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.

Katie DeShan | Personal Stylist, Shopper, Wardrobe Consultant-Style By KD

It felt like a no brainer to me. I grew up in the arts, starting around age 3 or 4. I remember watching my older sister in the local community theatre’s production of Gypsy and being enamored with live theatre as a form of storytelling. My entire childhood was spent balancing my time between school, friends, auditioning in LA and performing with my family at the local community theatre. Once it came time to ‘adult’ there was no chance I was going in any other direction. The thing is, though, so many careers are artistic if you think about it. I used to limit myself and say ‘if I’m not performing, I’m not actually living the dream of being an arts worker.’ That was not only wrong, but extremely short-sighted. Now, working as a freelance Personal Stylist, I see that more than ever. My background in the arts have given me the ability to successfully market myself, build strong client-stylist relationship, and talk openly about the stories your clothing can tell (it’s like a daily costume.). Read more>>

Alex Kling | Artist & Designer

My need to create. Through the years I explored different mediums and worked in a variety of artistic environments. It’s always been something I’ve instinctually known without question: that I’m a creative. Read more>>

Johnnie Gilmore | Musician

It really chose me more than the other way around. There are definitely easier ways to make a living, but from the first minute I played a bass I knew it was my calling, and the career part is just following that. I can’t picture doing anything else with my time and I’m so proud of the work, and I think people should do whatever makes them feel the same way. Read more>>

Benson Shum | Children’s Book Author-illustrator and Animator.

I chose a creative career because I’m not sure what else I would be doing. I’ve always been drawn to things where I can create things with my hands. Read more>>

Amina Cruz | Photographer

I don’t think I had a choice. I was a daydreamer as a child and still am. I would create different worlds for myself to live in. As a teen I was drawn to various subcultures. It’s an organic processes to now explore them through art. My work stems from a deep interest in investigating the areas between transformation and identity. Read more>>

Mark “MARQUE” Figueroa | Singer/Dancer/Choreographer

Ive always found myself wanting to be expressive, always wanting to make someone feel good or better, sometimes even better about themselves. Music, art and dance have always been a part of my life some how, especially being born into a Puerto Rican house hold in the Bronx, New York. Art is EVERYWHERE. From walls, to trains, cds, people dancing and playing music on the street or at house gatherings. It’s hard to get away from and in a way it was all I knew. A safe way to escape the anxiety & depression that is the world sometimes. As a young boy I had always drawn, sketched, sung and danced for the family but it wasn’t until my Dad was diagnosed with a brain tumor that I found purpose in dance. Moving my body was a great way for to remove myself from the world for a sec. A time I could feel free, be whoever it was that I wanted to me. That quickly led to a newfound confidence in myself that submerged me into the arts at 16 years old. Read more>>

Michelle Lewis | Singer/Songwriter

At a young age, I realized the only thing I was truly passionate about was music. I loved to pour my heart into a song and then out to an audience. I couldn’t stomach the idea of a typical college experience followed by joining the workforce. Connecting with people was very important to me. I knew my best chance at succeeding was doing something that made me happy and excited. Read more>>

Emily Tully | Comedian, Actor, Writer,

It’s truly all I have ever known in terms of really loving a field of work. And I think that’s something really special, to love what you do. I could never imagine myself NOT performing, creating, or doing comedy in some capacity. My parents signed me up for a musical theater camp when I was like 6 and the rest is history. The camp had this thing called “lab” , and basically a bunch of high schoolers would babysit us and have us play improv games when we weren’t needed on stage. That was probably my “OHHHH SHIT” moment. I loved making people laugh and I was good at it. I also really loved cursing, which was foreshadowing for my high brow humor as an adult. My favorite director in high school said something that really stuck with me. “If you can see yourself doing anything else, GO DO THAT!!” Like she was trying to save us from being tortured artists. I tried to fool myself and go do other things, I really did. But it never felt right, and all I did was wish I was performing or creating while I was at work. This made me a very mediocre employee. Read more>>

SJ Fuerst | Painter

I enjoy painting and making things, so it was an easy and natural career choice for me. I love having the freedom to come up with something new, and in fine art there are no restrictions so I have complete freedom to follow my interests and instincts. When I’m not in the studio painting I like thinking up new ideas and problem solving my next paintings. I’ll admit I’m a bit obsessive about my work, but I imagine that’s a common trait among artists and probably what it takes to become successful. Read more>>

Amirah | Singer-Songwriter Uniting People Through Music

I did not plan to be a singer-songwriter. I only planned to be a songwriter for other artists and projects. However, one song I composed and sang as a call for unity was picked up by the Malaysian news and received attention from the public including some prominent bloggers, and social activists, as well as Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, the daughter of Malaysia’s former Prime Minister. At that time, the public and my producer encouraged me to sing my own songs. After thinking about it, I decided to take the plunge, so that I could promote unity through music. I am a passionate advocate for unity, so I would often write songs about unity and the challenges of interreligious/intercultural relationships, which I felt were not addressed enough. I was also passionate about fusing traditional instruments with pop music, so I decided to take the plunge and embark on this new path as a singer-songwriter. I have not looked back since. Read more>>

Analicia Benavides | Illustrator

I chose to pursue an artistic career because all my life, all I’ve ever wanted to do was paint and draw. I watched a lot of cartoons and animated Disney movies growing up; it gave me hope to think I could be creating characters and stories like that someday. Read more>>

Emilee Reed | Watercolor and Acrylic Pour Artist

As a child, I grew up at the beach and spent many hours trying to capture the sunlight sparkling on the water and the incredible colors of gorgeous sunsets with my crayons………… As an adult, I spent 31 years with the Walt Disney Company. In that time, I was able to witness and participate in creating the most magical experiences for which the company is known. With these two incredible sources, an artistic AND creative career was, to me, automatic. Read more>>

Dominic Redix | Music Artist and Yogi

Nothing fills my heart and gives me the peace that music or yoga gives me. Crooning some soulful lyrics, rapping a verse perfectly, or hitting each yoga pose with precision allows me to go into a flow state that gives me a sense of purpose and belonging on this earth. Nobody can take my art or creativity away from me, which is what let me know that it was valuable. I decided to turn that value in my art, expression, & discipline, and turn it into something I can give to others and hopefully make good money from eventually. Read more>>

Natalie Sun | Digital Curator, Producer and Artist. Founder of NextArt.

I was speaking to the artist Laurie Sumiye recently, and she said it really well: “I believe everyone can be an artist…but for some, there’s a different sense of urgency.” When people ask me why I pursued a creative career, they treat it as if it was a choice. But for me, I couldn’t pull myself away from it. I was preparing to be a lawyer in college, actually, thinking that being a creative for a living wasn’t possible….but I was naturally always a creative person living in my own little weird world, and I guess no other options would have been viable. Read more>>

Antonio D. Gonzalez | NYU Grad Student

Photography is the creative expression that relieves my anxiety. Art lets me know that everything will be okay, and that the world isn’t as shitty as it seems. When I’m roaming the streets with my camera, my world pauses, and I am able to breathe. This is why my main hobby involves creating art. Just like the cheesy saying, “The ‘Earth’ without ‘art’ is just ‘eh’. Art is everything, giving this world the color it needs in order for us to remain sane. Read more>>

Tito Bonito | Burlesque Performer & Comedian/.Host

I chose to pursue an artistic/creative career because it is one of the very few things that makes sense to me. This world is filled with so much anger and art has been the one universal truth that I have known to make productive use out of it. Not just in the world but within myself, and even more so through comedy. Specifically, I found burlesque as a means to utilize as many different aspects of performance as I possibly could, while still maintaining the advantage of creating my own art. The journey I have experienced through burlesque and comedy has transformed my life. It has also allowed me to achieve many of my life long dreams including moving to Los Angeles and meeting/dancing with my childhood heroes TLC. Beyond all of that, the positive reactions (for the most part) I receive from my audiences is another conversation. Read more>>

Steve Seleska | Artist & Epoxy Resin Floor Installer

I felt that was where my strength was. I have always been a creative person and it just seemed like the natural path to take. Like the old saying goes, do what you love. Read more>>

Vijay Venkatesh and Eva Schaumkell | Vieness Piano Duo

During the tumultuous times that the world is experiencing today, we strive to provide relief in the way we know best: Music. Accomplished soloists in our own right, we’ve discovered our love for collaboration and that the world of piano duo (both 4-hands and 2 piano) is one that lends itself to intimate bonds and new musical heights and possibilities. Most listeners of classical music will probably only get to see and hear the finished product of the musician’s journey, whether from a concert hall or a recording. But the performance is only the tip of the iceberg for us musicians. Behind the curtain is the life we’re leading, the thoughts and emotions that motivate and inspire us, and of course hours of practice, rehearsals, travels, adventure and more! Music has transformed everything in our lives. It connects us to other forms of art-painting, photography, architecture, etc. They are intertwined and appear in our daily lives if we care to listen and see. Read more>>

Adrian Rudd | Photographer / Photo Editor / Graphic Designer

This is the only thing I’m good at that would fulfill me long-term. I knew it would be a challenge, but I was up for the journey if it meant I was doing something that inspired me, gave me energy, and was constantly growing and learning. Read more>>

Z Chambers | Singer/Songwriter

When I was young, I was very into art. What started as a love for movies and video games became into a love for art as a whole. Surprisingly, I didn’t find my love for music until a little later in life. It wasn’t until my early teens that I really started listening to music. I went ahead and gave it a try myself, and in the midst of preparing for a talent show, I decided it was my calling. Read more>>

Margaux Jacobs | Maharishi Ayurveda Alternative Health Practitioner, Yoga Instructor, Pet Portrait Artist, Fine Artist

I painted my first painting at three years old when I tried to paint a representation of the hurricane that was happening outside my home. The hurricane was named Andrew, and it was one of the worst to hit Florida! I never had a a second thought to an artistic career… It just happened naturally. Read more>>

Ian Temple | Photographer

I pursued photography because it started out as a creative outlet from my regular job as a scientist. It has brought me joy and allowed so many opportunities to meet other creatives. Read more>>

Debbi Dachinger | Award-Winning Dare to Dream Podcast Host, International Bestselling Author, Speaker, Media Visibility Strategist, Certified Coach

I believe that the majority of people who work in the artistic or creative professions, will tell you if asked, that they pursued a creative career because — what other choice did they have? The same is definitely true for me. Like it or not, I was not built for a corporate career. I was not made to be a company employee. The idea of that seems confining, as though I would be limited within a company and having to abide by a lot of rules; needing to color inside the box – that was never going to be my way. For me using my voice to live out loud in a multitude of ways has been very satisfying. I love the opportunities I’ve been given to express myself and I’m incredibly grateful for all of them and all the purposes they’ve served. I have been an actress and a singer professionally. I have been a lead singer for a big band and a jazz ban. Read more>>