Deciding to pursue an artistic or creative career path isn’t for the faint of heart. Challenges will abound, but so many of the artists we speak with couldn’t be happier with their choice. So, we asked them about how they made the decision in the first place.

Nicole Adams | Dance Educator

I remember at 16 years old, I sat in my guidance counselor’s office and he said, “What do you want to study in college?” And my immediate response was, “I want to be a lawyer.” I said it so quickly, he chuckled and said, “Are you sure?” Well, no one had ever asked me that before. My parents are both immigrants. They saw the United States as the land of opportunity like many immigrants did. And to them, a successful career was to be a doctor, lawyer, or anything close to those fields. Being a dancer? That was completely foreign to them. My guidance counselor saw that I was stumped and he followed up with, “What makes you happy?” And there was no hesitation to that question. Dance made me happy. It was the only thing in my life that fed my soul. So, I chose to pursue a career in what made me happy. Read more>>

Shane Nelson | Videographer, Filmmaker & Content creator

So I’ve been making movies with my friends ever since I was 7 years old. I’ll be 29 next month. We had a lot of kids in the neighborhood and the weekends and summers were often filled with a lot of football, extreme sports and making movies with the camcorder. We made our own Star Wars movie, some original action movies and a spoof of The Birds which we called “The Squirrels”. This love of movies stuck with me throughout my life but was usurped by sports momentarily as I put my focus into football, eventually competing at the collegiate level until tearing my ACL. I was devastated that my life’s plan had been derailed, but thanks to the pressure of a good friend, I attended a few concerts and was inspired to pickup the camera again. I began attending concerts religiously and my camera was always with me. Read more>>

Danielle Blanding | Painter & Sculptor

Pursuing a creative career was not something I knew I wanted to do, but I also didn’t realize that it could be an actual option for me. Growing up, I loved to draw. I remember drawing in church all the time with small pieces of paper that my mom would give me out of her purse. I viewed creating as something I just liked to do, I never even considered what I was doing to be “art.” My initial plan in high school was to become a pediatric surgeon. By the time I graduated I was applying to an HBCU for Bioengineering, an amazing career, but my mom came to me and asked me about art school. I remember being a little confused, but also super intrigued. My mom and I took a tour of the school and I fell in love. I applied to the school as soon as the tour was over and bam!, I was accepted and didn’t think twice about my other school applications. Ever since then, I’ve been on the creative path and it’s been amaze balls. Read more>>

Gini Koch | Author

The voices in my head would not shut up. I know that sounds funny, and it is, but it’s also true. I always had voices, story ideas, characters in my brain. I just didn’t realize that I was a writer or could write. Mostly because I’d been taught that the only way to write was to outline. Outlines are great if that’s how it works for you, and for term papers and business proposals, but it turns out that I’m an extreme linear writer. I start with the title, then go to the first line, and when I get to the end…I stop. I discovered this when some of the voices in my head got SO loud that I had to write them down or literally go nuts. I started writing and looked up 8 hours later with 200 pages (I type 120wpm and I wasn’t worrying about errors) and I never looked back. Once I realized that I was giving up a lot of fun things — going out to eat, parties, going to movies, etc. Read more>>

Jehan Patterson | Film Writer & Director

I pursued an artistic career mainly because working in the arts has been something that has always been in me. Growing up, my mother had been an English teacher and instilled in me the value and importance of literature, culture and art. It was from her that I got the Harlem Renaissance at a young age and a lot of the love that I developed for the work to come out of that movement has fueled my creative passion in years to come. Film is the artistic form that draws me most. Read more>>

LayWills | Rapper & Actress

I chose to pursue and artistic and creative career because I found the value in using my voice. I know I have a story to tell, and I had to use life’s opportunities to do so. My journey to success has been so unique. It has been filled with tests, trials, and a strong will to overcome my struggles to reach my blessings. I’d love to use my story of triumph to reach other people, and that’s where my art comes in. Read more>>

Kirsten Lee | Atlanta Family Photographer

All my life, I’ve loved being an artist!! I begged my parents for art classes when I was in elementary school and eventually they gave in. I was willing to take art classes at night after school from 4th grade through 12th grade. In college, I found my love for working with children with special needs and eventually ended up with a master’s degree in special education. I enjoyed teaching for many years after that. After becoming a mom, I learned to love art again through my camera. It was something that came naturally to me and I thoroughly enjoyed it. After my second child in 2011, I decided to turn it into a business and start Kirsten Lee Photography. It has taken a lot of hard work to be a successful business owner and it is something that I truly enjoy. On the creative side of photography, the one thing that makes me the happiest is finding that “yummy light”. Read more>>

Cherry White | Singer-Songwriter & Composer

My mother played piano. I remember being really young and hearing her play piano and thinking , “She’s the best piano player ever! I want to play piano just like my mom.” So my mom started me with piano lessons at a very young age. I trained classically and then I became interested in composition at 11. The thing about it though was that I was really shy and I didn’t like performing or sharing my music with other people. I had terrible stage fright. But then, when I was 13 my family moved to Georgia and I enrolled in a performing arts high school in DeKalb County. I started training intensely and was immersed in music and the arts day and night. I took piano lessons, voice lessons, theory classes, dance classes, acting classes… I began opening up. Singing and playing music on stage became my therapy. I was able to channel the parts of myself that I thought of as weak and incompetent and morph those parts into this strange confident being that I never could be offstage. Read more>>

Kate Burke | Textile and Ceramics Artist

I pursue an artistic career because it is something that I am compelled to do. It is a compulsion that I cannot squash. Thinking about concepts, researching and observing the environment around me, and translating that work into a visual piece is something that has become an inherent need for me. To me, pursuing an artistic career is like eternal problem solving. I am always posing questions and investigating answers. I use art as a means to dig into the “truth.” To shed light, to provide a different perspective. I believe art in all its forms allows us to see different sides to the story than we were previously capable of. Art can be the bridge between individuals’ understanding of one another, and I’ve always felt it is my calling in life to be a bridge for people–a place where people can meet in the middle. Read more>>

Tracey Aka “Traoshi “ | Designer & Author

I love creating something new and introducing it to the world. Things become blah & boring quickly for me, however being artistic I can change it …my pencil is my manic wand! Read more>>