Street art legend Maria 'Toofly' Castillo paves the way for women in graffiti scene

QUEENS (WABC) -- Maria 'Toofly' Castillo is a Queens street artist known for her Love Warrior character. She was given the name 'Toofly' by her cousin who felt it was a great fit for the kind of work and style that she was creating; very fast and fly!

Since then, she has taken the name to new heights. Recognized for her hard, fluid style and one of the few women in the field of graffiti art, her work's been in books, magazines, and museums, but in the 90's she broke barriers in the male-dominated graffiti scene paving the way for other women.

Toofly was invited to work with Lady Pink, known as the first female graffiti writer and artist. It allowed her to work with a group of like-minded, talented women.

She found the energy to be different from painting with men and it became the beginning of women painting together and making murals.

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As one of the few Latinas in her field, Toofly is happy with the opportunities she has received in her community, especially with organizations that shine a brighter light on Latino artists and bringing them into educational programs.

During the pandemic, she's learned so much and shares her experiences through her youth programs.

Toofly's most recent project with the Thrive Collective, an arts and mentoring program in public schools, was a collaboration with teenagers to express what they were going through, how they felt about the pandemic and the changing world around them.

The art she helped students produce, reflects the authenticity of those emotions; to stay positive and be resilient through it all.

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Staying true to her hip hop roots, Toofly has moved into different avenues, evolving into a designer, producer, and educator with the same hip hop flavor.

Living part-time in Ecuador has opened her eyes to climate awareness, food insecurity, and sustainable living; her work has transitioned to a more spiritual, nature-based art. Those different avenues and traveling the world has heavily influenced the new artwork she's creating.

Wherever Toofly goes, she'll continue to pave the way for other women, share her space and ideas with other artists and continue to inspire and empower with her amazing works of art.

To hear more amazing stories of community leaders and heroes in our area, join ABC7 in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month.
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