There are so many factors that affect how our lives turn out, but one of the most interesting is how our backgrounds give us unique strengths and perspectives that affect who we are as adults. We asked rising stars from the community to tell us about their background and upbringing and how they feel it’s impacted who they are today.

Monica Saaty-Pizzi | Photographer & Educator

Since I was a child, I have always loved attending school and learning. I used to spend hours upon hours creating artwork with different mediums outside of school. My family was always very supportive of my love of the arts and allowed me to explore these interests from the time I was a little kid. They have been nothing but supportive during the last decade as I grew my photography business into what it is today. When I was 14, my mother gifted me an old film camera from when she was in college. Since then, I have been avidly exploring the endless photographic opportunities in our world. Since my early teenage years, my mother and I would take road trips and day trips to allow me to use my camera. She helped me join my first photography club in college, land my first solo art show, and was there to help during the first wedding I ever shot. Read more>>

David Swindler | Photography Instructor

I grew up in the rolling landscape of Iowa and from a young age I loved exploring and playing in the woods near my home. The more time I spent outdoors, the more it ignited a passion for experiencing nature and the great outdoors. I was the oldest of five kids so I was a bit of a ring-leader. We were always up to something. From crafting an improvised raft to sail down a local river to biking the vast countryside, I realized that I was happiest when surrounded by nature. At age ten, I saw the Grand Canyon for the first time. We were camping out on the North Rim and I got up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. When I stepped out of the tent, I was blown away by all the stars I could see and how vivid the Milky Way was. I think all I managed to say for the next 30 minutes was WOAH…while my jaw was hanging open. Any words felt like an understatement. Read more>>

Lore Obrejea | Artist

I’m from Spain. I studied Fine Arts in Valencia and afterwords I moved to the Uk where I kept painting and started my own little business, an Etsy Shop with prints and posters of my animal illustrations. Read more>>

Andre Mccline | Creative Soul

I’m from the west side of Chicago Illinois a city that forced me to appreciate my talent and my life. Seeing the things I’ve seen and experienced really made me focus on my craft in order to survive. Once I got laid off from a dead end job in 2014 I decided to relocated with my family to Arizona for change and growth. I with no job in sight I leaned on my talent and never looked back. Now I make sure to display the elements, messages, influence and inspiration as I continue this journey we call life. Read more>>

Kaitlyn Jo Smith | Artist

I grew up in rural Ohio, halfway between Toledo and Columbus. A majority of my family were/are factory workers and I learned from a young age to link self-worth to ones ability/willingness to work. This outlook has impacted my artistic practice in obvious ways that can be seen in Lights Out (a laborious video made from meticulously arranging 60,000 deep fakes into a pseudo conveyer belt). It also impacts my work more subtlety in process based projects that are rooted in repetition. In my first year of graduate school at The University of Arizona I made the connection that art (at least the way that I approach it) is blue collar work, and that I (not so unlike my family) am a blue collar worker. Read more>>

Onna Voellmer | Artist

I’m originally from Washington State. I moved around, a lot, growing up; which, in combination with my love of Nature, made me think a lot about “place”. How place changes who we are, and how who we are, collectively, changes a place. These thoughts have become important elements in my work. Read more>>