Where you grew up and your background can often have surprising effects on our lives and careers. We’ve asked folks from the community to tell us about how their background has affected them.

Ella Nilsson | Artist

I am a Jersey girl, and I grew up mostly in northern New Jersey, exceptions being a beach town in southern NJ, Ventnor, and Tehran, Iran, as my father is Persian. Having lived in Texas for the past 13 years, I can say that the tri-state area definitely shaped who I am, and I wouldn’t have noticed that had I not moved away. For example, I am obsessed with efficiency. Everything from how I approach my artwork, to the order in which I carry out my errands, is mapped out, so that I accomplish items while conserving my most precious resource – time! I think east coast folks get a bad rap for being rude, but taking time to exchange pleasantries does just that. People are direct in their communication style for the same reasons. Nothing personal, I promise! However, I am grateful Texas has softened me up a bit, and appreciate that it’s ok to talk to a stranger, without worrying there must be some hidden nefarious purpose. I do still walk really fast. Read more>>

Yossi Ben Abu | Mixed Media Artists

I was born in Israel for a family of Moroccan origin. Maybe due to my Moroccan heritage I was always drawn to geometrical shapes, especially those that create complex patterns. I was born deaf so I had to rely on my vision to communicate and I think that this is one of the things that made me an artist – the ability to express myself in non verbal ways. I was always very curious about the environment around me, architecture, nature and visual art and I am constantly influence and get inspired from anything that I see around me. Read more>>

Tiny June | Musical Artist

I was born in Nicaragua, and got to grow up there for the first ten years of my life. When we moved to Texas in 2008, it was complete culture shock. From the school systems, the way people did church, and everything in between. As a kid, you don’t really think about the implications that might have as you grow into adulthood, and although I’ve had my fair share of bad experiences I consider it a great honor to have been immersed in such a beautiful culture that has helped shape the way I see not only the world, but the people in it. My experiences are a constant reminder not to take life to seriously because it is truly out of your control. Part of me can be a little impulsive at times (which can lead to things like bad haircuts)- but the other half of me is really striving to live a really beautiful life without questioning the validity of my decisions, or worrying about the future. It’s easier said than done, but something that I often revert back to in hopes that one day I will have lived a life worth living. Read more>>

Juliana Buenrostro | Photographer

I was born in Mexico and raised in Houston, Texas from a very young age. Growing up my dad would always tell me that if I wanted something I had to work for it, nothing was ever given to me growing up. I started working at the age of 14 at my dads restaurant and then started working at Subway making $6.00 an hour going to school, playing soccer and helping my parents with any small bills I could. I am forever grateful for my dad and for instilling in me that anything worth having is worth working for that is why I am who I am now, I am not scared for working I am not scared to go above and beyond. Read more>>

Samara Barks | Illustrator, Muralist, 3D Artist and Mentor

Originally from Detroit, MI, my mother raised my siblings and me in a very creative environment. She is a fantastic artist. She was not only a seamstress, but a sculptor, a painter, and just an all-around artist. She encouraged me to explore my artistic side when she noticed I had a knack for it. With my mother’s steady encouragement and work ethic, those things lent themselves to the artist I am today. If she didn’t know how to do something, she worked at it and learned how. As a child, I felt like there wasn’t anything she couldn’t do. We’d always watch Saturday morning cartoons together. Mix that with a healthy dose of video games, you have the foundation for my early art life. Read more>>