You can hear it in his voice, his laugh, the way he travels throughout a conversation. Sterling Carter loves the arts. And most of all, he loves being an artist.
Born and raised in Texas, football ran through Sterling’s blood from a young age, and he had talent. But he found himself falling in love with anything that had to do with the arts. “I was a varsity athlete and liked sports but music, acting, theatre is where it all clicked. I wanted to be a triple threat like Shaq — pairing sports and the arts.”
His parents were supportive of his dreams and encouraged him to pursue different activities from summer camps to school theater to slam poetry. “When I was little, maybe six or seven, I would sneak my mom’s camcorder and record anything and everything. I got in trouble so many times because I would record things.” But his mom wouldn’t stay upset for long. She knew that art was how Sterling expressed himself.
Sterling went to college at the University of North Texas where he played football and developed his passion for storytelling. He received his bachelor’s degree in radio, television, and film to pursue his aspirations of being a newscaster. However, his plans were paused. Internships in the television industry were mostly unpaid, and he had to make money, so he took a job in sales.
Although he couldn’t work full time in film, he still worked with local artists and musicians on the side to fuel his creative spirit. Then, in 2016, his father passed away from cancer. Sterling moved to Columbus for a fresh start.
Art was put on hold. He needed to grieve.
But then he experienced a pivotal moment that changed his life. In 2017, Sterling was in a terrible car accident. His car flipped three times, but he walked away with his life. “It was then that I realized that life is too short not to be happy. If I am going to live life, I have to go after what I am passionate about.”
Then, an opportunity presented itself. Through his sales job, he connected with someone who gave him a chance to film and get paid. His camera was nothing fancy — a Nikon without high definition.
He was limited by his camera. By his gear. But not by his talent.
That one shot gave him the confidence to share his talent with Columbus. He started to fervently network with other artists. He took his camera everywhere, filming businesses and then going back to show them what he shot. “I was a kid from Texas, in the middle of Ohio, without any real portfolio. People started to take a chance on me.”
His patience and drive opened a door. A church door.
New Salem Baptist Church, located in the heart of Linden, saw Sterling’s promise. “At the time, I was still building my portfolio. I was trying to ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ but was also authentic and honest. I told them that I didn’t have any real experience, but that I was going to learn.”
Which is exactly what he did. After gaining the experience he needed paired with years of connecting, collaborating, and networking, Sterling produced two award-winning documentaries centered on the uplifting the voices of people in Columbus. A Beloved Community: A Healthier Linden, was produced with Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and Our Voices: the Sounds of the Silenced, focused on talented Black women who use their gifts to protest injustices.
Sterling became the storyteller he always dreamed he would become.
Through his storytelling, Sterling ensures he doesn’t exploit communities but highlights unity and equity while inspiring new levels of connection and support.
“People care about the betterment of families and youth. For A Beloved Community: A Healthier Linden, I wanted to do what I could as someone who was welcomed into the Linden community. I wanted to break down all the preconceived notions of all the Lindens of the world — that our communities are more than what you may see on the news.”
The commonality in his portfolio is connection. The resounding message is providing a voice to those that are underrepresented.
Because of Sterling’s genuine and authentic approach, he was nominated for the Artists Elevated award. “There was a long period where I didn’t have the confidence to apply for grants or put myself out there. I just decided to go for it and see what happens, and if it was meant for me I would win, but if not it just meant that it wasn’t my time.”
Since 2016, Sterling has faced adversity and overcome it with the help of the people in his circle. Columbus was supposed to be a temporary stop on his journey. But then, as Columbus does, the community poured into him.
“I was trying to find my voice. I have now found it. Now is the time to help others whose voices may be submerged rise to the surface.”