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Interview with Photography Graduate Christian Alarcon

Christian Alarcon just finished his photography certificate at UCLA Extension. Below he shares with us his academic and professional experience. To see Christian’s work check out his portfolio at christianalarcon.com .

Tell us about how you got interested in Photography, and why you chose the UCLA Extension Photography certificate.

I came to UCLA Extension a few months after High School in Spring 2011. I originally enrolled aiming for the Design Communication Arts ch2certificate. About mid way through the program, I decided to take Photography II as an elective. The day after I signed up, I went out and purchased my first camera, a Canon Rebel T3 equipped with an 18-55mm lens. I was HOOKED! That camera was in my hands everywhere I’d go. I didn’t even know how to properly use it, I would click the button and just hope I’d make a photo. Once the Photography II course began it was like I entered a new world. I would sit in class viewing slideshows of work and listen to my instructor Masood Kamandy and fellow classmates talk about exposure, shutter speeds, ISO’s and I had no idea what they meant. Clearly going straight into Photography II wasn’t the smartest decision, but it’s what motivated me to learn more about my camera and the art of Photography. I took a break from the DCA program and continued taking photos and learning as much as I could about photography on my own. As soon as I felt more comfortable operating my camera, I enrolled myself in the Photography Certificate program and that’s when my passion really began to grow.

For someone who is new to photography, what should they know about getting started?

img_7363_2Be very patient! Being patient with art is so important because then you’re achieving what you really want to achieve. Experiment with different styles and find what gives you that rush of emotion. Photography isn’t a competition. There will be times where you look at other peoples work and think to yourself “why don’t my photos look as good as theirs?” Don’t compare yourself to other photographers; instead look at their work as inspiration to help you get better. Put your passion into the craft and develop your own style. The most important thing is to always have fun and remember that you can never really fail if you’re doing something you love. The last crucial piece of advice I can give is learning how to save and back up all of your files. One day you will go deep into your archives and find some hidden gems that at the time you did not think were so great. And learn how to edit your work non-destructively. You will go through many different editing phases, and you will be very upset when you want to edit a certain old photo differently but you damaged the original copy.

 

What was your favorite UCLA Extension class and why?

I enjoyed all of my classes at Extension, but I’ll have to say Street Photography was definitely my favorite. From the moment I got my camera, Street Photography was an art that always fascinated me. Taught by the legendary John Weiss, this class really opened my eyes to the different elements of capturing great photos in the streets. Three of our class sessions were field trips, which consisted of us meeting at a certain location in the city and shooting together as a group. This gave us the opportunity to be out in the field while getting advice from our instructor, which I thought was really special. Weiss shaped me to become not only a better photographer, but also a professional. His passion and craft towards the art is truly something amazing and I can only hope to reach such a pinnacle one day. It was an honor being taught and guided by John Weiss, and for that I am very thankful.

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Where do you hope to take your practice in the future?

There are so many things I wish to accomplish with Photography. My biggest dream of all is to travel. I would love to experience and capture the many different cultures of the world. Seeing the work of the greats like Steve McCurry, Alex Webb, and my former instructor John Weiss is what keeps that dream alive. I also hope to open my own studio here in Los Angeles, a creative work-space where I can offer my services and showcase my work. The possibilities with Photography are endless; as long I have a camera in my hands I’ll be happy.

 

What are you working on right now?img_5445

I am currently just taking my work day by day. I go out into the city with my camera every chance I get. Los Angeles is an amazing place to live and find inspiration. Everyday is a new story worth capturing. In today’s age people are so caught up in their daily routines and social medias that they don’t find the time to go out and experience the greatness their city has to offer; the people, the culture, the architecture, the food, and so much more. The work I continue to curate will eventually become a book where I can share all of these elements that make our city of Los Angeles such an iconic and historical place.

Interview with Photography Student Barbara Huber

After recently completing the Photography Certificate, student Barbara Huber invites us to look further into how her journey began. Below, Barbara shares her personal work and experience taking photography courses.

Tell us about how you got interested in photography, and why you chose the UCLA Extension Photography Certificate.

My interest in photography goes way back – my mother gave me the equivalent of a Brownie when I was about 8 years old and then introduced me the basics of photography.  With a hiatus of about 10 years, I’ve been taking and making(!) pictures ever since.  There came the point when “dabbling” P1250532wasn’t enough anymore and I felt a serious desire to line my passion with real technical knowledge. An acquaintance with serious photo-graphic tendencies introduced me to the UCLA Certificate Program. It provided me with the right teachers and affordable classes, but also with the scheduling flexibility I needed as a professional with a demanding day job that other programs didn’t offer. The rest is history! It was fun, it was demanding because I took it very seriously.

For someone who is new to photography, what should they know about getting started?

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Don’t fall into the equipment trap when you start out! It’s first and foremost the photographer who makes the picture. The process is the same for a cheaper model as it is for a super high end camera. Once you know what you want to and what you need to get there, it will be much easier to find the right camera that that fits that particular bill. As a beginner (and despite years of snapping away I would call myself that in the days before UCLA!) I didn’t even know what my needs were, and felt completely overwhelmed by so many choices. I see much clearer now.

What was your favorite UCLA Extension class and why?

Oh, where to start… I had fabulous teachers with a wealth of information on tap; it’s a hard decision to make. But if I really had to pick, there are two that stand out. History of Photography and the Portfolio Class. Both very demanding, but immensely rewarding.P1250722

Trying to replicate historic photographs and getting into the old masters minds was very challenging, but gave me a complete new understanding of the medium.

The Portfolio class really gives you yet another push when it comes to critical and especially self-critical evaluation. By then some of us had already found our voices (or at least were pretty close to finding it), and this class really gave us a last push over the edge to professionalism. I appreciated that particular guidance very much.

How have the UCLA Extension classes helped improve your work, and or expanded your professional development in the field?

For one, I work in the film industry and the technical knowledge I have gained has made an active participation in the world of post-production a) possible and b) really fun.

For two, it has helped explore and then focus on the underlying force that drives my creativity, which is a fascination with those hidden lines of non-verbal communication that form this invisible web all around us. It pretty much informs all of my photographic work now.

Where do you hope to take your practice in the future?

I’m working on setting up a collective of photographers and subsequently mount an exhibit of our work.

What are you working on right now?

For the moment I’m working on expanding a street photography portfolio I’ve started in class, and a separate project specifically involving street performers.

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Interview with UX student Hope Ndlovu

 

UX designer Hope Ndlovu

UI/UX designer Hope Ndlovu

Originally hailing from Johannesburg, South Africa, Hope Ndlovu is a UI/UX designer based here in Los Angeles. Below, she talks about her experience taking UX classes in UCLA Extension’s Design Communication Arts program and shares some of her work.

Tell us about how you got interested in UX and why you chose UCLA Extension.Hope

I became interested in UX after working at a startup and learning about creating user-centred products. I had just completed my Bachelors Degree in Psychology and I was in search of a discipline that would allow me to use my knowledge and fascination with human behaviour in a technical but also creative way. User Experience was the perfect marriage of both of those things. I chose UCLA Extension because of the great reputation the program has and the calibre of graduates they produce. I was also impressed to know that each and every instructor there was a working designer with great accomplishments. To me, that was important. I wanted to be learn from people who knew what they were talking about and cared about what they were teaching.

FullSizeRender (4)For someone who is new to UX, what should they know about getting started?
1. Spend time on your portfolio. A good portfolio represents your process and being able to articulate this in your different projects is important.

2. UX has many facets. Figure out where you fit in under that umbrella and work at becoming great at it.

3. Last but certainly not least- NETWORK! The UX community in Los Angeles is small and tight-knit. Going to different events will help you  meet people, keep up with new trends in the field, and hopefully land some awesome gigs.

What was your favorite UCLA Extension class and why?FullSizeRender

There were SO many! If I had to choose just one, it would have to be UX: Mobile First. I was taught by Julia Morton. Again, I loved the passion she had for what she was teaching but also how knowledgeable I found every class to be. I learnt things I thought I already knew!

FullSizeRender (2)What would be your dream job?

My dream job would be to work at an agency that values good UX, within a collaborative design team.

I know that there are things I don’t know, so I’m constantly seeking opportunities to learn and share ideas and ways of thinking. My philosophy is, if you find yourself not “Googling” anything anymore at your job, it’s time to move on.

 

Congratulations, Hope!

Interview with recent DCA grad Rodrigo Trabbold

It’s always a joy to spotlight recent DCA graduates who’ve grown immensely as designers through the course of the program. Rodrigo Trabbold answered our “big 5” questions and shared some of his work with us:

What brought you to the DCA program?Social media infographic flyer

I decided to be a part of the Extension program at UCLA because I was looking for a way into the entertainment design industry, which is very strong here in LA, and because I wanted to build a stronger portfolio, with more pieces related to entertainment design.

What were your favorite courses and why?

BenHoward_final_FINAL_713I loved all of the DCA program. My favorite courses were Entertainment Design, Design Fundamentals, Branding: Icons and Logos, and Publication Design.

As a designer, what does a potential project need to have for you to feel passionate about it?

In order for me to feel passionate about a project, the project needs to be creative and have a very strong concept and idea. A good project always leaves you thinking about it, or gives you a different perspective over a certain subject. In other words, in a way, it changes you.

If the phone rang right now and somebody offered you your dream design job, who are they, where do they work, and what’s the job?_Cover_1000

My dream job would be to work as a designer for Ignition or Art Machine, some of the biggest entertainment design agencies here in LA. I want to be part of this world, to create the key art for movies and video games, their Title Treatments, and posters.

Where do you see yourself professionally in 5 years?

Five years from now I would love to be a creative director of a good design studio or advertising agency.

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Interview with DCA student Alyssa Sugimoto about her Getty Design Studio placement

The Getty Design Studio placement is an incredible opportunity for our DCA students to gain real world experience in one of Los Angeles’ top creative environments. This spring, Alyssa Sugimoto was chosen for this special opportunity. She shares about her experience, including images of projects she created, below:

A FREE calendar template for use in commercial or non-commerciall purposes. The calendar template MAY NOT be sold as a template, it can only be used by designers to create a template.

What projects did you work on during your placement?

My main project I worked on was the Getty’s 2017 Cats & Dogs Calendar. I had lots of fun designing the title and putting everything together, it’s a really cute calendar and I enjoyed working on it. Other projects I did were designing a letterhead for an upcoming show called  The Nude in Europe during the Renaissance, creating new sticker designs for the Education Department, putting together images for signs for an upcoming Remembering Antiquities show, and another fun one I did was design a logo and title for the Getty’s Free Family Fun page.

What did you find rewarding about them?

I found it very rewarding knowing that I helped out and contributed to the Getty’s design studio. This is my first time being in a design setting beyond the classroom so being able to see what it’s like outside the classroom and working with other designers was a great learning experience for me. It’s also exciting to know that your work is going to be seen by the public and I can’t wait to see the Cats & Dogs calendars in the Getty store. I also found it rewarding to be able to sit in on meetings and interact with other people beyond the design department, such as the curators and the museum store, and discuss my work with them.

FFFlogoWhat was it like being in a real design studio after being in the classroom for your DCA training?

It was a little intimidating at first. As mentioned before, this was my first design work experience beyond the classroom but everyone was very supportive and helpful and it helped me become more confident in my work and my own abilities. In the classroom, a lot of times it’s just me and my own work but in the design studio, it was very collaborative; everyone’s working together on various projects. It was neat seeing the different steps it takes to finish a project and be able to hear what is discussed in the meetings. I learned from this experience that there is so much more to design than I originally thought and it’s something I wouldn’t have known if I didn’t do the Getty Design Studio program.

What will you take away from this experience that will serve you in your future design career?LetterHead

This experience showed me that the possibilities with design are endless; there’s so much you can do with it and the experience made me even more excited about going into the design world. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work in and with the people in the Getty’s design studio. I feel more confident in my work and prepared for what lies ahead after I finish the DCA program.

 

Congrats, Alyssa!

Interview with UX Student: Shane Silver

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Shaina, or just Shane, is a UX designer here in Los Angeles. Below, she talks about her experience taking classes in UCLA Extension’s UX program.

  1. Tell us about how you got interested in UX, and why you chose UCLA Extension.

I guess in order to tell you how I got interested in UX I’ll have to start from the beginning. I graduated university with a degree in Journalism/Media Studies thinking I would become the next Barbara Walters. I was able to land a job as an obituary writer in San Diego and soon realized I was starving, literally. Sharing half a room with four other people in a two-bedroom apartment, barely able to afford rent and/or food was.. eye-opening. I taught myself how to code (thanks MySpace) and landed a gig as a back-end engineer (coding in PERL and Regular Expression). After about a year and a half I knew I wanted to transfer into Front-End Development. Being able to create websites and not stuck in Terminal’s Homebrew all day sounded like a dream come true. With a lot of late night studying and really pushing myself I was able to land my dream job at NBCUniversal/Fandango as a front-end developer. I worked there for around two-and-half years, and while I was there I was able to interact with our UX/UI Team. Immersing myself and asking millions of questions I knew UX/UI was really the career I wanted to shift into. I was fortunate enough to take UX 1: Introduction to UX Design with Thomas at UCLA Extension. While taking his course I knew this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Easier said than done, no one wants to hire a front-end developer for a UX/UI position. I bit the bullet, took a pretty heft pay-cut, moved to the Bay Area and became a Product Designer. The year I spent up there gaining my UX knowledge and soaking up every single interaction, layout, design, feature, cat .gif was probably the hardest year I’ve endured in my life. I left the Bay Area and relocated back down to sunny So Cal and now work as a full-time UX/UI designer for a tech start-up company called Laurel & Wolf. Recently, my company sent me back to UCLA Extension to start training in native mobile app design which I took with the ever-talented, Julia. I have never been happier in my life and I really have UCLA Extension, Thomas, and Julia to thank.

  1. For someone who is new to UX, what should they know about getting started?

Think lazy. I read somewhere that the best designers are the laziest people (metaphorically, of course). And I couldn’t agree more. The best designs come from those who want to make a service/platform more intuitive, easy, and accessible for others to understand and use.

Also, do not take anything personal. When I first became a product designer I remember being told this nugget of information, not yet understanding, and my first client meeting I was ripped to shreds. I cried quite a bit when I first started out. But I picked myself up and immersed myself in the UX/UI world: signing up for daily newsletters, reading, going to meet-ups, collaborating with other designers from different industries, participating in UX challenges, and working with multiple client projects… you grow a thick skin. Clients/stakeholders aren’t here to coddle you with how “ok” your designs are. They’ve come to YOU because YOU ARE THE EXPERT. If your user flows don’t make sense or your layout doesn’t work responsively it’s not a ding to your ego it’s a challenge to your skills. And that’s the beauty of skills.. they’re ever evolving!

  1. What was your favorite UCLA Extension class and why?

All of them! The professors (I’ve had Thomas and Julia) are the most passionate individuals you’ll ever meet. They truly love what they do and further love sharing their knowledge. This is what makes the UX/UI Community amazing. Between their amazing personalities, Thomas’ vast knowledge and Julia’s understanding of the industry and users’ psychological process, this power-house team is an unstoppable force at the UCLA Extension! Both are so humble and genuine one can not help but to become just as excited as they are about learning User Experiences and User Interfaces!

  1. What would be your dream job?

No need to dream it when I’m living it! Is it really a “job” when you love what you do?

  1. What are you working on right now?

I had the honor of redesigning our homepage which we just launched with our new company rebrand a few weeks ago. I can not be more proud of our Product and Dev Team for being able to launch such a wonderful product together!

Check out her final project for her UX: Mobile class below!

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Interview with photography student Donny DeBruno

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Portrait by Arturo Gonzalez

We met Donny at our annual student show, where he had several beautiful pieces on display. Below, he talks about his experience in the Photography Certificate, and his goals for the future.

Tell us about how you got interested in photography, and why you chose the UCLA Extension Photography Certificate.

On an outdoor field trip in elementary school, I was handed a camcorder. The permanence and novelty of the recorded image captivated me and propelled me to a still camera.  Years later, after photographing a bird in flight next to the beach, I realized the pedestrian could be filled with anxious moments and the mundane often contained hidden potential that could be captured with a release of a shutter.  It was at this time that I began using a digital camera to interact with my environment instead of just observing it.

As I accumulated images, I sought a better way to evaluate and critique my work.  I discovered UCLA Extension which provided a path for technical and creative growth with the flexibility of online classes.  Although my fist classes were Photoshop 1 and Illustrator 1, with the intent of pursuing graphic and industrial design, I quickly gravitated to photography after signing up for the Portfolio Workshop class on whim.  It was this class that gave me structure to begin assembling photographs as a body of work and gave me the chance to present and have my photographs critiqued in front of a group.

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For someone who is new to photography, what should they know about getting started?

Everyone’s path into photography varies, however, for me I was seeking a way to effectively express and communicate my work. It was through the UCLA Extension certificate program that I was able to find my voice and the confidence to clearly critique my own work.

Those new to photography should know when getting started its not critical to have the latest and greatest cameras and lenses. I quickly learned when presenting my work in class or in a professional setting, that my work would be selected over others due to the quality and strength of the photograph and not what equipment was used.

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What was your favorite UCLA Extension class and why? 

Architectural Photography with Douglas Hill, Photography II with David Daigle and Lighting I and II with Kevin Merrill were some of my top classes, but History of Photography with Richard Langendorf was by far my favorite.  Don’t let the title of the class fool you, History of Photography was probably the hardest and most time-intensive class I have ever taken.  Throughout weekly assignments, Richard asks students to recreate famous photographs starting from the earliest known surviving photograph taken by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in 1826 to modern works taken by the likes of Andreas Gursky and Jeff Wall.  Finally, Richard has students present their work via PowerPoint presentations that reflect the original work, your interpretation of it, including before and after images of your edits in Photoshop.

What separated this class from the rest was it forced me to think about a photograph that I was going to take before taking it, and how I was going to present it in class.  In the end, this class made me a better photographer and was well worth the effort I put into it.

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Where do you hope to take your practice in the future?

 I aspire to be a full time photographer displaying my work in galleries, and also creating books and wearable art such as clothing. As I near the end of the UCLA Extension program, I have begun seeking opportunities with my current employer that would make photography my main focus.

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What are you working on right now.

 My web site, www.donnydebruno.com.

An illustrated book based on a poem I wrote in the 6th grade that relates to a  photograph I took last year.

Currently redesigning the next generation of point of purchase Skateboard racks that should come out later this year for the Arbor Collective. www.arborcollective.com

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Interview with photography student Fosion Fernando

Fosion Portrait

Portrait by William Ortwin

We met with Fosion for a final portfolio review after he had finished his Photography Certificate. We loved hearing about his life and work, so asked if he would share some thoughts. Read more to hear his advice to new photographers, and his dream assignment!

Tell us about yourself and how you began your photography practice.

I grew up locally here living in Los Angeles. My ethnic background stemming from Peruvian parents gave me the opportunity to live in Lima, Peru a year after high school. It broadened my understanding of the culture and furthered my desire to learn more about different cultures. I had a passionate interest in sports and played for a few different soccer teams in my teens. My attention span grew shorter as I got older – my college years were short lived as I entered the corporate world at a young age. Fast forward a decade to the present with my recent certificate in photography from UCLA Extension. What propelled me to start a photography practice was the desire to do something I was completely passionate about and connect with people through the art of photography. The thought of combining something I enjoy doing and creating an income from it is a life goal for me. Photography appealed to me several years back as I really enjoyed capturing candid moments and the way an image can make you feel by composition and other factors. I’ve always enjoyed reminiscing over old images and getting a certain feeling come back to me as if time never passed.

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For someone who is new to photography, what should they know about getting started?

Photography is an art. It is there to create a reaction. Learn all the rules and technical aspects of shooting but at the end it will always be about what you are trying to express. Also, lighting is extremely important!

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What was your favorite UCLA Extension class and why?

I had really great classes and teachers. Very happy with several of those classes. If I had to choose a favorite it would be Portfolio with David Daigle. I enjoyed this class because it really challenged me to think about what I was trying to capture and why I was shooting it. It was about really observing the details of the images and seeing how the image was interpreted by others. A thick skin was good for this class and I enjoyed that!

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What would be your dream job in photography?

My dream job would be either entail traveling all over the world and capturing amazing work like Steven McCurry captures or getting the opportunity to enjoy the world of fashion as Mario Testino currently does through his work and campaigns.

What are you working on right now?

I am currently working on creating a Photo Blog that captures my recent works. As a freelancer it is also hard to express one type of work as your eye is on several things. My current interests are set on Food, Portraiture , Fashion and Stock photograph

To see more of Fosion’s work, visit www.FosionFernando.com.

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Mindi LaRose shares about her Getty Studio placement experience

The Getty Design Studio placement is an incredible opportunity for our DCA students to gain real world experience in one of Los Angeles’ top creative environments. This winter, Mindi LaRose was chosen for this special opportunity. She shares about her experience, including images of projects she created, below:

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What projects did you work on during your placement? 

A favorite project I worked on involved posters and social media designs for College Night at the Getty.  I was given free reign to design the poster, which would set the tone for the theme of this year’s campaign. Permission to use actual exhibited art was limited, so I incorporated my own photography. It is exciting to know the posters are up all over campuses in Los Angeles.  Another favorite project involved creating a new logo for a blog piece called “Connecting Cultures”. I worked closely with curators of the Getty Iris blog to create an icon withinin their logo with a nod toward a “cintamani” pattern. This pattern can be found in many pieces of art and textiles throughout history.  Other projects included a 2017 upcoming exhibition tram poster and table card, and the Getty 2017 calendar of 19th Century Masterpieces.

Design by Mindi LaRose

Design by Mindi LaRose

What did you find rewarding about them?

It was very rewarding to work side by side with designers in the beautiful Getty setting, to receive feedback on my work, watch and learn on the bigger projects they were assigned, and to sit in on meetings with curators, designers and donors. I enjoyed the independence and trust they had in me, as well, after being assigned a project. It was very rewarding to see the projects from beginning to completion, and the steps needed.

Getty Calendar Mindi LaRoseWhat was it like being in a real design studio after being in the classroom for your DCA training?

I love real assignments vs. homework: the excitement and urgency of a real problem that needs to be solved. There is so much value in on-the-job training and in learning the ways of each studio. My skills were put to the test and improved upon, my speed finishing projects increased, and just learning processes associated with printers (and having other resources available) was so valuable. I feel more confident that I can acclimate to real world design situations, after working in the Getty Design Studio.

FINAL Version 2 Connecting Cultures LOGOWhat will you take away from this experience that will serve you in your future design career?

The Getty experience reinforced my love for design and collaboration, and every bit of advice, feedback and hands-on experience will be used to help me move forward in my career.  I am grateful for the experience, and thank you to the Getty staff and the UCLAx DCA program for this opportunity.

DCA Entrepreneurs: Luis Antonio Pichardo

In this installment of our series on DCA students who have combined their design skills with their entrepreneurial spirit, it’s a great pleasure to introduce DCA student Luis Antonio Pichardo, founder of the non-profit organization DSTL Arts.

What is the mission of DSTL Arts?

DSTL Arts is a nonprofit arts mentorship organization that teaches, inspires, and hires creative, at-risk youth, ages 16–21 years old. The name of the organization, DSTL Arts, is a type of acronym for our overall ideology: Develop Skills and Transcend Limits through the Arts.

luis 2What was your inspiration for founding it?

DSTL Arts was founded in 2012 and is the culmination of all my experiences, both professional and personal, coming together after having had a terrible mentorship experience while I was in grad school. Having entered CalArts’ MFA program in creative writing with more than 8 years of experience working in the nonprofit field, I had grown tired of the arts being devalued by organizations that primarily serve low-income communities: communities that are typically communities of color. As a self-identified artist and poet, I felt a need to change the perception of the economic and individual impact the arts have on the most underrepresented of communities.

I started my nonprofit career when I was 18 years old as a tutor for at-risk youth, and as I moved up in the nonprofit world of San Diego County, I came to be the director of a work-readiness program for “at-risk” youth. In my eyes, the 16–21 year olds I worked with were actually “high-potential” youth. Their home and family circumstances didn’t stop them from aspiring to more in their lives. And having grown up in the same way as many of my students, I knew what the challenges were. They faced, much like me, a cultural stigma that surrounds careers in the arts: a stigma that results in dreams of being a working creative mocked as unreachable, unattainable, or just plain ludicrous.

After spending two years in the MFA in Critical Studies (Writing) program at CalArts, I felt even more disenfranchised than I had ever felt. My mentorship experience didn’t provide me with anything; my academic experience taught me nothing in the way of improving my skills as a writer, much less how to enter the publishing or arts world. I felt angry. But that anger became fuel for what eventually came to be a realization that mentorships, when executed properly, can have a profound and lasting impact on an individual’s life.

My disenfranchisement, as a person of color from a low-income family with aspirations of being a working artist, turned into a drive for life-long learning. I took it upon myself to learn how to establish an artistic practice that would be profitable. I took it upon myself to acquire skills that would make me self-sufficient as a creative entrepreneur. I took it upon myself to share that knowledge with the youth and adults I serve today through the programming we offer through DSTL Arts.

Who dluis 3oes it serve?

DSTL Arts serves creative, at-risk youth ages 16–21 years old through our flagship Arts Mentorship Program. To-date, we have served more than 10 youth at any given time, with me being their primary mentor. I founded DSTL Arts with my fiancé, Jennifer Fuentes, who also helps me provide mentorships, recruitment, and other workshops in our community. In total, as of 12/31/15, we have provided a total of nearly 3,000 hours of mentorship with some incredible stories to share about our students.

Our original three students, who started our then-pilot program in February of 2013, have gone on to be leaders and artists in their own right. One such student, Erick, has become a service member in the US Marine Corps, providing leadership and artistic services within his duties as a Marine. Brian, a poet and aspiring journalist, has published multiple volumes of poetry and short stories, both through our Arts Mentorship Program, and through local anthologies, and also become a teaching artist, teaching poetry to high schoolers. Ana, our original photography and visual arts student, has probably had the biggest success so far. With our guidance, Ana has gone on to establish her own freelance fine art wedding photography business and is successfully on her way to making it a sustainable business in the next year. But that is not all. Other students in our Arts Mentorship Program have also had great success, such as Laura, who was first runner-up during the inaugural LA County Youth Poet Laureate competition in 2014, with a sizable public reading record for a 21 year old.

luis 1How have your studies in the DCA program contributed to your work at DSTL Arts?

My experience developing our programs and our image in the community would not be complete without the skills I learned through the Design Communication Arts program at UCLA Extension. From branding, to re-branding, to having the ability to create marketing materials and merchandise for our programs has been all thanks to the skill building I did through the DCA program. The most effective use of my skills as a designer has actually been in the legitimizing of the artwork and concepts our students have as it relates to publication and logo design. As an organization that nurtures and develops business skills in our youth, it is important that I work alongside our students to help them develop a product that they feel proud of. My design skills have helped them sell chapbooks, fine art prints, and more. My skills and feedback have helped them feel confident in their portfolios and business plan development, while also helping them develop a language for working with designers and photographers in their future artistic endeavors. There’s a lot that I gained from being a DCA student at UCLA Extension that I am now able to transfer to our next generation of creatives.

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To learn more about DSTL Arts, our programs, and our students, visit http://DSTLArts.org. There you’ll find our web store, as well, where our Arts Mentorship Program students’ artwork is for sale, with 50% of the sale price going directly to the pockets of our youth, helping us further teach them important business and financial skills.

To learn more about my personal artwork, feel free to visit my personal website at http://smileyfaze.com, where you’ll be able to view and purchase my own fine art, photography, and poetry chapbooks as well. A portion of my personal sales will always benefit DSTL Arts.

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Thank you, Luis!

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