We had the good fortune of connecting with Luis Antonio Pichardo and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Luis Antonio, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
To explain the reasons why I started my nonprofit organization, DSTL Arts, it’s important to understand the mission of DSTL Arts. DSTL Arts is a nonprofit arts mentorship organization that inspires, teaches and hires emerging artists from underserved communities. As an artist from a historically-marginalized and underserved community myself, I essentially started DSTL Arts because I had no mentorship in the arts that provided me with the same kinds of opportunities I now strive to offer others. In fact, I had no mentor guide me in life, much less as an artist, and I spent a major part of my early life struggling to understand my voice, my power, and my role in our community. DSTL Arts was founded in response to an arts environment that elevates certain voices over others. DSTL Arts was founded in response to a lack of professional opportunities for artists and arts administrators of color. DSTL Arts was founded for those who, like myself, are determined to establish a career in the arts, not just because it’s a hobby they enjoy, but because it’s a compulsion to create. With proper guidance and support, an artist can achieve many things, including being an instrument of social change, and DSTL Arts hopes to be that vehicle which helps emerging artists, especially those from historically-marginalized and underserved communities, Develop Skills and Transcend Limits through the Arts.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
As a practicing Poet/Artist, I believe that my unique experience and voice is what sets me apart and allows me a space in the arts world. I write poetry that reflects my individual experience, my community, and my passion for serving others. I have been writing poetry since I was in my teens, and I have been drawing since I was 5 years old. The finding of my voice has been a lifelong journey, and I, like any other artist, have had moments where I doubted my skills as an artist. Through an unprecedented, winding educational journey, and a lot of lived moments of racism and classism, my life as a first-generation Mexican-American brought me to where I am today. I am the first person in my family to graduate from any educational institution, including high school, and the fact that I went so far as to earn a Master in the Fine Arts in Creative Writing has built confidence in me, and even bred in me a bit of audacity. If there is anything that I hope to impart through the telling of my life story, it is that an individual can achieve what is important to them through various means, especially if one is willing to learn, and continue learning, outside of formal institutions. Finding your voice will always be a lifelong journey, a fruitful journey. And that journey is what life will always be about. There is no end to that path, only forks in the road. And should your path bring you to DSTL Arts, my organization will be here to at least make that journey a less lonely one.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
If a friend of mine were to visit me in L.A., I’d have to take them to a couple of my favorite food spots, including Cacao Mexicatessen in Eagle Rock, La Carreta in South L.A., and to one of the Kogi food trucks. I personally need to be near the ocean on a regular basis, so I’d also have to take a trip to the beach, any beach. Being along the coast is crucial for my well-being. Entertainment-wise, we’d probably attend a couple of open-mic poetry nights, and probably one of the workshops or events I frequently host through DSTL Arts. I tend to work a lot, so any visit with me will likely end up including a visit to my many workshop sessions I hold throughout the week.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I wouldn’t be where I’m at without the experiences, both good and bad, I had in my pre-DSTL Arts nonprofit career. A special shoutout goes to Patty Huerta, my old boss, at Escondido Education COMPACT, who believed in my ability to administer a nonprofit program. Your confidence in me drove me to be the best I could be as a nonprofit administrator, and I know that your support of my vision for our program changed life of many young adults. And a shoutout also goes to my other old bosses in the nonprofit world that didn’t understand or appreciate my abilities and experience in efficiently managing programs and services for our community. Those frustrations I experienced under your supervision helped me see the value in trusting my staff and their capabilities. If someone can do something in a more efficient and impactful way than I can, I will always give you a platform to be heard and to innovate. I also need to acknowledge the individuals in my life who I hoped to be mentored by, and who failed me. Your disinterest in guiding me in a supportive way also taught me how important a meaningful mentorship can be, and how a formalized mentorship program can be managed more effectively for the mentee. DSTL Arts wouldn’t have been established in the way it was without that experience as well.