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.

Maxwell Tretter | Multi-instrumentalist, Composer and Producer

Music has always been a huge part of my life and my identity. Ever since middle school I’ve experimented with recording and writing songs. It’s allowed me to meet incredible people and make lifelong friends. There’s always been a part of me that fantasized what it would be like to build a career around music and eventually I got sick of waiting for the “golden opportunity” and decided to take the plunge. On April 1st 2019 I declared to myself that I’m a musician and that this is what I want to do with my life. Read more>>

Lora Bird | Owner and Resident Artist at Honestbird Tattoo

I didn’t at first! I got my degree in teaching and taught elementary school. Granted, it was music, so it was still creative in that sense, but it was definitely the most “normal” job I’ve ever had. I was so unhappy with…everything about teaching. The schedule, the red tape, the clothes, the money. Teachers that stick with it are so strong, I legitimately don’t know how they do it. They maintain an incredible sense of professionalism in the face of poverty wages, 70 hour workweeks, and now a pandemic?! They are literal super heroes, and I was just not that strong. Pursuing art ended up being deep down in my bones, something that I physically couldn’t ignore. I knew I had to get out and do something for myself and by myself. It took a long time and a ton of hard work to get here, but I wouldn’t trade my path for anything. Read more>>

Veronica Mendoza | Artist and Filmmaker

While growing up, I had always loved art and was inspired by all mediums that surrounded me, especially film. I loved the vibrant feeling of seeing a character, or hearing a song that I really identified with. However, there was a lack of representation in the films and media I saw, and at a young age I knew I wanted to create a new narrative. I not only wanted to see more ethnically diverse stories of women, but I also longed to improve the way mental illness had been portrayed to audiences. Especially as a young, brown woman. I also chose to have a creative career for the feeling of being moved by a piece of art so strongly, that it feels like I’m the only one in the room with the art itself, the artist, and their journey together. Read more>>

Adrianne Rose | Stained Glass Artist

I have always found creating and crafting very grounding and fulfilling. I love being able to come up with something in my mind and making it a reality. During the COVID-19 quarantine I knew I needed something to occupy my mind and challenge me through extended periods of time. I started with watercolor tutorials and fell in love with the learning and the process. I then branched out by signing up for a stained glass making course. I fell in love immediately. Every step of the process was a challenge but extremely grounding. As my skills grew, my confidence grew, and the challenge of new, unique designs excited me. I couldn’t help but share my creations with friends and family over social media. After creating just my second piece I was contacted by someone that wanted to buy my piece. I knew that this was a start to a fulfilling and fruitful career. Read more>>

Saura Kline | Executive Pastry Chef, Cookbook Author, and Dessert Blogger

Art, music, and food have always held my interest. As a young girl I was always painting. I loved using oil and acrylic and would spend months if not longer to finish a painting. As I grew older my interests changed but I’ve always created in one way or another. I was in my 20’s when I discovered culinary arts and when I went in that direction I never looked back. I love creating desserts. Making them look as beautiful as a painting but tasting just as well. Read more>>

Carter Wilson | Thriller Novelist

It’s a bit precious to say I didn’t choose a career as a novelist, it chose me (yuck). Still, I never pursued writing until my early thirties, when, while at a continuing-education class for a real-estate license, I started writing a story out of boredom. Three months later, that story was a 400-page manuscript, which was good enough to land me an agent but not good enough to sell. So I wrote another book that didn’t sell, and one after that. Several years later, my fourth book did sell, and since then I’ve been fortunate enough to become a USA Today bestselling author of seven published novels. But I don’t think someone becomes a novelist as a rational career choice (and I assure you, that’s not a rational decision). I believe they are driven by a need to tell a story, and would tell that story whether it makes them money or not. Read more>>

Ally Skiba | Small Business Owner & Freelance Artist

Pursuing an artistic career has never been a question in my life. Since childhood I was always the kid you would find filling notebooks with comic and fashion sketches, and making art out of salvaged materials found in nature. I’d carry that creative energy into musical expression, writing short stories, and forming friendships that acted as muses throughout the years. As I got older that part of me evolved, but it still blossomed within creative forums. Prior to becoming a female small business owner I pursed a freelance visual arts career for ten years. Photographic storytelling through nature has been such a pivotal experience for my artistic growth. I truly feel like it led me into craving a bit more of a humanitarian approach to how I absorb art and let it flow through my own life. It felt completely natural opening Electric Cherry Shop + Studios. Read more>>

Cody Williams | Music Artist

A significant question that I still ask myself pretty much daily. It’s definitely no easy feat as we all find out one way or another, especially as we trudge through this unknown time period, a time period that will more than likely be very hard for creatives and artists to thrive in. I pursue an artistic/creative career because it’s my lifeblood; it’s the reason why I was put onto this earth, to put it in a dramatic, but correct way. There is no other avenue for me where I would feel fulfilled. I think I’ve found, like many other artistically-inclined people, that this year has altered my capacity to do work or perform in a career that I am not 100% invested in. I attended a traditional, four-year university to obtain a bachelor’s degree in STEM. Read more>>

Josie Skinner | Photographer & Artist

The arts always called to me while growing up. My mother taught art lessons in the back of our house. Of course, I was one of her first students, and with the addition of art lessons with her, and art lessons with impactful teachers at school, I knew in my soul that there was no other choice but for me to do something creative. I think when you are a creative person, it calls to you over everything else. That call beckons over all the other avenues. I only knew that I wanted to do something creative. I had no idea what shape or manner that would be. I just knew that when I am creative, I am my best self. When I am creative, I can be in the present moment, to be in flow. This flow state would be unattainable outside of an artistic career. Read more>>

Tracy and Sushe Felix | Visual Artists

Tracy: It only seemed natural as I was always interested in art. It just happened that a job in the gallery business came along when I was young and one thing lead to another. When Sushe and I first got married in 1984 we started our own gallery which was not economically successful, but we learned a lot about how to be professional artists. Sushe: Starting at an early age the visual arts have always been the most important element in my life. Read more>>

Shawn Harris | Artist, Camera Illustration

I never gave much consideration to other career paths. The interest was in finding decent jobs that would train me in new materials and processes, to absorb the experiences into my own skills set, translate them into my own art practice. Custom metal fabrication, product photography, photo finishing, framing, art handling, were all jobs that helped shape me. There came a point when the accumulated experiences weren’t benefiting me in finding my ‘ideal’ job. My own art was in a good groove and I dedicated myself to it. It’s been pointed out that I prioritize art making over myself and my relationships. I want to believe that good art has some correlation to the amount of time one spends practicing it. The odds of making a living with it are certainly against a person, which feels like the perfect challenge to chase after. Read more>>

Heather Prall | Artist &. Chief Curator

I’m a corporate career survivor. After earning a Master’s Degree in Business and spending almost 14 years in Human Resources, it was time for a change. I never felt fulfilled in my HR career and after pursuing degrees and certifications that I felt would help to propel my success, I walked away from it all. I’ve always been a creative type. It all began with a painting class that I took around the age of 12. I entered an art contest where I won first prize. As time went on, art became my favorite elective in school from painting to pottery. When at home, I would doodle and sketch and even rearrange furniture and decor and developed and eye for interior design. When I graduated high school I didn’t have clear picture of where I wanted to go. But I knew what I loved and when I talked about pursuing interior design, the idea was quickly squashed by someone who I respected who once had a job in the career field. Read more>>

Matt Alvarado | Screenwriter, Director, Producer

I’ve been pursuing an artistic, creative career because it feels like a calling. It feels like something I was born to do, something I have to do. I pursue it because I need to create and I don’t want to do anything else with my life. Since I was a little boy, all I’ve ever wanted to do was make movies. Growing up, my family didn’t have much money, so we couldn’t afford to do a lot of things, but one of the things we could do was watch movies. Watching movies at home was an event. My dad would come home from work and he’d bring with him a couple of VHS tapes from a video rental store. And he’d hide them, so my sister and I would have to find them, like a game, and the VHS tape was like the discovery after a treasure hunt. We’d eat dinner together and then watch films, all kinds of films, as a family. So it’s as though films and filmmaking are in my very DNA and I can’t get away from it. Read more>>

Mia Gorrell | Lifestyle Photographer

I started out as a Fine Arts major in college after discovering how much I loved creating through a series of high school photography courses. However, I instead ended up with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, thinking I wanted to go into social work instead. Photography became a hobby of mine, and didn’t develop into the business I have today until after my twins were born (my second and third children). As I became more confident in my skills, I was reminded of how it excited me in the first place. It became an outlet for me to explore my creativity and also get out of the house once in a while. It was the perfect career for a stay at home mom as I could make my own schedule, and I had lots of little models to practice on. I loved being able to document my children growing up. I considered and even tried going back to a “normal” job, but photography and the desire to create always called me back. Read more>>

Olivia Lien | Vector Artist and Laser Technician

Ever since I was young I have always had a passion for art. It would be rare to see me at school without a pencil and paper in hand. Even into high school, I would draw to help me focus in class. My passion of drawing mixed with conventions and I had shown my work to the general public at my first table in 2010. Over the following years, I found friends and a community that supported and inspired me to continue and pursue my creative career. I honestly can’t see a future where I’m not dedicating myself to my artwork. Read more>>

Lisa Fender | Author of the Lorn Prophecy Series

What’s the saying? Do what you love and the money will follow… I’ve always loved books and I always wanted to write one. Of course, I could never stop at one. No, I had to write a series. And not any series, but one with epic sized books. Although, that’s what I’ve always loved to read. I don’t want the story to end. And with writing comes marketing and the next thing you know, you’ve created a business. Read more>>