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Grains of truth: Sand artist tells 'God’s Love Story' at Gainesville First UMC
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Sand artist Joe Castillo will perform Sunday, March 18, at Gainesville First United Methodist Church.

Former contestant of “America’s Got Talent,” Joe Castillo, is known for his unique performance art using sand.

Joe Castillo

What: Christian sand artist performance

When: 4-6 p.m. Sunday, March 18

Where: Gainesville First United Methodist Church, 2780 Thompson Bridge Road, Gainesville

How much: $10 for adults, free for those under 18 years old; childcare available

Tickets: 800-965-9324

He’ll be performing 4-6 p.m. Sunday, March 18, at Gainesville First United Methodist Church. This event is open for anyone to come.

Castillo will perform “God’s Love Story,” which includes stories such as the Passion of Christ as well as other biblical stories.

Castillo is a storyteller who shares messages through sand art.

“My experience, knowledge and prominence is what brought about new ways of telling stories because stories are what captivate us,” Castillo said.

His love for art started from a young age. He was brought up in a family full of artists and always had a passion and love for the arts. He went into the advertising business for 18 years, and then sold his business and returned to seminary.

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Sand artist Joe Castillo will perform Sunday, March 18, at Gainesville First United Methodist Church.
Once he became a pastor, he knew he wanted to incorporate art in his speeches and teachings.

“While I was a pastor, I wanted to incorporate the arts because I knew people remember 30 percent of what they hear and 80 percent of what they hear and see. So I incorporated a lot of arts,” he said.

He started doing sand art after a trip to the hardware store to buy mulch for his wife. He had seen a video clip of an artist from Budapest doing sand art, so he decided to give it a go.

“When I came home, I had the mulch, but I also had a stack of sand and a kitchen light fixture. I set up a table in my garage and started drawing in the sand, and the images just started coming together,” Castillo said.

Creating stories and images out of sand turned out to be an easier way to tell not only biblical stories for his church but stories in general.

“Since I have used other mediums, I knew that all of those were static. You painted those and then you were done, but with the sand it was fluid enough that you could move from one image to the next, so it was easier to tell a story that way,” Castillo said. “You can go from one chapter of a story to the next without stopping. Some of my drawing are up to 20 minutes long.”

Castillo has told many sand stories, but one that always seems to be a crowd favorite is the Passion of Christ.

“The first one I did was the Pasión of Christ, and that one is one that I will perform more than any other. It is a very powerful story,” Castillo said.

He has performed for CBS, NBC, BBC, TED, over 30 companies, kings, presidents and dignitaries in more than 18 countries.

“I started telling Bible stories, and I soon realized that every corporation and business have their own stories. So I began telling other kinds of stories. One of the first ones was the Mercedes Benz story,” Castillo said.

One thing that helps develop his stories is choreographing the art to music.

“Music is a huge part of my performance because it is a lot like composing music for a movie. If you want (suspense), you have to have dark segments, and this is the same. I pick my own music, I edit it and rehearse it to get to fit the picture just right,” Castillo said.

For Castillo, practice is mandatory. The amount of time he practices determines how well he will do in his presentations.

“When I’m about to perform, I’ll practice daily because it makes a difference in how well the performance goes. All of my performances are choreographed, so the images have to go along with the music being played. They have to stay in sync, so I have to practice every movement and every strike,” Castillo said.

There are about four to five sand artists in the world.

“There’s a small percentage of people that have been able to see sand art performance live —  performance art,” Castillo said. “If somebody wants to see a live performance of sand story art, this would be an event of a lifetime.”