Luis Antonio Pichardo
Founder, Executive Director; DSTL Arts
Founder; Smiley Faze Productions
Luis Antonio Pichardo, a first generation Mexican-American, is the first person in his family to graduate high school; the first to earn an Associate in the Arts degree from Palomar College; the first to earn a Bachelor in the Arts in Literature and Writing from Cal State San Marcos; and the first person in his family to earn a Master in the Fine Arts degree from California Institute of the Arts.
Since the age of five, Luis has been fascinated by art, developing his drawing skills at that early age. With the support of his mom, his first art project was a set of cardboard masks which he used to play with in his backyard. By the age of 22, Luis was honored with two gallery exhibitions of his fine art, five publication credits for his poetry, and three awards in writing, including the International Library of Poetry-Editor’s Choice award and the California International Young Artist Competition-Poet of Promise award.
Luis’ artistic mind, in combination with his extensive experience directing nonprofit programs, particularly work-readiness and arts-based after-school programs, has lead him to believe that art can be a real career. He, along with co-founder Jennifer Fuentes, believes that the term “starving artists” should not exist, and if it still does, it is only because young artists have yet to be taught how to make a living as creatives. This philosophy has lead Luis to form DSTL Arts, the premier arts-mentorship and social-entrepreneurship focused nonprofit of Los Angeles.
Co-Founder, Program Director; DSTL Arts
Founder; Crayón Literati
Jennifer Carol Fuentes is a writer and fine artist with nearly a decade of experience teaching English to grades 9–12 in Los Angeles-area schools. She received a dual BA from San Diego State University in Comparative Literature and Spanish, a Single-Subject Teaching Credential and Masters of Education at University of California, Los Angeles’ Teacher Education Program, and a Master in the Fine Arts in Critical Studies from California Institute of the Arts.
Jennifer has taught “at-risk” inner city youth critical thinking skills and inquiry through progressive and social justice-based pedagogy. She believes that all students should have equal access, and that all it takes is authentic caring. Her work as an AVID Program Coordinator at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles lead to the empowerment of many traditionally underrepresented students, who in turn were admitted into various four-year higher education institutions.
As an artist and teacher, Jennifer uses art as a key teaching tool for problem solving and personal development, thereby empowering youth to find their own voice. Additionally, being born and raised in the City of Los Angeles to Salvadoran parents, Jennifer Fuentes is intimately familiar with the realities that many youth in Los Angeles experience. Her passion for breaking down the “starving artist” stereotype motivates her to empower youth at DSTL Arts as the Program Director.