through a lot of lonely days. Read more>>

Victor Aguilar | Writer/Director & Designer

First of all, everything I do in my creative career like design, photography, videography, web design, and audio editing I did for FUN as a kid. It wasn’t until my first design client as an adult that I realized I could maybe do this as a real job. The bosses and clients who gave me a chance to prove myself early in my career are the real reason I stayed on the creative career path. That’s why I think it’s important for those who already have established careers to help out and support those who are just starting out. Your support could change a life! (And this goes for all industries, not just creative.) Read more>>

Jose Aguila | Photographer & Filmmaker

There wasn’t a specific day when I decided that I’d be a creative, I’ve just been following my gut for a while now. It took a long time, but I learned to stop listening to the voice in my head that constantly told me that I was wrong and just started doing more. Instead talking about the projects that I wanted to make or planning days that would never happen, I made moves. I worked and saved money, I practiced shooting photos of people on the street and friends who’d end up being my models for the day, and I took risks like moving out to LA and transferring from a university to a community college knowing that I’d have to get into a better university later. Read more>>

Melanie Steinmann | Actress

I believe my interest in arts started in school, we were learning about theater and arts from a very young age. I remember we had an ”artistic week” in school once, where we only did art stuff for a week nothing more, we did poetry, acting, painting, dancing and it was my favorite week, I felt happy doing all those things and could totally imagine doing it forever! Thinking about where I wanted to be in the future, I just couldn’t picture myself being in an office, 8 hours a day, in front of a computer, it just doesn’t go with me, I have tried doing it only to realize how much I dislike it. Read more>>

Illicit Ghost | artist, producer, violinist and songwriter

When I was younger, listening to music was something that helped get me out of my own mind when I was feeling down. I remember when “Semi-Charmed Life” by Third Eye Blind came out and I heard it on the radio. I loved the song so much – it gave me such a free feeling – but I wasn’t allowed to listen to it because it was inappropriate by my parents’ standards. I somehow managed to get the cassette tape and I would play it under my covers at night so that no one would hear me. I want to create music that creates the same free feeling for other people because music is such a powerful healing tool for me. Read more>>

Devin Macam | Illustrator and Graphic Designer

My grandfather Gilbert Ortega was one of my biggest influences becoming an Illustrator and Graphic Designer when I was young. He was an extremely talented artist who did amazing portraits from Hollywood celebrities to historical figures. I grew up surrounded by his art and was taught his skills as a traditional graphic artist as well. He was my fellow artist, mentor, and snack buddy for most of my childhood up until my final years of college. I always wanted to be as talented as him and carry on our family legacy. Thank you Papa. Read more>>

Melinda Puho | Artist & Musician 

I’ve always been artistic my whole life: I started drawing, playing music, writing and acting from a very early age. Creative self-expression in every form has always been my utmost source of joy. I feel that creativity is each of our soul’s innermost spark that can breathe the fire of life – enlightening all of creation. The air that feeds this fire is Will, and what interweaves and transcends all is Love. Read more>>

Lothario Parris | Producer, Rapper, Engineer, Songwriter, and Multimedia Artist

I always loved music, and specifically how sounds are a universal language. I can play a sad chord progression on the piano anywhere in the world, and people can understand what feeling the song is meant to convey. I started producing to push the boundaries of music and to blend multiple genres. I want to create crazy blends of sounds and ideas. Read more>>

Ariana Verhauz | Certified Feng Shui Practitioner & Healthy Lifestyle Consultant, Photographer & Artist, Writer & Educator

I think artistic and creative people have no choice but to pursue artistic and creative endeavors, It allows us to follow our highest joys, be fulfilled, and ultimately give back to the world in ways that only artists and creatives can. Not every creative person or artist needs to pursue their talents as a career, but for myself, starting my own business as a feng shui practitioner just checked so many boxes. Read more>>

Archie | Musician and owner of Shycon Productions

There was just no other way for me. I have always been bursting with a million ideas and songs as long as I can remember. In pre school I was the only kid with two cubbies because I took my art making so seriously I was making too much to fit into just one. I’m also incredibly stubborn and hate being told something isn’t possible. I hate working for people. I love to work from the second I wake up until I pass out on projects I am passionate about and that’s all I want to do. It’s a compulsion inside of me. Making music and creating visuals is just in the smallest molecules that make me me. Read more>>

Jean Tassy | Artist, musician and composer

I always wanted to do something that was relevant timelessly. I started writing at the age of 13, and composing my songs. With 22 I started taking it as a profession. Today I work with what I love. I don’t live without music Read more>>

Noah Penkrat | Composer & Producer

Growing up, I don’t think I ever wanted anything to do with the music world. I didn’t really have an art form that I was dedicated to before music. In late high school, I was in a class that created films. Having played piano for years I volunteered to make the music for the student films – that’s really how everything started. Since then, I’ve found a love for making music that wouldn’t have been uncovered had I not started on those high school student projects. Once I dove into the industry I realized how many opportunities there are for composers. As I learned more, all I wanted to do was be better. That’s the goal. Read more>>

Aaron Sinclair | Cellist & Music Video Director

Pursuing a career in creativity is pursuing a career in your own self-discovery. You are investing in yourself. You are discovering new never-ending depths of who you are. Exploring your creativity and sharing it to the world is its own unique form of nakedness. It’s a vulnerability that not too many dare to explore. So I pursue the creative career path because it allows me to grow exponentially as a person, it forces me to be my full authentic self. And it allows others to see me for me. A creative career is one that is so thrilling because the journey of the self is a never ending one. Thus, your creativity will constantly be evolving and changing. But, also because I get to make cool sounds that go *ting* *tang* *ooooohh* *buuh* and I get to put 3D turtles in music videos. What better job exists? Read more>>

Joe Nora | Music Producer & Photographer

Growing up both my parents were, and are, artists. My dad being a musician and a writer and my mom a photographer and a painter. I grew up in a very art centric household and went to very artsy schools for most of my life. I think going into high school I struggled to find anything that really felt like a career path. Even though I had played music in school it still wasn’t anything more than another class I was supposed to take. Despite my parents artistic influence I never had a clear thought that I would follow in their footsteps like many people do. Read more>>

Arthur Li | Actor & Opera singer & Dancer

The reason is simple: the path to an artistic career is something that I’m interested in when I was young. I have so many hobbies that can all contribute to my career which is acting. I’ve seen many talented people and I have no doubt that I would be one of them and even better. My family has nothing to do with acting, but, somehow, I could not resist the charisma of acting which resides in my nature. Read more>>

Samantha m Logan | CEO Pampered Hippie

I pursued an artistic career because it’s what has always called me! For a while I strayed away from art and found myself so unhappy with where I was in life. Once I started to pursue art and healing as a career path I began to become more confident. I still have days where I struggle with keeping my confidence, but I know I wouldn’t be as happy if I wasn’t doing art! Read more>>

RIVIN | Recording artist, songwriter

It hasn’t been an easy one. My parents didn’t really want me to pursue an artistic career. I remember when I was fifteen or sixteen I contacted this famous school of performing arts in NY and had them send me their study program and the application papers. My parents never took that seriously. They thought I was just a teenager fantasizing. I guess, my dreams had to be put on hold for a while, which is what I did. So, years later I found myself graduating in business economics, not even knowing why. Read more>>

Savira Windyani | Actor | Singer | Filmmaker | Martial Artist

In the beginning, it was for my own personal reasons. I wanted to be one thing and have the option to be everything and anything at the same time. It was a chance to release my unfiltered emotions from my actual life through the eyes of another being. But, as time went by, it slowly became about empathizing with different people in different situations, and being able to fight for that person. It became about being able to create and provide an escape for people when they needed a world to escape to. Read more>>

Reggie Baker | Graphic Designer & Animator

For someone that’s creative, it’s difficult to maintain a job where there’s no creativity involved. I didn’t want to get stuck as a laborer somewhere. There’s nothing wrong with being a hard worker, but if I didn’t pursue my artistic aspirations, I’d imagine I’d be pretty depressed. Read more>>