Support Creativity: Interview with Charity Founder Steve Lucin
Support Creativity is a charity that is dedicated to providing funds to creative individuals who are seeking to fund their education in the arts. Founded by New York-based creative entrepreneur Steve Lucin, Support Creativity provides scholarships, mentorship, personal and professional development, networking, and work opportunities to college-aged individuals including those who do not hold citizenship in the United States.
Steve Lucin has a background in technical design, motion graphics, and entrepreneurial skills. He runs his own entertainment and nightlife creative business known as Halucinated Design, Inc and served as the VRFX supervisor at Michael Bay’s 451 Media, where he oversaw the creation of VR/360 (Virtual Reality) content and animated many of the original 451 motion comics. These experiences sharpened his business skills which he then brought to the table to serve and uplift communities of creators who lack the funding, and subsequently the opportunity, to hone their skills and make a name for themselves in the arts. Both Support Creativity and his other brand Legacy Greek — a strategy, branding, and marketing organization for fraternities and sororities — aim to help young people as they venture into adulthood.
Steve embraced his passion for helping creative young people transition into adulthood after an experience he had when he was at graduate school at Parsons the New School for Design. While serving as a college mentor at East Harlem Tutorial Program he met a young man who was an extremely talented animator. However, the student did not have the funds to pay for college outright and, as an undocumented immigrant who came to the country at eight months of age, he had no access to financial aid. Similarly, all available scholarships required U.S. citizenship or legal residency status and/or straight As. There was nothing that existed for an undocumented student with Bs and Cs. Although this young man was one of the best 3D animation students Steve had ever met, his dreams of going to college yielded enrollment in an NYC community college courtesy of fundraising from his high school.
Steve started the Support Creativity Scholarship (formerly the Halucinated Scholarship for the Aspiring Creative) to prevent other students from feeling helpless to the point of considering dropping out of school. He launched the scholarship in 2013 and received 7 applicants; the second year he received 553. Since then, the program has grown which illustrates the need for this service.
Aside from offering scholarships, Steve also uses his platform to arrange art exhibitions — both in person and virtual — to showcase the creations of emerging artists. He also keeps his own creative zeal alive; at night he likes to animate and mix video live to electronic dance music as a VJ. He has performed visuals at NYC nightclubs such as House of Yes, Verboten (now Schimanski), Space Ibiza NY, Cielo, Jump Into The Light VR Play Lab, and Electric Zoo Festival.
Steve recently discussed his businesses, goals, and aspirations via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you decide to enter the creative industry and how did you get into animation and music/VJing per se?
Steve Lucin (SL): I’ve been creative my whole life. I started by drawing cartoons and video game characters, then attending LaGuardia High School for the Arts and Performing Arts in NYC as an art major. I thought about getting away from art because I didn’t want to be a starving artist, so I went to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for Computer & Systems Engineering. Midway through college I switched majors because I was on the verge of completely dropping out. Once I majored in Electronic Media, Arts, and Communications it was straight As and love after that! Graduating during the 2008 recession, I decided to go straight into grad school where I received my MFA in Design and Technology from Parsons the New School for Design. This is where I fell in love with animation. In 2010 nobody wanted to hire me so I continued to freelance and then started my own business, Halucinated Design, Inc. Since a lot of my work was nightlife related (designing party flyers, logos for record labels, graphics for clubs etc.), I was always intrigued by how creative this realm can be. I went to my first rave in 2012, which was Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas. This is where I fell in LOVE with the production of the entire experience. I saw the animated visuals on incredibly huge screens and said to myself, “I can do this!” I went home, researched, found a class at a DJ school called Dubspot (which doesn’t exist anymore), where they had a class called Visual Performance. I couldn’t afford it at the time, worked hard, a couple years later I had enough money and took the class. This is where I learned how to VJ and it has been my favorite class ever! Within a year of finishing the class, I was VJing at Electric Zoo Festival at Randall’s island NYC. My goal is to VJ EDC Vegas to bring it into full circle.
MM: What inspires your own work and which films and/or songs are you especially proud of?
SL: My community and music inspire my work. As you might be able to tell, I love electronic music. The community within this big umbrella/genre is very loving. I also find inspiration from stories that I am surrounded by. I mentored a high school student who ended up being undocumented. It was a painful roadblock and so after incorporating/establishing my business, I decided to save up and award scholarships to passionate creatives such as my mentee. Since then I’ve built a community of creatives and educators called Support Creativity. It is still a work in progress, but I’d say I am incredibly proud of this because I help inspire the next generation of creatives. We have awarded over $40k in scholarships since 2013. I am very proud of this.
MM: How much did your experience at college influence your creativity?
SL: I pledged La Unidad Latina, Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity, Inc. These are the brothers that I broke down in front of during a chapter meeting because I felt that I was going to drop out of school. They are the ones that showed me Adobe Photoshop for the first time and saw that I LOVED working with digital media. They are the ones that influenced my decision in switching majors and staying in school. My brothers continue to give me work year after year. My college experience has a direct influence on my creativity today. I am now on the board of directors of my Fraternity’s nonprofit arm, La Unidad Latina Service and Education Fund. I bring the creative angle on branding and marketing this organization which in turn will help out my community and amplify the efforts that my brothers are doing.
MM: Can you tell us about all the companies you’ve founded and how they are all different from and similar to each other?
SL: Most of my brands are very similar, just with different niches.
Halucinated Studios (formerly Halucinated Design) — branding and marketing for nightlife.
SteveLucin.com — branding and marketing for businesses and nonprofits. Since COVID, we’ve been focusing on Virtual Galas for nonprofits.
Legacy Greek — branding and marketing for fraternities and sororities.
Support Creativity — an organization dedicated to providing a support system to passionate creatives going to college, grad school, and beyond.
MM: How tough is it to establish a company?
SL: It’s easy to establish a company, you’ve just got to pay taxes. It’s challenging to make it sustainable and profitable. I’m still learning how to do this. I’m blessed that I have some amazing mentors and coaches who are helping me do so (shout out to the runlikeclockwork.com and remotereactivation.com teams). Establishing a nonprofit is tougher because your reporting to the government has to be on point. Support Creativity is on its way to becoming an official nonprofit and will gain 501c3 status.
MM: Was establishing a charitable organization harder than establishing a company and where do the funds for the scholarships come from?
SL: Like I mentioned, it’s not officially established, but because I value branding so much, I’ve been able to gain the trust of my community and grow it very slowly and steadily. I incubated the scholarship program first within Halucinated. It was once called the Halucinated Scholarship for the Aspiring Creative. A few years under that name and a few scholarships later, I decided to rebrand it and give it its own website, Support Creativity, wesupportcreativity.org. I first started by saving $100/mo, and in a year, I can award a $1,000 scholarship. I posted my savings on Facebook; and my brothers, friends, and family started to chip in. That first year with my community, we ended up awarding two $1,000 scholarships. Most of the funds for the scholarship now come from the Guardians of Creativity. These are monthly donors ranging from $10/mo — $25+/mo. We also try and have fun with our fundraisers as well, like the Virtual Reality Paint Party Fundraiser we did at Jump Into The Light in NYC a few years ago. What I quickly learned is that running this organization was significantly different from my other businesses. It involves psychology, more relationship building, and sharing the stories of these students.
MM: Over the years, this program has gotten increasingly popular. How exactly do you select the winners?
SL: We have a rubric scoring system that has stayed fairly consistent. Does the student share a compelling story and clearly show that they are passionate about their creative field in their essay/response? Does the student show fluency in their medium and is their piece of work very impressive? And does the student truly need financial help, especially due to hardships? We get volunteers in our community to score the applications, and then select the top applications for each of the current scholarships which are Undergraduate Award, the Graduate Award, and the World Award (for undocumented/citizens of the world).
MM: What has been the highlight of your creative career so far?
SL: I would say the COVID period up to the present (it’s October 2020) affected my business tremendously. I had a team of 7 people helping me out and then once COVID hit, it was just me and my sales professional, Kevin Mendoza. I had to freeze and/or let go of many of my clients because I could not provide the level of service from before. My business was on life support already and COVID didn’t help. But soon after the initial shock, nonprofits started to reach out to me for social media help. This kept me alive, with income. Another nonprofit reached out, saying that they were about to cancel their annual gala fundraiser. I told them that I helped live stream 13 DJs, in 13 hours, and we ended up raising $13k for the NY Presbyterian Hospital. They asked if I could help them live stream their gala, I said yes! Using everything that I learned throughout my career, I designed their marketing material, created a web landing page, put together a 40 minutes show with slick animated graphics and videos, and live-streamed it for them. They ended up raising over a million dollars! What’s the highlight of my career? The fact that I helped a nonprofit fundraise during a time of anguish and uncertainty among the entire human race so that they can help serve the people that they love (in this case, the homeless). This feat alone has been a major shift in my business. It’s been the hustle from March to the present. And it’s bringing in income like I’ve never seen before. I came out above water, and I’m regrowing/rebuilding a new team. I’m teaching them how to run the business as I go away on paternity leave.
MM: What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
SL: It’s okay to cry. I’ve had my fair share of crawling up into a ball and crying (especially during COVID) and being an entrepreneur is not for everyone. It takes an incredible amount of resilience. But if you use your “Why” and your life purpose as your north star, you’ll be able to grow tough skin to get you through the dark downs. There are, of course, plenty of ups. But it’s a roller coaster ride of money and emotions. A piece of advice that is more tactical; make sure your systems and processes are in place before expanding your team.
MM: What are your ultimate career goals and where do you hope your organizations will be in ten years?
SL: My ultimate career goals are to have 10 organizations that run themselves but also are integrated with one another, an echo system. Support creativity will be a physical and online space for students and mentors to learn how to make money using their craft. Those people get trained so well that any of my businesses hire them right out of school. The businesses are well-oiled machines, and everybody is making money and are happy and fulfilled with their work. They end up giving back to Support Creativity with their funds but also time. And the echo system starts all over again. I do what I love. Throughout my career, I’ve had an awesome time on the day-to-day. I love Mondays. My goal is to help others to love Mondays as well, by working in one of my businesses and organizations.
MM: What do you think can and should be done to help undocumented immigrants — such as the young man who inspired you to start Support Creativity — attain higher education?
SL: I believe that we as a society should pass down our knowledge and not charge an arm and a leg for it. The vision is free creative education. If we take a step back from that, it’s really about free higher education. Colleges and Universities run like businesses, but they need to have the hearts of nonprofits. Take a step back from that, our government should invest in educational institutions. Educators need to be paid like rocket scientists. Investing in all education Kindergarten through PhD (K-PhD) is the answer. The undocumented student would not be in that situation because higher education would have been free for all.
MM: What projects are coming up for you soon and is there anything else that you would like to talk about?
SL: This year I’ve done four virtual fundraisers, 1 virtual art show, 1 virtual graduation, 1 VJ live stream. Coming up I’ve got 4 virtual gala fundraisers. And I love designing this business to run itself. If you’d like to learn about anything that I’m doing, check out stevelucin.com.
* * * * *