To Top

Meet Johnpaul Castillo of Advancement Initiative in Lawndale

Today we’d like to introduce you to Johnpaul Castillo.

Johnpaul, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I left Brooklyn New York to get away from the dangers of the streets. Find a better path. That’s when I realized how much music meant to me. So I pursued the path of an artist in California. I can literally say music saved me.

Landed in California not knowing many people. No resources. Just a dream to make it in the music industry. I wanted to be the lead singer of a hard rock band and tour the world. But reality hit me fast. Being an artist without any backing, limited resources and no mentorship I found myself in the typical artist grind. Paying for studio time, production and everything else that comes with trying to create an art project. I think the hardest part was that I felt all alone on that journey. It seemed like a dog eats dog environment. Survival of the fittest. I had no guidance and what I wanted more than anything was to be around others that were willing to work towards the same dream like me without them trying to get money from me.

That’s what planted the seed for what I’m doing now.

Because it was during these challenging times I would fantasize about some wonderful place that would help me. A place that would provide me with not only the tools needed to create my art but also a place where I can find family and mentorship.

I never found that place.

So after many years of struggling and trying to stay afloat and taking care of my responsibilities as a father, my artistic dreams evolved in away. I decided I will be and create the place I fantasized about for the next wave of artists. In hopes the won’t have to go through the struggles I went through.

That’s how Advancement Initiative started.

In 2015 I mustered every dime I had and started building it.

Found a small office space in Lawndale and started converting it into a creative center.

I did this on my own. No sponsorship.

Started the nonprofit

Got the 501c3 status and just kept building.

In that 550 sq ft office I built a recording studio, podcast room and multimedia space. Cameras, computers, microphones for podcasting, etc. and I developed a program that would allow aspiring artist to create their own art projects while I share my knowledge gained from all those experiences. All for free.

I didn’t want them to feel the burden I felt financially.

So I made sure the program was free for anyone that is enrolled.

It’s been taking me almost five years. Moving slow

I’m doing this independently so it takes a bit longer.

I drive full time as a rideshare driver to pay the bills at the facility. But it’s all worth it.

To this date, there have been multiple artists in the place

They have created multiple projects

And I plan on one day being able to service many more.

We’d love to hear more about your work.
I would say one of the hardest things for me is trying to maintain it all on my own.

I admit growing up I was caught in the typical street/urban stigma that plagued Flatbush Brooklyn in the late 80,s and early 90’s.

So I never went to school.

In fact, the school was a dangerous place growing up in my neighborhood.

So I never had that education in business

I opened this place with pure passion, therefore I didn’t know about applying for grants, acquiring sponsorship or even the proper steps of starting a nonprofit. Advancement Initiative was incorporated in 2015 and I have been building the place since then. But I have had to learn as I go. Maintain all the cost and play multiple roles.

So it can get a bit overwhelming.

But my passion and belief in this mission keeps me moving.

We’d love to hear more about your work.
I haven’t found many organizations like ours.

Advancement Initiative is on a mission to provide creative opportunities for aspiring artists and entrepreneurs with DRIVE.

We built a creative center in which many artistic projects can come to life in many mediums by many types of artists.

Beat making
Video production
Editing and more

We developed a unique program that will allow participants to learn all the ins and outs of creating a full art project while they are actually creating their own projects. And all for free

All program participants have access to the equipment and tools in the creative center. And they also have the mentorship and training from experienced creators that have years of creating projects themselves.

Not only does the program allow them to create their project but we also want to make sure they have the mindset and training needed to them take their art and become entrepreneurs. Fulfill the dream all artist share.

Making a living while doing what they are most passionate about.

What were you like growing up?
When artist create and finish their projects

When I see them excited for the opportunity

Those times they ask me over and over again if this is real (the free program)

That’s when I see this mission, although challenging to maintain, its very worthy cause.


  • Programs are free to enroll
  • We can accept donations via our website
  • We have a sponsorship page. People can become program and artists sponsors for just 2.99 a month. Sponsorship comes with access to some of the bodies of work created by program participants

Contact Info:

  • Address: 15665 Hawthorne Blvd unit i
    Lawndale ca 90260Johnpaul Castillo
  • Website:
  • Phone: 4243748233
  • Email:
  • Instagram: @advancementinitiative
  • Facebook: @advancementinitiative

Suggest a story: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

More in