Norma Carrillo, a young woman who grew up in the foster system, is using art to help heal from a difficult upbringing.
“I was in a really dark place because of the system,” she said. “The only thing I had to look forward to was my art.”
Norma and her three younger siblings grew up in the foster system after their parents were deported. Norma was separated from her siblings and was moved more than a half-dozen times. She found that sketching helped her therapeutically.
“I’m still struggling because it hurts. This takes my mind off of it,” Norma said . ”I got a lot of things taken away from me. I didn’t have much to hold onto, this is something I could keep for me.”
When Bobak Bakhtiari, a volunteer assigned to Norma through the Court Appointed Special Advocates of Los Angeles, or CASA, took notice of her talents, he encouraged her to embrace her love for art by buying her paint, brushes, canvas and anything to help her make her dreams come true.
“He believed in me where I didn’t believe in myself,” Norma said of Bakhtiari.
Eventually, with Bakhtiari’s help, Norma began entering her art into contests. Her piece titled ”Que Dios Este Contigo,” or ”May God Be with You,” won a congressional competition and is now displayed at the White House.
“I was excited to go to Washington to see my painting there,” Norma said.
Despite the increased attention her work has received, Norma’s inspiration to continue creating art remains deeply personal.
“I did these for me and my siblings,” she told KTLA. “I didn’t expect it to go big and for people to ask for my work.”