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.

Jett Green | Artist

FULFILLING MY SOUL: At a very young age , I was encouraged by my parents to draw, paint , play and enjoy my creative endeavors. I also had difficultly in elementary school and found most subjects uninspiring and sometimes difficult for me to understand. Math, English, History were some of the subjects I could not comprehend or take in what exactly was being taught to me. It was as if I needed I translater , someone who could teach me through visuals , color , drawing or hands on. In Highschool I began to grow more in Math but still had difficulty in other subjects like English and History. At the age of 16 I discovered I could draw and paint but not fall in love with Art till I was 19 . After Highschool and into college I noticed that I was at the top of my art classes and was encouraged by some of my art teachers. I then went to Art Center College of Design in California and thrived. Read more>>

Sheril Rodgers | Producer, Actor, Screenwriter, Singer-Songwriter & Costume Designer

I never pursued a creative career—it found me and saved me! Creativity came from my imagination as a child. As the eldest of 6 children, we played, sang and danced almost every day, until my Mom died in her sleep at the age of 33–I was 14 years old. I became the sole caregiver of my siblings until the age of 19, when I met my 1st husband, who was a guitar player. He encouraged me to sing and together we toured in several rock and show bands until our divorce, then while touring as a back-up singer for the late Merle Haggard, I began a serious songwriting career. I had attended college and majored in theatrical arts, but the practical side of me migrated toward costume design, where I knew I could possibly make a living. After divorcing my first husband, I met my 2nd husband the real “Winston Man” and supported his career while I raised our 3 children. Read more>>

John DeMato | Branded Lifestyle Portrait & Virtual Photographer

When my mother was on her deathbed, I spent a lot of time talking to her and I realized that if I were in her position, I’d have a list of regrets that would stretch outside the hospital and around the block. I worked in the television industry for years, and while the pay was good and the benefits even better, I ultimately burned out. That led to a lot of anger, moodiness, lack of motivation and ultimately, resentment for putting myself in that position. Once she died, I knew I needed to make a change…and 8 months later, I did. Without warning, I quit my job and leaned on the one thing in my life that gave me joy – my passion for photography. I was a hobbyist for years as it represented my artistic escape. Street shots. Headshots. Portraits. That weekend fun turned into a side business. Read more>>

Clint Manning | Musician, Songwriter & Producer

I’ve always been drawn to creative things, particularly music. I think it offers a way to communicate emotion that can go beyond words and actions. Its offers a great power of expression and the ability to influence and connect with others. Art brings people together while at the same time bringing out the elements that make us all unique. Read more>>

Donna Zarbin-Byrne | Artist & Gardener

As a child, we used to drive my grandmother home down Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. From the back seat, I loved watching the display of color and atmosphere of Lake Michigan and the sky meet each other. Along that same drive is a magnificent totem pole, entitled Kwunusila, or Thunderbird. The combination of colors, creatures and wings spreading into the horizon fascinated me and. Around age 10, my mother got me a bag of clay, set me up in a room in the basement (my first studio) and I began to sculpt my rendition of this totem pole. Additionally, I spent hours at the Art institute of Chicago growing up. My mother’s way of dealing with the long winter days was to take her three children to all the museums that the city had to offer. Looking, observing, and expressing what I saw through sculpture is what came natural to me. Read more>>

Jessica Cramer | Executive Producer & Owner

I was an art major in college, with a concentration in printmaking. While I never saw myself having a career as a professional artist, I knew that I had to find a job in a creative industry, no matter what. I accidentally, and luckily, fell into an advertising job, and I knew instantly that this is the creative industry that I had been searching for. I love my job, I get to be creative every day, and I’m very thankful for it! Read more>>

Laura Irrgang | Artist & Writer

I’ve made art for as long as I can remember. My earliest memories involve making up stories and coloring. I have always been drawn to narrative, and I’m very visual. Creating art is how I process everything… From paintings to my home to food to clothing. Everything has a creative element for me. Read more>>>