I had a long stretch of barista positions in high school, through college, and straight on into 2006 (my first place of employment as an official DC resident was Baked & Wired, back when it was half-coffee shop, half architectural copy place), but my grandparents and then parents had a print shop (first in Blagden Alley, then on Shannon Place in SE). This is the case for a LOT of small business families – it was all hands on deck. I remember being really young and helping fold and collate at the dinner table, and when I got older I worked at the shop during Summers and breaks from school, and whenever I was needed after that, too, until my Dad retired in 2013.
We jokingly say that our family motto is “EVERYONE MUST SUFFER,” but really there’s just an all-around understanding that a creative career – or working in the creative economy – requires a real support system. Sometimes that means showing up with closed-toed shoes to help move furniture for an event and sometimes it means just being available to talk through some dreadful element of whatever you’re working on because you just need additional brainpower. Macro view? Projects require support. From the local + surrounding community, and at every step of the way.
The short answer is no. There’s a lot that my 25 year old self would have ideally been told (by my current incarnation), but the 45 and 50 and 60 year old versions of me will absolutely be saying that same thing. There’s no guide book to new media or creative career. and every misstep or project that never really took off has led to something else. I started working online in 2006 and have always tried to keep my scope as wide as possible – whether you’re working in food or tech or hands-on visuals, there’s something to pick up and learn from every sector. If anything I wish I’d had the foresight – or awareness – to see how important that was a few years before it naturally crept in on me. It’s been almost 12 years since I founded DC’s first street style blog and I’ll still get the “fashion blogger” label; my biggest piece of advice when I’m talking with people who are just starting out is DO EVERYTHING. No one should expect you to be a specialist at age 24 – least of all yourself. Leverage the shit out of what you know and the space you feel comfortable in, but let that be a starting point. If you’re lucky, life is long, and it’s to your benefit to learn-learn-learn from everyone and everything you have the opportunity to come into contact with.
Haha, you know, when I took the LINE job I purposely kind of kept it to myself! Not because I wasn’t excited, but because I really wanted to avoid this question. I do get why people ask – and mostly because I think there might be a little bit of a misconception about how A Creative DC operates. It is an enormous amount of effort, but it’s one that’s always existed in the “personal project” folder. There’s a much longer and more involved conversation about why it’s not really a monetized entity, but the short answer is that I’m only comfortable gaining off it in the same capacity as someone whose work we feature or push forward. Is the project’s visibility something I’m able to point to and use as a case study? Absolutely. Have I been able to leverage that visibility to create connections and drive new work opportunities? Yes, and I’m so grateful, and the point of the entire project is to do that for and with people and projects and economy in the city at large. There have been times where it’s made sense to take on consulting projects AS A Creative DC – we’ve worked with Smithsonian APAC, for example, and Mayor Bowser’s 202 Creates campaign – but it’s important to me that we use those financial opportunities to pay other artists and to create original content. Grants, etc (and there aren’t a ton that A Creative DC is eligible for – it’s artist-run, and not a non-profit) go towards paying my team, paying for A Creative DC: Brookland (so that we can open it up to other people for as low a rate as possible), paying for domains, and all of that other admin-y type of stuff. In those applications I do make a point to talk about the personal investment of my time and digital skills, but I’m acutely fucking aware that if it weren’t for my community, I’d be standing alone at an intersection, with an idea and not much else. Maybe that was the long answer. Anyways – A Creative DC is something I’ve been balancing alongside “work stuff” since day one. It isn’t going anywhere!