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Forbes 2017 '30 Under 30': SVA Alumnus Tahir Carl Karmali

Boasting a less than 4% acceptance rate, Forbes magazine's annual 30 Under 30 list is, by the numbers, tougher to claim a spot on than Harvard or Stanford admissions rosters. This year, two SVA alumni made the cut: Tahir Carl Karmali (MPS 2015 Digital Photography) and Pablo Delcan (BFA 2012 Graphic Design). Across 20 industries, from Consumer Technology to Law & Policy to Social Entrepreneurs, 30 young innovators and game-changers are chosen for each category by leaders in the field and Forbes reporters; Tahir and Declan were selected from the total 15,00 nominees and named to the Art and Style list.

This week I spoke with Karmali about the announcement. A Kenyan-born, Brooklyn-based mixed media artist, Karmali focuses his own practice on exploring the personal narratives of outlier-community members, using portraiture and concern for materials—he's currently making paper—to consider those identities defined by economic, political and social systems. He is also art director at limeSHIFT, a Brooklyn startup that facilitates creative leadership development for companies, enhancing employee engagement through custom artists' workshops, residencies and commissions.

What does it mean to you to be named to this list?

I think it is awesome to be recognized for what I do and to hopefully inspire people. It's honestly such an incredible list of people to be part of. I am really looking forward to the events and conferences that we will be a part of and attend.

How do your artistic and entrepreneurial drives complement one another?

I feel that most artists are entrepreneurs—there is this risk associated with both these titles. As an artist I can work on my personal thoughts and explore my [own] visual language. This critical practice allows me to analyze and critique business approaches from a different perspective. I think that in this coming age of automation the need to innovate is more extreme than ever before.

What would you like to get even better at in order to land your dream job, or, put another way, to make the Forbes list's next iteration?

I am working on another startup this year that is rooted in tech—it's networking-related—but for the artist and the art industry. I would like to get that off the ground and running. I think it will be an amazing product and could change how we look at contemporary art. It's a dream, right? I would like to continue my practice and have a better-run studio. The list could be endless—but in short, [I'd like] just to feel settled somehow.

Do you have any words of wisdom for current SVA students?

Try to experiment as much as you can—you will not have that many opportunities to fail [once you’re] out of school! Learn to be resourceful and a problem solver—it's not easy. When you graduate, don't just jump into the first thing you get because it seems right—sometimes what is right for others is not right for you. Never get jealous! Try not to compare your work to [that of] others—this all takes too much time and effort from your creative output.

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