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By Sharice Bryant | HDD Marketing Director

We are honored to welcome the spring 2024 class of fellows! The Dr. Kerry English Creative Fellowship is an 4-month program designed specifically for young adults who have been through the foster care system and are interested in the arts. Individuals accepted into the program are matched with an artist in their creative field of interest, who guides the fellow in their artistic pursuits.

Learn more about these talented individuals below!

Edward Castro

Edward Castro is a Creative Director based in Los Angeles. He entered the foster care system at a young age, later moving to a small town in Sinaloa, Mexico where he was raised. At 18, he migrated back to LA (his birthplace) to find a better life. When he returned, he quickly fell in love with cameras. Edward attended Pasadena City College where he earned his AA in photography.

In addition to pursuing Photography, Castro has worked as a Production Assistant, Wardrobe/Stylist assistant, and Camera Assist. He has been involved with various nonprofit organizations, which have also given him the necessary skills to work in different creative fields. These organizations include ManifestWorks and Journey House VAPA Program.

Most of his life has been filled with adversities, but he has never given up on his dreams. One of his greatest dreams is to become a creative director in a well-known fashion house. He went from sleeping on the floor of relatives’ apartments to working alongside major names on movie sets. Another goal he has is to make a name for himself in fashion, and to incorporate sustainability in his designs (hopefully inspiring others to do the same). He also aims to incorporate meaningful messages in his pieces to highlight minorities and create dialogue about equity.

Edward’s favorite quote from the fashion icon Pharrell Williams says, “We continue to try to find a seat at a table we may or may NOT be welcomed…Why don’t we just build our tables?” This inspired him to advocate for equity in a fashion world where it has been difficult to maintain creative freedom.

Edward wants to be the face of the foster youth community for generations to come. He wants to leave an impact on his success, to help every kid understand that anything is possible. By succeeding, he will demonstrate that there’s a seat at the table for everyone.. at any table they desire to sit at.

Maré Villagrana

Hello! My name is Maré (Ma-reh) Villagrana. I am a disabled, queer and gender fluid Chicana artist hailing from the San Fernando Valley. I entered the foster care system as a teenager in high school, and now I’m a senior at UCLA, studying Sociology and Education. I have ADHD and Fibromyalgia, so I’m always in some sort of pain, but I’m finding coping mechanisms every single day so that I can continue my journey! My identities are important to me as they have made me the person I am. I love my cat, art, music, reading, and learning.

Although my major and minor don’t reflect my creative interests, I’ve learned so much about the intricacies of society, systems, and people, which has influenced how I see the world and live in it. I strive to create art that inspires people to learn more about social justice, disabilities, the LGBTQ+ community, etc. to take action. I want my advocacy to inspire others because it comes from a place of first-hand experience, love, care, and respect.

I have been drawing since I was a little kid, and once I was a teenager I felt the urge to draw everything I saw from people’s faces to flowers. Art has always provided me an outlet to express myself; my emotions, my thoughts, and my passions. My art style is colorful, bold, and thoughtful- it represents who I am as a person.

Through Kids In The Spotlight, I have been granted many creative opportunities, such as screenwriting, art commissions, and the opportunity to work on a stop-motion 2-D animation. I was the visual development director of a stop-motion animation film about the incredible Judge and director of the Justice, Care and Opportunities department, Songhai Armstead last summer. This wonderful experience cemented my desire to pursue my artistic career and to meet every one of my creative goals. Her story as a former foster youth uplifted my spirit and reminded me that anything is possible, as long as you are persistent. I learned how to storyboard and animate scenes, I created backgrounds, and 3-D figures, and directed my team!

I hope to integrate art into my life full-time once I graduate from UCLA because it is what sparks the most joy for me! There is so much for me to learn, and I’m excited to evolve as a person and as an artist. I’m happy, honored, and grateful to be a 2024 Dr. Kerry English Bridge Program Fellow!