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.

Prince Adu Mensah Obrempong | Filmmaker and Activist

Growing up, I have been inspired by influential people who have been able to effect change over the course of history. I have learnt from experience that changing the status quo is easier said than done hence I hold my heroes like DR. Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela and DR. Martin Luther King in high regard. I have always wanted to live up to my heroes and one platform which has given me the opportunity to get my voice heard is filmmaking. Read more>>

Kiuyan Ran | Illustrator

Creating is the activity that gives me the most self-worth. I feel like just a cog in the wheel when I am doing a job that can easily be replaced by others, but I am truly proud when I get to call a creation “mine”. I grow up in an environment with a huge population, and with countless tests and standards and competitions you can easily feel like you are just an exam machine, forever running towards the highest score. Only passion can make one feel slightly more in a different shape. Read more>>

Devan | Cartoonist, Illustrator, Lover of Markers

I’ve known since I was 5 years old that I was an artist. The minute I could hold a writing utinsel I was coloring, sketching, drawing, anything to get that creativity out. Once I realized this was a career choice I went for it withe very fiber of my being. At first I started just because people said I couldn’t, everyone warns you being an artist is not a good career choice if you are trying to afford things like food and a place to live. For a long time I used this negativity to fuel me. Read more>>

Madelaine Hoei | Background Designer & Illustrator

I was that one kid in class that just constantly doodled in her notebooks. The drawings themselves weren’t particularly good, but I think I had such a fun time doing them that I could never bring myself to stop even though I knew it wouldn’t contribute to my grades or future college application. I was raised in a fairly conservative Asian family where the thought of going into Art as a career was one of the riskiest thing your son/daughter could do. For the majority of my life Art was considered just a hobby, something that I could do for fun, but never actively pursue. Read more>>

Matthew Nguyen | Video Producer & Founder, Longshot Creative

In 4th grade, we were asked to invent something to share with the class. I made a paper camera with folded paper inside that would tell the future of the person you took a photo of. I called it Longshot, and I’m happy to say years later, that’s the name of my video production agency, Longshot Creative. Read more>>

Jennifer DiArenzo | Professional Pyrographer and Mother of Two

For as long as I can remember, I have been interested in art and nature. Even as a child, I knew I wanted to be some type of artist that focused on wildlife. It was the perfect way to combine my two passions. I went to college at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in New York for Illustration because I thought that would allow me to follow my artistic pursuits and be able to be a stay-at-home mom, something that became really important to me as I got older and closer to actually being able to start a family. Read more>>

Paddy Johnson | Coach for Mid-Career Visual Artists

Probably the reason any young person does anything is a mix of naïveté and pragmatism, it’s really just a question of where the percentage of each falls. In my case, I knew I was an excellent draftsman and I thought fame would ensure an artistic legacy. Neither turned out to be of any relevance. After 15 years of running a non-profit art blog, I pivoted to coaching. I now run Netvvrk, a membership helping hundreds of artists get the shows, residencies, and grants of their dreams. Read more>>

Ethan Benavidez | Photographer

My Dad, Alex Benavidez, is a fine artist and baker & my Mom (Stacey Benavidez) is a chef. Growing up my parents surrounded us with so many creative outlets from cooking, to drawing, band class, making costumes & building projects for scouts, etc. I was constantly immersed in an expressive vibrant atmosphere. I worked in kitchens growing up in a small family business and I had a huge love for cooking and food. I knew I either wanted to be a chef or photographer! Read more>>

Christie Wu | Visual + Interactive Designer

I aspire to live intentionally and passionately. Nevertheless, life can be full of suffering, and the world is harsh, unjust, and cruel as it is. I hope my work can bring joy and fun to people and remind us that we do not always have to take things so seriously. I find the creatives have the superpower to shine the light on the ideas, stories, facts, and issues that are unseen, mundane, ignored, forgotten, and dismissed. Regardless of the mediums, human creations constantly change our experiences through our mind, body, and spirituality. I want to help people perceive the world just a little differently through my design. Read more>>

Tajuana Gordon | Event Designer

I would say my creative career chose me. Artistry is in my blood so I can confidently say that I was born to create. From the time I could remember, I was always doing something creatively with my hands from sketching to designing clothing, sewing, or making some sort of craft, so it was very natural for me to have a career where creating was at the heart of it. Read more>>

Inderveer Sodhi | Filmmaker, Composer & Actor

The short version is that someone broke my heart in the 12th grade, and it awakened the artist in me, And now here’s the longer version of that story. Throughout high school I always wanted to pursue a career in filmmaking and music but I never saw myself being skilled enough or having the endurance to be a film director. Ironically, I spent most of years in high school making short films, writing music for my band class, performing at school concerts, and staying in the media arts room until nine on school nights. Read more>>

Barrett Carroll | Actor, Author & Advocate

I believe that at the core of every human is the desire to see and be seen, hear and be heard and love and be loved. When you examine all of the potential ways that one could navigate through life, being an artist seems like one of the most rewarding….maybe not always the most financially rewarding but certainly intellectually and emotionally. All artists are putting their soul out on the table to be seen and examined. It has to come from a selfless place, which can be hard at times considering the fact that we all have to make a living. Read more>>

Prithvi Chauhan | Director of Photography

I am thankful that I come from a family of doctors, It gave me a clear idea of what I did not want to do. Even though I was disinterested in anything to do with textbooks, I had my drawing skills to fall back on. During my bachelor’s in design in Italy is when I started understanding and appreciating art. Over there I fell in love with paintings by Van Gogh, Edward Hopper, Sally Storch, and Robert Panitzsch. Read more>>

Shami Sosa | Multidisciplinary Producer & Artist

As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to live my life in the arts. I pursued art in the same way I yearned for acceptance as a first-generation Asian American. Culturally and emotionally, I witnessed music as a powerful platform that brought people together. My pursuit has always been about communication, never clout. Finding a way to say things I never could with words. After years of dedication and doubt, I found myself fully immersed in my craft. Not for acceptance nor to impress, I finally began to produce my art without limits. Read more>>

Joseph S. Djafar | Composer for Film, TV, and Video Games

I have a big passion in art, especially in music for films because I find that music is substantialy important to impact human emotion. Music can be a great medium to deliver a transformative message. I also believe that music and films cannot be separated because they both play crucial roles in changing the world through the perspectives of their audience. Read more>>

Ashley S. Benson aka AsherBee | Digital Artist & Toy Designer

Growing up, I LOVED to draw. Give me a colored pencil or a pen, and I was happy! I enjoyed using clay, paint by number projects, making pipe cleaner, and tin foil animals; and I just enjoyed the whole process of personally making things. I was very fortunate to have a supportive mother and grandmother, although I’m sure they were both happy that I grew out of my tinfoil phase. Meal prep became a lot easier when they didn’t constantly have to find a nearly empty roll in the kitchen. Read more>>

Whiskey Shotz | Photographer

I have always been one to follow my heart and pursue my passions. Life is too short to not do what you love. Since I was a kid I have always loved music and photography and I knew whatever I do in life, I want to be surrounded by art and creatives such as myself. Read more>>

Emely Pascual | Indie and Freelance Artist

I’ve only ever been an artist, it’s what I was best at and if didn’t at least try to pursue a creative career I knew I’d regret everyday until I gave it a shot. Life is long, if necessary I can change paths later and it’s best to take risks now before my responsibilities become greater! Read more>>

Damián Comas | Movie director, writer of novels and screenplays, and visual artist

When I was five years old I began to draw, it was an act that fascinated me from the beginning and by doing it constantly I was creating a critical eye and I got results. That’s what people call talent, but I don’t really believe in talent, I only believe in the constant search of human beings, also called creativity. But in those drawings, I was discovering stories, characters, cities, and spaces, so inspiring that I always thought I would be a painter when I grew up. Read more>>

Ariel Bellvalaire | Pop Rock Artist & Lead Electric Guitarist

I pursued an artistic career simply because I had no other choice! Since about 9 years old, I knew I was meant to be a performer. I loved to sing and at 12 years old I picked up the electric guitar and learned that I had an incredible gift with it and joined a band. I had started learning famous rock n’ roll guitar solos and began performing in front of audiences both as the singer and the guitarist and the audience would freak out seeing a little girl play those iconic guitar solos! I felt at home on stage and wanted to do whatever it took to perform as a career. Read more>>

Ieshia Edgerton | Lead Floral Designer & Owner

I pursued a artistic/creative career because I felt it was important to pursue my purpose and passion for mending hearts. My floral arrangements are the very important distraction of life events both good and bad. The lightup of smiles on the faces of the recipients are immeasurable. I not only get great gratification from what i am doing but i work with flowers knowing i am making a difference. Read more>>

Goldmine | Rapper & Producer

Music was never really a conscious decision for me, I really just fell into it at a very young age. Growing up I always loved hip-hop as a fan, but my personal musical journey began in middle school when I started tooling around with production softwares and learning how to make beats. A couple years after that I realized I had a skill for writing and rapping, and then all bets were off; I knew exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Read more>>

Owen Nathanael | Film Composer

I decided to pursue a creative career because there is a personal touch to it. Film scoring in particular is interesting because you get to tell a story that’s not yours and relate to it in a special way. Let’s say I have to tell the story a pregnant mom, meanwhile, I’m only a 20-year-old fresh college graduate. How do I relate to that? How can I tell that story? How can it be personal if I haven’t experienced it? I think that is the challenge of being a film composer. Being able to be sensitive to the world around you, and trying to live a vibrant life to be able to relate to a lot of things, even to the things you have never experienced before. Read more>>

Jessica Boss | Actress & Filmmaker

I pursued a creative career because my soul was drawn to it. I went to a high school that was geared for a career path in medicine, which I wasn’t too thrilled about at first because there were no sports, but I eventually came around and acclimated. By junior year, I had the option to choose an elective class, either art or theater. Because I was lousy at art and couldn’t even draw stick figures correctly, I decided to take theater, and that was the genesis of pursing a career in acting. Read more>>

Kasey Elliott | Actor, writer, producer, photographer

I always felt like “traditional” jobs werent for me. I didnt go to college and never really considered it. No one in my family ever went, I didnt do good in school and I had no idea what I would have even wanted to go to college for. I always wanted to be an actor but no one I knew had ever did anything like that and there was nothing in the tiny town I grew up in so I really had no idea how to start. I took up photography as a way to express myself and put myself on camera through self portraits. The void never filled though, until I finally figured out how to get started on my acting career. Read more>>

Alexander Angelikis | Actor

Well I’ve always enjoyed Acting ever since I was little and I never really thought about doing it as a career until after my time in the military, but at the time I was getting out of the Marines I was working at a tattoo shop up in Venice Beach and Modern Family came to shoot an episode there and asked me to be an extra. Read more>>

Byron Vasquez Jr. | Actor & Producer

I decided to pursue an artistic career because my childhood was a very challenging one. There was a lot of problems and negative emotional experiences. However, I knew as a child that I could channel these emotions and experiences into something greater by being an actor. The ability to use the pain that I went through to create something of value that may move someone or explore the human condition in a way that it would resonate with even just a single person’s experience; then it would make everything I lived when I was younger worth going through. Read more>>