The CHCMC hosted eight artists on Wednesday, April 24th, to speak on a panel about what it means to turn artistic ambitions into a lifelong career. The “Life of an Artist” panel included professionals in various fields: painting, photography, poetry, prose, music and filmmaking. Among the accomplished artists were filmmaker Randy Wilkins, who has worked with director Spike Lee, music photographer Jacob Blickenstaff, who works for the New York Times, published author June Eding, and singer/songwriter Markeisha Ensley, whose music has won many awards and fans worldwide. The panel also included prominent local voices such as visual artists LaRonz Murray, Leon Tillman, Sahara Borja and poet Morgan Park.

The accomplished artists spoke to an audience of community members and young people from our Youth Organizing to Save Our Streets program, in which high-school students learn to organize against gun violence. The youth, several of whom have artistic ambitions themselves, asked probing questions such as “what are your greatest challenges as an artist?”, “how do you deal with the business side of the art world?” and “how do you respond to criticism that making art is not a worthy life-goal?”

Encouraged by the energy and enthusiasm of the youth and community members, the artists shared experiences from their personal and professional artistic lives. They advised the youth organizers to always self-promote and talk to people, to be disciplined and practice their skills daily, to take themselves seriously and most importantly, to always do what they love. “Keep discouragement out of your head,” Leon Tillman, a visual artist currently seeking a teaching job, said.

The panel event was part of our Arts to End Violence festival, a series of events that promote the arts as a way of starting anti-violence dialogue. Upcoming events include a street photography workshop on May 6th, the Kingston Avenue Festival on May 18th, and the Gallery Opening on May 23rd. Click for more information about Upcoming Events or Arts to End Violence. Click here to see images submitted to this year’s Arts to End Violence contest on our tumblr account.