Eight years ago, Richmond resident Joe Castillo went to Lowe’s to purchase some mulch, but that day he also was inspired to bring home a bag of sand.
“One of the bags had been ripped open, and you could see the footprints from where people had walked in it,” he said.
At the time, Castillo was pastoring Northridge Church and was trying to come up with a new art piece for the Easter season. That’s when he did his first sand story on a table with a light fixture in it.
And it was this unique talent which landed him a spot on the show “America’s Got Talent.”
“I was humbled and surprised that I got passed on (from the initial round),” Castillo said. “That was really exciting. I honestly didn’t think I had a chance.”
Currently, Castillo remains in the top 40 contestants in the quarter finals. He will be on either this Tuesday or Wednesday.
The AGT winner gets $1 million and the possibility of having their own live show in Las Vegas, he said.
Castillo, 64, said he decided to try-out for the show in Austin, Texas, because he wanted to “spread his stories” to a larger audience.
“I really hope that people find themselves moved and motivated to be different than they are,” Castillo said of his work.
So far, he has performed a patriotic story and one about slavery on the show.
Most of inspiration for his stories is drawn from his Christian ministry background, but others also come from “the needs and struggles of real people,” such as those of courage, bravery and sacrifice.
Castillo said he initially had some reservations about doing AGT and being associated with some of its “bizarre” acts, but he felt the positive messages of his stories outweighed the worry.
“The stories are universal and transcend culture and nationality,” said the 13-year Richmond resident.
Although his messages are easy for viewers to relate to, the art form itself was a bit tricky for Castillo to perfect when he first started out. No one demonstrated it for him, and there were no books or videos on it.
“I had to develop it myself,” he said.
Castillo said sand is a good medium to work with, but it sometimes “has a mind of its own.”
He has been an artist his entire life, but it wasn’t always his profession. Castillo was born and brought up in an art community in Mexico City. Both of his parents were artists.
Castillo owned an ad agency for about 20 years in Knoxville, Tenn., before he sold it and attended Asbury Seminary. After seminary, his wife and he established Northridge Church in 2000, which they pastored for five years.
After leaving the Northridge pastorate, “we were wondering what to do next,” Castillo said.
He was avidly pursuing sand stories at the time. Some of his clips ended up on Youtube.com and the phone began to ring, which eventually led to his being an AGT contestant.
Castillo said he’s just grateful to be able to share the value of his art with others.
When he’s not telling stories, Castillo said he enjoys playing the guitar, gardening and writing songs for his grandchildren. He also is a published author and is working on a book about the history of sand story.
One of Castillo’s AGT performances can be viewed online at www.nbc.com/americas-got-talent/contestants/joe-castillo/. Visit his personal website at www.joecastillo.com.
Vote for him after the show at www.nbc.com/americas-got-talent/vote/ or call the number given out during the broadcast.
The NBC show is on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. and Wednesdays at 9 p.m.
The season finale will be Sept. 11.
Mary Barczak can be reached at mbarczak
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