Editor’s Note: The following blog post was written by our creative writing student, Brian Andrade. To learn more about Brian, we highly suggest you follow his website, Suede Expression, now; or you can read this blog post we did a while back.
A lot has happened during my year and a half with DSTL Arts. My experience learning under Luis and Jen, the program’s founders, has impacted both my work in creative writing as well as my own personal character. I’ve composed chapbooks, expanded my creative limits, and learned to trust my inner voice during our time together.
Coming into the program, I always had an interest in writing and occasionally wrote poetry on the side which was usually kept in secrecy and hidden away on the “notes” app on my phone. Luis and Jen have always taken the time to read my work with insight. After reading my work, they provide critical and honest feedback by highlighting my strengths and weakness (something which every writer needs). As a result of their feedback, I’ve been able to develop in my writing and take the craft more seriously. Their main emphasis as mentors is to follow your own voice, to express yourself without constraint, and they never fail to notice whenever I hesitate with my writing.
Every session with DSTL Arts has always left me inspired to create. Being with mentors as well as other dedicated students is extremely encouraging. Seeing Luis and Jen engage in their practices as working artists is also uplifting. I created my blog Suede Expression, after seeing the enthusiastic creative directions that my mentors take in their own individual artwork.
I have also been pushed outside of my comfort zone several times. The first challenge I was put up to was public speaking. When we had our first art show, I read poems from my chapbook, Expel which DSTL Arts helped me create and produce. Prior to the show, I was nervous and somewhat hysterical to the idea of speaking in front of a crowd. Luis had told me I will be reading despite my hesitation. In that instant, I was slightly infuriated at Luis for giving me such an undoable task. Now, I thank him. I’ve learned to overcome my fear of public speaking and have learned the real power of reading your own work out loud as a result of the show.
The program has taught me not only how to express myself creatively but also how to actually pursue a career in creative writing. This is important since arts education tends to be optimistic about practicing art while leaving the career aspect of it out. A career in arts isn’t usually advocated nor encouraged which often leaves many artists without hope. DSTL Arts shows students how to market and sell their original work. In addition, they always acknowledge the realistic hardships about gaining success in the arts and by doing so they teach us ways to overcome that.
Yes, DSTL Arts is an art mentorship program. It’s defined that way in print, on this site, everywhere. For me, it’s also a movement. Everyone involved in the program is part of a process. We create, we make, and hopefully we inspire (or at least make you smile or gasp). This program is a microphone screaming that the next generation of artists is here. I’m grateful and eager about being part of something so alive and upcoming.
If you’re interested in helping more students like Brian find success and inspiration as they pursue their career choices, consider giving your support now. To learn more about our Arts Mentorship Program click here. Let’s continue to be part of this movement, Let’s continue to revolutionize the arts education experience for creative, at-risk youth!