People of color working in Creative.

Last week, one of our photographers, Christopher Michael, was selected to participate in ‘25%’ — a gallery presented by Emerald Studios, hosted in the beautiful space of Cro Studios. In the publication’s words:

About 25%: Studies show that in creative occupations, only 25% of all workers classify as a minority. This gallery was created with the intent of bringing that to the public attention and highlighting the best 25 minority photographers in the Dallas / Ft. Worth metroplex.

Dialogue surrounding diversity in creative ecosystems is one that Jeff (our co-founder) and I frequently share. So, having been great admirers of the Emerald Studios publication and their work, we quickly jumped at the chance to submit our predominantly-black roster of photographers to participate. With full praise, I thank the Emerald Studios team for the turnout, and allowing a space for so many meaningful conversations amongst guests. In the days that followed this evening, I’ve jotted down some quick thoughts of my own.

As someone who exists within the world of creative business, I’ve come to recognize that our biggest barrier as minorities, broadly speaking, is exposure. Not exposure of our work but, rather, to early guidance in our careers. In my years connecting with artists of color, I’ve concluded a noticeable pattern in how much later in life we’re exposed to the idea of Creativity as viable careers. This is largely due to a general absence of early-stage mentorship, capital, access to resources in the art world, and excitement in the possibility that artistry can very much convert to meaningful work (that actually pays).

And, while it’s great that we’re becoming increasingly more aware of the issue, it isn’t enough to simply recognize the lack of diversity in creative ecosystems. The work begins when we make an active (and sustained) effort to gain deep understanding of the matter — and why it deserves thoughtful dialogue beyond statistics.

That said, I think a healthy, actionable next step in the right direction will take place when we seek to become more aware of young, colored artists starting out, and take it upon ourselves to invest in the ones we see potential in. Invite them to our productions. Equip them with tools and resources. Teach them about sales, processes, and disciplines. Prepare them for their careers, while leading our next generation of artists toward a more inclusive environment by highlighting minorities in Creative. And, most proactively, continue to hire artists of color who are doing good, honest work.

Do things at your own pace, within the terms that make sense to you, and learn to foster a healthy level of trust and contentment in your day's work.

For any young creator ambitiously embarking on a new journey — whether you're an artist or an entrepreneur — you'll quickly discover that feelings of stability and satisfaction are very fleeting. And that's OK.

It's important to understand that for many of us, anxieties around success often stem from standards and expectations set by the noise economy (social media, etc.) Don't believe everything you hear or read about.

Yes, this requires constant (and consistent) practice, but take everything you come across with a grain of salt. As trite as it may sound, there really isn't any one blueprint towards professional success.

So, take time to yourself, but also be mindful about overindulgence (in both your work and personal life).

It's always wise to enter any new endeavor with a strong level of expectation and acceptance that you will have responsibilities to attend to. Some will excite you, (many) others won't — and there isn’t any way to skirt around either of the two. But, if you care deeply about your life's calling, your best bet in any given circumstance is to simply roll up your sleeves and get things done.

And, again, although you won't always be satisfied with the output of your investment, the journey will be much less daunting if you can keep a backdrop-sense of contentment in your efforts. Do your best work, be realistic about its output, and try not to overindulge at the expense of your mental wellbeing.

If you can subscribe to this belief, then you can trust that you are exactly where you need to be. You are more than your work — find liberty in this.

No, I will not be attending your creative meetup.

What happens when we spend a generous number of years doing creative work without ever realizing a need for community? What if—after hearing time and again that in order to thrive in creative work, we are required to inject ourselves into these communities—we find them completely devoid of any value to the progression of our work or our life’s general wellbeing? Or, what if, by particular circumstance, we just don’t enjoy being at such close distance to others in our industry?

The emergence of a new creative class has found residence in all of our dominant social sectors—digitally-speaking and otherwise—with communities of artists and the like growing in earnest. And, as a person whose career deeply roots within this sector of the world, I’ve never been more inspired by the collective effort we’ve wielded into securing a foothold towards a more creatively-empowered culture. I could speak at length about my excitement for—and my general optimism surrounding—the evolution of this new creative class.

And, although both statements are true, I think it’s worth bearing in mind that with any cultural movement rising in prominence, there exists an attachment of myths and narratives that travel just as quickly with them. One of these myths—although not always explicitly communicated—is the implication that we have some sort of unspoken obligation to a creative community.

In the adolescence of my own career, I devoted an exhaustive amount of time in search for a community—under the notion that I was, in some capacity, expected to. After having attended a plethora of meetups, creative gatherings, networking events and the like, I’ve mostly found myself leaving each time riddled with a sense of social anxiety, a little more than a blur of confusion, and an amassed stack of business cards finding themselves untouched in the sleeves of my back pocket until their inevitable disposal.

For context, I do recognize the importance of absorbing from others. In fact, it’s been the very backbone of my career and an integral part of my life. A daily, active effort to honor that philosophy keeps me sane. I also recognize that, for many others, fostering this characteristic looks rather differently (for instance, participating in aforementioned gatherings). The truth for me, though, is I’ve never garnered much usefulness from meetups. It could be a missing element of structure and organization that I recognize, a general sense of vagueness that inhabits these events or, simply, it could be the reality of my introverted nature.

In any case, I suspect there’s a number of you who also identify with these realities. And, for those who contend, I’d like to think, similarly, you also find conversational liberty elsewhere. Fulfillment in lessons, meaning, and appreciation for my work are materialized in day-to-day interactions—interactions with friends who aren’t confined within the creative ecosystem. These are the people who discover purpose outside of my own; who find no liberty in expressing themselves through the written word, a camera, or a paintbrush. People who aren’t constantly pigeonholed into an internal obligation to create art.

Rather, I’ve found to absorb work ethic from those who labor with their physical hands. To learn resilience from those who’ve passed the threshold of their forties, amassing various occupations to provide for their loved ones. Patience from those who find themselves just at the birth of realizing their dreams. Dedication from those who’ve committed their years to societal service.

In other words, there is no such thing as a blueprint to blanket and navigate our creative nature. Create if it’s a means to make sense of your life and understand the chaos of the world around you. Create if it’s an internal necessity for your mental wellbeing. And, if you find any liberty in this realization—despite how trite it may sound—you have permission to create without obligation to community standards. To do things a bit more unorthodox; to exist a little more quietly in your ecosystem. Whatever your reason to create, write, shoot, or design, just remember you are ultimately doing it for your fucking self. And you’re allowed to learn things on your own terms. There’s much more to observe outside the realms of your profession.

Because, at day’s end, it isn’t our occupations that hold us together, it’s the reality that people—no matter our career paths—find connection and authenticity through the idea that we’re all doing our best to hold things together in hopes of nothing spontaneously collapsing.