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.

Chris Wirsig | Composer, Songwriter, Music Producer

That’s a question I often have thought about. On one hand there’s so much great music out there already, and some of the best songs are 20, 30 years old and older – a lot you can listen to. So why would I need to add to that, what do I even have to say musically or topic-wise that would bring anything new or interesting to the table. But then there’s an inner urge: I have to create music, have to write and produce songs. I can’t really explain what this urge is or where exactly it comes from. And somehow I feel it doesn’t matter what the reason for it is, I just have to follow this urge and try doing my best on the way… Read more>>

Nan Howe | Ceramicist & Multi-Disciplinary Artist

Creativity is a mindset, a way of thinking and seeing the world; it is accessible to everyone, no matter their vocation. Living a creative life is my career and creativity has been my constant companion through challenges, choices and several professions. Read more>>

Jen Waters | Singer, Writer, and Actress

I’ve always been a creative person. When I was younger, I used to spend lots of money at the post office, always writing letters to pen pals. I wrote my first song in the seventh grade on the piano. Growing up, I performed my songs for the first time in church. I first read THE ARTIST’S WAY by Julia Cameron when I was in college, with her core ideas of writing, walking, and praying. I used to take long walks in the countryside behind my parents’ house in the fields. Read more>>

Kate Ferguson | Writer, Filmmaker, Actor, Photographer

I never stopped wanting to do the things I spent my time doing as a kid—storytelling in its various forms. Writing, acting, filmmaking, photography, art, making newspapers…all of that is still a part of my life. (Although at some point the newspapers turned digital!) Read more>>

Sam Chon | Visual Development Artist for Film, Game, & Animation

For me, art was something I rejected growing up. I was creative as a kid but was always told that it isn’t a career or was shamed for being indifferent. So, I let it go. I lost a part of myself in doing so which led me to join the Marine Corps. Even while serving I’d doodle random things, anything I could find to pass the time. Something I rejected was still a part of me and made me happy. Near the end of my term, my fellow peers convinced me to go to art school, “the Corps can do without you so don’t waste your potential.” Terrified and anxious to step through a door I wasn’t prepared for, I accepted that small part of me wishing to create magical worlds, an escape. Read more>>

Sammy Burke | Bass Musician & Instructor

I started playing music in high school. It was mostly straight ahead jazz. Bebop music from Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, and the big bands like Count Basie, Buddy Rich, and Louis Bellson. We had a trio (piano, bass, and drums) that was really good. We actually were winning festival awards and I quickly became addicted to the stage. Read more>>

Benjamin Carter | Artist & Singer-Songwriter

It was around January 2018 and I kept waking up and going to my wife Yasmin – we had only been married for a couple months – but I kept asking her for about 2 weeks straight when it came to my music that I had stopped writing and playing: “What if I didn’t have to be the best?” Then I would just walk out the door before she could really even say anything because I was so embarrassed for even thinking about it. Read more>>

Anika Nielsen | Singer and Songrwiter

Music had always been a big part of my life and I started singing pretty much from the time I realized I could produce a musical sound. Growing up, I did voice lessons and recitals starting at age four. All of this led up to my senior year of high school when I met my producer, Mark Vogel, at a little show put on by David Burnham at my high school, where I had a chance to sing a duet with David. After the show Mark approached me and asked if I wanted to work with him, and of course I said yes! I started writing and creating music after that and I haven’t looked back since! Read more>>

Ruxanda Calistru | Singer songwriter piano and dancer

That was a path that I related and I felt that I can do for the rest of my life ,and I can embrace it since I was a little girl. I was 4 years old and I would emulate artists artists singing dancing I would try to copy routines from the TV from music videos and performances that I’ve seen. Also a big role Had on my career and my decisions for my career my family. My parents both are musicians and they inspired me a lot to become the artist that I am. Read more>>

Joe Roberts | Musician and Journalist/Producer

I think when it comes to being creative it’s not so much something you do as it is something you are. If you truly have an innate creative drive, it has a way of manifesting itself regardless of what you do. I find that really interesting – that you don’t really have a choice when it comes down to it. Read more>>

Kaitlyn Lavo | Writer and Photographer

I couldn’t imagine doing anything else with my life. It’s who I am. It’s what motivates my every day. I tried working conventional office jobs, and quickly learned that I could never do a job that doesn’t feed my soul and creativity. To make something out of nothing is one of the coolest parts of what I do. In a manufactured world, producing something no one has seen before is rare and makes the work worth while. Read more>>

Joseph Orloff | Artist

This is has to be one of my favorite questions to be asked. If we step through the time portal and go back to middle school me the answer started to form then. I had just discovered Skrillex and deadmau5 and these were the two first electronic artists that introduced me to the world of EDM and all types of electronic music. As my life went one and I entered high school I started diving more and more into this style of music and around sophomore year I had a though of becoming a DJ. Read more>>

J – West | Lightworker & Artist

Well I feel as if I have an innate passion and drive to help heal the word through my expressions which come in different forms but my main outlet is rapping. I also love painting. I feel that I was given certain gifts that need to be given to the world, I have a special way of conveying an enlightening and uplifting message through my art. I am a leader, a healer and a lightworker. Being an artist allows me to lead, heal and spread light on a grand scale. Read more>>

Eden Hadad | A Dark Comedy Writer/Director

I was always both stupid and brave. I think the relationship between the two has shifted over the years – sometimes braver, sometimes more stupid. But I think that you need these two “qualities” if you’re ambitious about pursuing an artistic career. For me, those two things went hand in hand with my love for storytelling. And I have loved storytelling since I was a little child. I would tell so many stories when I was 5,6,7 years old that my family started calling me Background at a certain point. Because whoever will talk, I’ll always tell a story in the background. Read more>>

Rebecca Northup | Poet, Artist, Graphic Design

I think I decided to pursue a creative career because I’d rather work hard in pursuit of something that excites me than have an easier career path in a field that doesn’t. I’ve always had a decent work ethic and personal drive, so I think in a lot of ways I knew growing up that I’d have to figure things out on my own, and brave a creative career path that is never guaranteed. Read more>>

Wil Fuller | Music Producer and writer

I chose to pursue an artistic career because making music came natural to me. I never had to force it and and it makes me feel good to make music. I tried the traditional way of graduating college and getting a 9-5 job. That made me miserable and just un happy. Read more>>

Kiersten Rooney | Wedding and Event Producer

I can still remember the moment that my career path was cemented into my mind. I was in seventh grade and invited to a movie premiere in Hollywood (for the movie “Spanglish” staring Adam Sandler, if you must know). The movie itself has little to no lasting effect on me, but the experience of attending is what made me fall in love with events. From walking the red carpet, to attending the after party on the Sony lot, it was a dream come true. The after party featured details from the movie, food, beverages, activities, decor. It was a weeknight, yet it felt like being at the Oscars, to my little awe-inspired self. Read more>>

Ruoyi Shi | Artist

I love creating things, things that haven’t been created or invented. Pursuing an artistic career for me is also pursuing happiness. Growing up in China, I was lucky to receive a great art education. However, art is still not accessible for everyone, and most schools do not regard it as an essential part of one’s compulsory education. I wish I could do something to help improve that situation; I also hope to help create more safe spaces for people to make art and share their voices. Read more>>

Janessa Robinson | Multi-hyphenate artist & published journalist

Being an artist is who I am. When I was in third grade, the eighth-grade teacher at my school came down to my classroom and pulled me up to hers. She put some pieces of paper in front of me and told me to read them aloud in front of her entire class. So, I did. It was Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech. It’s the last public speech he gave before he was assassinated in 1968. Read more>>

Daijah Peters | Actress, Model, and Social Media Personality

The reason I decided to pursue an artistic/creative career is for the simple reason that I was put on this earth to perform. I knew from an incredibly young age that whatever I did when I grew up, it had to be performance based. That took a few different forms when I was younger. It started with music and song writing, then slightly morphed into dance, and then took its final form with acting. I was always putting on some type of performance as a child. Read more>>

Rocío Díaz | Artist

During my schooling years, there were never any funds for the arts. After my time at UCLA, I desperately needed a break from academic work and institutions. I fell in love with the freedom that art and creating gives me. I also got a lot of positive feedback from friends and family when I began, which fueled my motivation to keep growing and learning. Read more>>

Hunter Spangler | Actor & Account Manager

To me, it has never really been an option to do something else. I always thought to myself “Would I enjoy that career or would I enjoy playing a character that has that career?” and I’ve always chosen the latter. It’s like something was pulling me towards this and I didn’t have much of a choice. There were plenty of times where it did seem like “Ok if this doesn’t go right, this might be when to call it quits” but then it would work out. Read more>>

Catalina Matamoros | Animator & Illustrator

I always wanted to be an artist!. I remember when I was a kid I promised my grandpa to draw him 7 paintings (So far I have delivered 2) I enjoyed going to the garden in my grandparents’ house and I pretended to take pictures of all the flowers and trees, I liked to make chocolate figures and to draw all the time.
When I was about to finish high school I was torn between Design or History, I ended up choosing to study Design and since there I started my professional path in the creative world. Read more>>

Tammy Wang | Character Designer and Freelance Illustrator

I have always liked drawing but I didn’t think much of it as a career when I was a kid. I simply liked copying cartoon designs on television, it made me happy, and it was an easy way to occupy my time. Fast forward to 2010, when Disney’s Tangled was released in theaters. The lantern scene was so incredibly beautiful and when the ending credits rolled, it was the first time I thought of pursuing a creative career. Read more>>

Judd Nissen | Host & Curator of OPS: Other People’s Slides

I actually started out in the film/tv industry right out of college in my hometown of Chicago. where I worked for a few years until work dried up for a while (this was back in the mid-90s). Continuing in that industry meant a move to Los Angeles, where I working for another 15 years, I then side-stepped into the Themed Entertainment industry (helping create theme park and museum attractions). I am still working in that field, Read more>>

Alkaid Ramirez | Artist, Activist

I wanted to bring a net good to my community. I studied psychology in college with the hopes of being able to help folks with their mental health or benefit society by bringing in new research that could lead to new treatments. However, reality hits you when you realize that these benefits are behind materialistic obstacles such as a lack of resources to access healthcare facilities. Read more>>