Biography

photo 1 copy 2Allegra’s roots are deeply entrenched in the soil of the Southwest though she was born in Detroit and raised in the West. Her maternal family can be traced to the original Spanish land grant families of South Texas. While educated primarily on the West Coast, she spent her summers with her grandparents in the Rio Grande Valley and it was on one such visit at the age of 12 that she picked up a paintbrush and, with the guidance of her grandfather, began to paint using oils. She also started writing creatively during this time. Allegra grew up in a very creative, unorthodox household where art, literature and expansive ideas were encouraged. As a child she was taken to museums and learned unity in diversity firsthand by attending services and celebrations with Buddhists, Sikhs, Hindus, Sufis, Catholics, Mormons and Jews. These experiences have continued to influence her art and her current projects in religious iconography. In this non-traditional atmosphere, she was homeschooled, unschooled and then at 16, she started community college. At 18, just after finishing at Portland Community College, she was selected for a solo exhibit in a noted Portland Alberta Arts District gallery and was the featured subject of the first “Arts Northwest” television program. Five days later, she was on her way to study at St Andrews University in Scotland.

In 2005, Allegra graduated from St Andrews University, with a joint honours degree in International Relations and Middle East Studies. She then attended Oxford University in England where she received a Master’s degree in Creative Writing in 2008.

Allegra’s art has been influenced by her work and travels in both Europe and Mexico.  She is a self-taught artist who has exhibited and accepted commissions both in the United States and abroad. She interned for Granta, the noted British literary journal, and worked for both the British Broadcasting Service and Demos (an international think tank) both based in London. She worked for The McGinn Group, a public relations/crisis-management firm in Washington, D.C. Allegra also taught English in Prague, Czech Republic and in Torreon, Mexico. She still travels to Europe for inspiration and to visit her family and friends where she frequents bookstalls, castles and museums.

Allegra is presently a college instructor in the Rio Grande Valley. She is married to Vit Kaspar, an organic farmer and sustainability advocate from Prague, Czech Republic. Together they are working to establish planet-friendly eco practices in the Valley. They have restored and live in the house handbuilt by her great-grandfather. Allegra feels fortunate to be creating in the same small studio space where this same great-grandfather, Juan de Dios Villarreal, wrote his poetry  for Mexican literary journals and his “calaveras” for the local papers in the early 20th century. She always feels comforted by the spirit of the ancestors present in her home and in her work.