A Creative Career

In the book The Rise of the Creative Class, Richard Florida writes “This book charts the growth in people who are paid principally to do creative work for a living. These are the scientists, engineers, artists, musicians, designers and knowledge-based professionals, whom collectively I call the ‘Creative Class.’” [i] He goes on to theorize that infusing this type of worker into communities is a primary road for economic prosperity and city development.

His economic argument has since been discredited, however, the idea of a class of people who create for a living across different industries appealed to me.  I thought it would be especially interesting if those different industries existed within one person. Is it possible to create in different spheres (theater, curriculum design, app design etc.) at the same time? This idea helped push me to think in a new way about my skills and the universe of experiences I will ultimately call “my career.”

My senior year at Yale I adapted the book Go Ask Alice into a solo play and performed it for my acting class. The story was about a young girl addicted to heroin. I crafted the text, researched the effect of heroin on the body and mimicked those effects within my own body. I empathetically explored her life history and tried to discern the motivation for her actions. I rehearsed, rehearsed, rehearsed, sought feedback, rehearsed some more and did my scene.  I was thorough. I was good.  After a brief celebration, I then lamented to a group of classmates, “What am I going to do with this skill?  How do I put ‘plays a good drug addict’ on a resume?”

I didn’t know where to start. Although I wasn’t first generation to college – I was first generation to Yale. My public school in Florida prepared me well academically, but I had no clue how to navigate, let alone thrive, within the university’s system or access the wealth of its resources. I remember when a classmate of mine who had gone to a boarding school won a Fulbright. My response: What is a Fulbright? In fact, what is a fellowship? My goal was simply graduation. I had no idea how to craft the knowledge and experiences I had gained over my four years into a career unique to me.

So I took a first step and was accepted to the drama school. (See my future blog post — All I really need to know I learned in clown class…really). I worked as an actress and began volunteering for The Posse Foundation, an organization that helps young people like I was navigate top colleges and universities with confidence and move on to be leaders in the workforce. Now I work at Posse where I get to encourage young people to go for that internship while helping to facilitate dialogue about race, class and leadership using methods inspired by Augusto Boal.

Now I’m not saying this type of path is easy. Sometimes I too shout out “Not cool, Robert Frost!” And I don’t think my particular story is the ultimate example of a creative fusion career. But I can say it has been fun. It’s confusing for people, sometimes — how do these identities fit together – actress, writer, non-profit manager, facilitator, leadership strategist? My answer — everything I did to prepare for that scene senior year leads me to love and excel at the work I do now. All of those skills and passions…they fit together in me.

Here are a few examples of people (and one organization) who are bringing their diverse creative interests together to make a career:

Micia Mosely – Earned her PHD in Education from Berkeley and created The Black Teacher Project alongside a flourishing career as a comedienne.

Pun Bandhu – Earned his MFA from Yale, acts in stage and film, co-produced the 2006 production of Spring Awakening on Broadway and is an advocate and organizer for diversity on stage.

Dax-Devlon Ross – Earned his JD from Rutgers, leads a sports education non-profit as Executive Director, and is an investigative journalist who recently wrote an expose on bias in jury selection.

Urban Bush Women – Produces world-class, concert-style dance and facilitates powerful dialogue about issues of identity, community and power.

Nyasha Laing – Earned a BA from Yale, a law degree from NYU and now consults, writes for various media outlets, and produced a documentary film on Garifuna music.

Daniel Beaty – Earned his B.A. from Yale, went on to earn his MFA, recently performed at BAM in a play he wrote and also wrote a children’s book about a child with an incarcerated father.

 

Have fun out there.

 

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Twitter @_reginabain_

 

[i] Florida, Richard L. The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life. New York, NY: Basic, 2002. Xiii. Print.