Podcast Host Delsy Sandoval In Conversation With Latinx Visionaries About Art & Healing

Guatemalan-American, multifaceted visual artist, licensed therapist, and community counselor, Delsy Sandoval, takes her life-long enthusiasm for the arts, passion for storytelling, and love for her community to new heights with the launch of the Ocu-Pasión Podcast – a heartfelt, globally engaged, interview style series that bridges culture and creativity through showcasing the experiences of Latin American creators from all walks of life. The emotionally based and free-flowing dialogue led by Sandoval, authentically takes listeners through the world of creation – allowing them to emotionally connect with Latin American artists and visionaries like they never have before. 

Delsy is a licensed therapist, counselor, visual artist, and community-leader. Originally from the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles, she has dedicated her career to Latin American people across the country through professional counseling and mental health programming all while simultaneously immersing herself into the art scene as a visual artist. 

After leaving LA seven years ago, Sandoval found a home in New York City where she continues her work in serving the Latin American community with the goal of merging mental health and the expression of art to heal. Her enthusiasm for storytelling and curiosity of the art of creation fuels what she will do next. 

When recording, Sandoval creates a safe space for multi hyphenated artists to share their unique stories and insights through intentional conversations; and when off the mic, she is using the Ocu-Pasión social channel to connect Latin American creators and nurture a long-lasting community.

Since launching in October of last year, Ocu-Pasión has welcomed inspiring guests who continue to trailblaze through their respective industries including Adassa, the voice of Dolores Madrigal from Disney’s hit film Encanto and vocalist on Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart #1 Song “We Don’t Talk About Bruno”, Designer and Project Runway Winner, Ashley Nell Tipton, Legendary Poet Luis J. Rodriguez, Business development coach and socialpreneur, Ashley K. Stoyanov Ojeda (who we had the honor of featuring on GirlTalkHQ recently) and more.

The Spanish language title “Ocu-pasión” is a play on the blending of occupation and passion as a descriptor for creative practice. The idea is to humanize artists and create a sense of universalization between all creative people regardless of circumstance. In reaction to this premise, this podcast seeks to create dialogue around the question of who gets to be an artist and what gets to be considered a creative life.

Bringing together the intersections of art, community, culture and mental health, we had the chance to speak with Delsy about her mission to elevate Latinx artists and visionaries and why talking about mental health is important.

Delsy Sandoval Host of the Ocu-Pasión Podcast.

How did the Ocu-Pasión podcast first come about? What made you want to start the series? 

It was right in the middle of the Pandemic and New York City had fully shut down. My usual outlets for creative expression/immersion (dance studios & art shows etc.) were no longer an option. I felt a stirring need to be connected to a creative community. In response, I began to dive deeply into the world of podcasts and even started to feel really connected with some of the hosts. I found that I tended to gravitate toward shows about artists, creativity, wellness, and entrepreneurship.

Searching for connection and inspiration, I often found myself scrolling through the bio’s of the guests featured on my favorite shows trying to find people that represented the communities I was familiar with, family stories similar to mine, the subcultures I understood, or people who could speak to a first generation American experience. Coming across very few options, I began to understand that the show I was looking for didn’t quite exist yet.

It was then that I recognized I wanted to create the show that I wanted to listen to. I decided that the show would highlight the vast world of creatives who identified with Latin American heritage. In this way, it would serve to inspire people of many roots to explore their own creativity while also uniting a community of established creators. 

We love the way you interweave art, creativity and mental health through your interviews. Why is art an important aspect of mental health and healing for you? 

The Arts have always been a safe space for me. Whenever life became stressful or routine made me feel stunted, engagement with the arts reminded me that there was magic in the world. Art gave meaning to the everyday and continuously helped me understand the complexities of life more fully. There really wasn’t pressure to be highly talented or gifted in any particular art form because the exploration of the human condition was something that was inclusive of all people. In this way, immersion in creative spaces helped me create balance in my life.

A balance between the practical elements of daily life and that of the imagined world where endless possibilities created perpetual hope. It is exactly this magic that I hope to bring to listeners through Ocu-Pasión. My hope is that the inspiration will not only come from practical tips on how to infuse creativity into their world, but also from the elation that comes with telling the stories of beauty, joy, and enchantment within our culture. 

What made you want to focus on mental health? Can you tell us your own personal story, and perhaps how art played a role in that? 

I grew up in a complicated environment where hard work was the name of the game. This beautiful and thriving world was filled with brave people who had left their beloved countries in search of opportunity and promise. Here, struggle was also very real. When I dove into mental health in a professional capacity, I focused on working with my community and it became clear to me that quality of life was often a primary challenge.

My own experience trying to create social mobility for myself mirrored this challenge. However, I found people were figuring out how to invite small moments of expression into their world through music, dance, art, family life & building community. I soon began to incorporate these elements into my practice and built mental health programming that focused on the arts as a medium for emotional expression, connection and ultimately healing. 

Your podcast series highlights some inspiring Latinx artists, creators and leaders such as business fairygodmother Ashley Stoyanov Ojeda, actress Adassa from Disney’s ‘Encanto’, and poet Luis J. Rodriguez. Why is it important for audiences to see and hear from Latinx leaders and visionaries in the public arena? 

There is so much to be said about the importance of visibility and having access to work that is relevant to your experience. The incredible feeling of pride and excitement that comes with seeing elements of who you are represented in the public arena is indescribable. Most of all, when you see people that you may feel connected to living passionate lives and creating work that impacts generations, it has implications where the possibilities of your own life become evident to you. You may feel seen, validated, appreciated and even transformed by the possibility that you, too, can jump into a creative world and live out your wildest dreams.

In this way, the guests on Ocu-Pasión help create change by being an example of what can be possible by breaking the barriers that continue to exist for communities like ours. It also helps artists see that they are not alone and that in fact there is a vast network of other artists who are in it with them. 

Visibility and role models are the key to changing the status quo. So tell us, who are your role models and people you admire? 

I admire performance artists like Salomé Egas, who are willing to take risks by diving into their inner world and exploring elements of identity that may be challenging and complicated through their art form. I admire people like Chavela Vargas who are able to confront social standards and share themselves with the public fully and authentically without reservations. I also really admire people like Issa Rae who elevate what we expect from media by creating authentic stories and forging their own path. 

Who do you have on your guest list coming up that we should look out for? 

Audiences can expect to hear more from inspiring creatives like Laura Tejeda who is a writer with L.A Taco, host of L.A Taco Live, and the creator of HungryinEastLos, Carolina Rial who is a massively talented singer and a fan favorite on season 20 of The Voice, and Jessica Fierro the founder of Atrevida Beer Co. and winner of ‘Beerland’ season 1. 

What are some of the most profound nuggets of wisdom from your guests that you can share with us? 

Exploring your authentic voice and working through fear of the unknown are common topics on the show and are presented as important elements of artistic work. Many guests have talked about the importance of building community especially when it comes to organizing artist collectives and networks that promote safe spaces for creative scenes to flourish. Elevating each other’s voices has also been a frequent topic, discussing the need to celebrate and uplift one another with the awareness that there is space for everyone to thrive. 

Why do you think art often gets overlooked when it comes to mental health and healing? How can we learn to incorporate creativity into our healing practices more? 

I think that Art is often seen as a formal practice that requires formal training and access to material, etc. This perception can create some barriers. Reframing how we think of “Art” in this context to really talk about creative expression as a means for emotional exploration and expression, can be helpful in further integrating this practice into our current wellness community. There are a few ways in which the mental health community already does this, art therapy and play therapy come to mind as well as encouraging the development of coping skills that can include listening to music, journaling, and drawing.

Discussions around quality of life as it relates to stimulation, creativity, and fun could be further integrated into our assessments, treatment plans, and overall wellness conversations. Normalizing things like straying from social norms or engaging in divergent thinking can be really healthy for a society. Celebrating those elements of ourselves that are perceived as different, quirky, or outside the box can be incredibly healing. 

How would you encourage readers to start a conversation about mental health if they are currently struggling? 

I would start by saying that struggling with mental health is common and can happen to human beings often, even if there isn’t an associated stressful event or history, therefore, there is no need to feel embarrassed or ashamed. With that said, this is the time to reach out and keep reaching out. Identify someone or somewhere you can consider a safe space and tell people directly that you are struggling. A friend, parent, partner, or coach can often jump in and provide the validation of a listening ear.

However, sometimes safe spaces and people can be hard to come by, luckily there are really awesome hotlines out there that can help (examples below). Support groups, therapy, and hotlines are great ways to get connected to long term support. When it feels like an emergency, you can always obtain support quickly by going to an emergency room or calling 911. 

SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service), via text message: 435748 (HELP4U), or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 

The NAMI HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m., ET. 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or info@nami.org

Listen and subscribe to Ocu-Pasión on Apple podcasts, Spotify and Buzzsprout. Check out Delsy’s interview with Disney’s ‘Encanto’ star Adassa, who played Dolores Madrigal. She is is featured on Billboard’s chart-topping song “We Don’t Talk About Bruno.”  Listen in as they discuss the importance of representation in film, the magic of live performance, and taking on the role of a lifetime:

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