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Boss Ladies of CLE: Artist and illustrator Julia Kuo

This California native is a Clevelander by choice - and she's made her mark on her adopted city through community art projects and more.

CLEVELAND — "A boss lady is somebody who boldly chooses her own direction. She gets stuff done, she often strays from the conventional path and blazes her own trail. She often works towards a higher purpose outside of her own personal success." - Maggie Sullivan, author of "Boss Ladies of CLE"  

Just out last month, "I Dream of Popo," the latest of Julia Kuo's illustrations, are inspired by her own experience as a Taiwanese American. 

"It's about a little girl who is born and grows up in Taiwan. She's close with her grandma but she immigrates to the us," she said. "Typically I go through google images and I look for reference, but this I'm drawing from my own life and I'm drawing from my own family story and I think that's kind of incredible."

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Kuo's work has appeared in magazines and newspapers. And on Cleveland street corners. And though illustrating books can be her longest process, Julia says this release is particularly timely.

"In the end [this book is] about how you stay connected to loved ones even when you're not physically together and i think that's kind of something that we're all dealing with these days.

Kuo works remotely and chooses to live here in Cleveland. She's moved here twice, in fact. A California native – she was first drawn here by a job at American Greetings.

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This time, she's drawn to community art projects as well...including a campaign with the Cleveland Department of Public Health. Julia reached out to them to volunteer as the pandemic took hold. 

"What is more meaningful than a PSA that helps people to take better care of themselves?" Kuo said.

So what advice does this "Boss Lady of CLE" have for other aspiring women?

"I'd say talent, working hard, and connections and luck...they're all very important, but I think one thing that's always been there for me is community," she said. "You know, no one works in a vacuum, and no one succeeds in the vacuum, and I think for people to help each other and to keep an eye out for each other, it's just it's invaluable."

It's that warm community Julia finds here -- and also the space to get away -- and recharge creatively. In her free time, she loves rock climbing, and has been learning beginning mountaineering.

"I'm really interested in this idea of people of color going out into the outdoors and challenging themselves and learning about themselves and you know kind of making a space where they feel like they belong," Kuo told 3News. "And so I think like a dream project would have would be like telling that story illustrating it for other people to see."

But knowing Kuo, there's no telling what that story might look like.

"When you think of artists, famous artists, you think of a distinct style. But I was never really able to do that. I just can't get myself to do it and I get bored and I think that different stories warrant different styles, and so far I've managed to make it work."

Julia will be doing a virtual book signing event for "I Dream of Popo" with Loganberry Books, this Saturday, January 30th, from 9:00am-10:30am.

The event is free but registration is required. Sign up here

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