by Catherine Sturgeon
From: LAPL Blog
DSTL Arts is a nonprofit arts mentorship organization based in Los Angeles that “inspires, teaches, and hires emerging artists from underserved communities.” The acronym in DSTL Arts stands for Develop Skills and Transcend Limits through the Arts. Co-founded by Luis Antonio Pichardo and Jennifer Fuentes in late 2012, DSTL Arts began as Luis’ vision for empowering the next generation of working artists from underserved and underrepresented communities in the arts, serving, at first, only youth whom aspired to become working artists in spite of a lack of a support system in their immediate community, including their families.
Luis and Jennifer received their respective M.F.A. degrees from the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) and are both fine artists and writers in their own right. Luis, who is primarily a poet, is also a practicing graphic designer and photographer, aside from being DSTL Arts’ primary teaching artists and Executive Director; while Jennifer currently mentors adult writers in DSTL Arts’ Arts Mentorship Program, and she teaches English and English Language Development at a high school in East Los Angeles.
Their vision is to “inspire people of all ages in our community, and…empower them to be the artists they know themselves to be,” and this is achieved through the organization’s programs: Arts Mentorship, Art Block Zine, Conchas y Café Zine, and Artist Residency Workshops. Art Block Zine workshops are currently offered at Baldwin Hills and Vernon Branch libraries, and the Conchas y Café Zine workshop series is offered at Baldwin Hills and Junipero Serra Branch libraries.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up in the city of Vista, a suburb of San Diego, located in North San Diego County, back when the city of Vista was deeply feeling the effects of the recession that hit our economy during the 80s. As a child, I spoke Spanish, almost exclusively, and it took me a few years to learn English. Luckily, my mom, who was born in the U.S. to Mexican immigrants, helped me develop my understanding of English early on, and also introduced me to drawing very early in life. I know that it was because she wanted to find a way to keep me busy while she did her chores around the house, but I took to the arts like a fish to water.
My dad, who immigrated from central México a few years before I was born, inspired in me a deep love for music and my culture. It was a combination of my parents’ influences, plus the fact that I was primarily raised by my grandparents Monday through Friday, that I maintained a strong connection to my cultural heritage. This is something often seen in my artwork now.
I grew up poor, but happy. Paper and pencils weren’t expensive tools for art-making, and music was always free, so long as we had a radio. As I grew up, I learned to draw things that inspired me from my neighborhood. I drew lowriders, custom mini-trucks, jets and helicopters, and more. My love for cartoons and science-fiction kept my mind in the clouds, oftentimes finding myself in superheroes, robots, and monsters. I was definitely an impressionable youth. Read Rest of Article Here