top of page

Making Art, Making Change

Artists Jake Prendez and Angelina Villalobos, aka Angel 179, both have been making art since they were kids. For both, it was a means to express both themselves and their cultures.

Although Prendez was discouraged from pursuing his passion, Villalobos' family encouraged her to follow her dream. Prendez fortified himself with a deep dive into his Chicano culture, and that's where he rediscovered his art and his urge to create a space for other Latinx artists and community members to gather: Napantla Cultural Arts Gallery, in White Center, Washington.

Marcie and Vivian talked with Jake Prendez and Angelina Villalobos in front of a live audience in Seattle's South Park Hall for this special edition of liveXposure.

A special thank you goes to Randy Engstrom for joining us at the top of the episode to give some background on the Cultural Space Agency.

"My mother would tell me, and it sounds so cheesy, but she she would say you can do it if you believe. That small sentiment, like a football, I took it all the way to the goal."--Angelina Villalobos

Jake Prendez in the doorway of Nepantla and Angelina Villalobos in front of one of her murals.



Jake Prendez is a renowned Chicano artist exhibiting his art and lecturing across the country. He is the owner/co-director of the Nepantla Cultural Arts Gallery. His work is an amalgamation of his life experiences. It represents his Chicano background, his life lived back and forth from Los Angeles and Seattle, it represents love and heartbreak, oppression and resilience, laughter and tears. His oil paintings and digital artwork are created with a specific focus on themes relating to Chicana/o and Indigenous culture, social justice, pop culture, and satire.

Learn more about Jake and Nepantla Cultural Arts Gallery here

Angelina Villalobos' work follows the advice of local KEXP VJ Gabe Teodros "If a tree can't grow there, I can't grow there" which focuses on exploring what it means to grow in difficult spaces. It often depicts nature and animals thriving in the urban circumstances of their mural sites; cities, industrial areas, harsh landscapes etc. She uses color fluidly, selecting palettes from nature and adding to their range with shades, tones, and my favorite, neons. Her figurative work lends itself to the imagination, for example how a wolf would appear in a fantastical technicolor dream. Angelina's goal is to always experiment and play with shapes and color, bringing the outside in.

To learn more Angelina and her artwork, visit her website here

Randy Engstrom has been a passionate advocate and organizer of cultural and community development for over 20 years. He is currently the owner and principal of Third Way Creative, a collaborative consulting studio focused on cultural policy, racial equity, and creative economy. He is also Adjunct Faculty at the Seattle University Arts Leadership Program where he teaches cultural policy and advocacy, and regular lecturer at the Evan’s School of Governance and Public Policy at the University of Washington. Most recently he served as Director of the Office of Arts and Culture for the City of Seattle where he expanded their investments in granting programs and Public Art, while establishing new programs and policies in arts education, cultural space affordability, and racial equity. At the City he also led several multi-department subcabinets, including Affordability and Livability, Youth Opportunity, The Future of Work, and COVID Recovery. He served as Chair of the Seattle Arts Commission in 2011 and was Chair of the Facilities and Economic Development Committee from 2006 to 2010. Before joining the City he owned Reflex Strategies, a cultural and community based consulting practice. From 2005-2010 Engstrom was the Founding Director of the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, a multimedia and multidisciplinary community space that offers youth and community member’s access to arts, technology, and cultural resources. Prior to Youngstown, Randy spent 3 years as the Founding CEO of Static Factory Media, an artist development organization that owned and operated a record label, bar/performance venue, graphic design house, recording studio, and web development business. In 2009 Randy received the Emerging Leader Award from Americans for the Arts and was one of Puget Sound Business Journal’s 40 Under 40. He is a graduate of the Evergreen State College in Olympia, and he received his Executive Master’s in Public Administration at the University of Washington’s Evans School of Governance and Public Policy.




Hey, I'm Vivian Phillips


And I'm Marcie Sillman. And this is double


DoubleXposure. DoubleXposure is a podcast where we plumb the deepest depths and the tiniest cracks of our world to understand how culture and creativity shape our lives. Hello, and welcome to liveXposure at South Park Hall. I'm Vivian Phillips,


I'm Marcie Sillman. We're so happy to have you join us for a live recording for our podcast, doubleXposure. This season, we're exploring four Seattle neighborhoods, Seattle Center, the Downtown Waterfront, the Central District and South Park.


And that's what, yes.




And that's what brings us here to South Park Hall. We'll be talking with two local artists about the connections between our favorite thing, creativity and community. And before we get into that conversation, we are going to introduce a special guest to talk about kind of an overarching program that's really helping to create space and ownership for arts and cultural entities across the city of Seattle.


We're joined by Randy Engstrom. Some of you may know his name. He's been around, done a lot of things, but he is a board member with the fairly new Cultural Space Agency. And the reason we wanted to talk about that was South Park Hall is one of the projects that the Cultural Space Agency is helping to bring to life.


Let’s welcome Randy Engstrom.


Hi. Hi. Hi Marcie. Hi Vivian. Hey, hi South Park, South Park Hall. <laugh> so yeah, the Cultural Space Agency is a mission driven nonprofit real estate intermediary that's focused on building community wealth explicitly for BIPOC communities and creative communities. And it was chartered by the City of Seattle in late 2020, just before I sashayed out of government. And, um, it exists to be a bridge between property ownership and long-term stability and cultural vitality and property ownership specifically for, uh, communities of color that are at high risk of displacement.


So this building South Park Hall is part of a pending project?


This quarter block was one of the first properties that was purchased in, uh, collaboration between community stakeholders in South Park and the Cultural Space Agency. The RA the, um, Columbia City Theater was also purchased in partnership with Rainier Ave Radio, uh, Black owned community radio station there. And there are a few other projects that the space agency's been involved with. One with Northwest Tap Connection and union Cultural Center down in Rainier beach. We've had a partnership and relationship with, uh, ARTE NOIR in the central district. Um, really playing whatever role the, and by we, I mean, largely Matt Richter and Ebony Arunga and the staff who day to day do all literally all of the work. I'm just a, a, a humble board member who's happy to be there and support the the cause. But yeah, we try to understand what community's trying to do, understand where the projects and opportunities exist and then find ways to connect resources people and time so that we can, uh, create ownership opportunities.


So here in South Park, it's the El Barrio Project and, um, it's a full square block.


I think it's a quarter


Block, a quarter block. Talk a little bit about how ownership of El Barrio will help to support and sustain community over a long time.


There will never be a FedEx or a Panera bread. Mm-hmm <affirmative> in this block. Uh, the businesses that are here for as long as they want to be here are welcome to stay here. And should there be a vision that the community comes up with to expand what this building is? There's a parking lot across the street. If folks in that folks want to redevelop that parking lot into affordable housing, or first time home buyer opportunities that entirely possible, but the hope is that the folks that are operating businesses, living and working in this space won't be displaced. So it's, and that's, it'll be in control of, of community intention for as long as it wants to be.


So it's really about neighborhood owning their own destiny.


Ideally, yes.


I just have one last question and I guess maybe it's the biggest question we know in the City of Seattle, the cultural space has been at a premium. It's been expensive. Artists have been leaving arts organizations, especially smaller organizations, not don't necessarily have the wherewithal to stay in the city to, to plant permanent homes here. So who is making this possible? This is a 2020 organization, but who, where does this money coming from?


That was launched by the, our Office of Arts and Culture and supported to the tune of a million dollars over the span of two years, it's received a fair amount of generous philanthropic support for folks that want to see community ownership happen. And it was, a lot of the projects were beneficiaries of the strategic investment fund that was offered by the, um, Office of Planning and Community development related to the Equitable Development Initiative. Another two other city initiatives that are aimed at trying to create ownership for communities at risk of displacement.


But even more than that, it's the first PDA that has been established in the city, correct. In 40 years or something like that?


Since the aquarium, I think.


Yeah. So what does it mean to be a public development authority, as well as you know, the kind of agency that you've previously described?


A public development authority is a type of business model that exists in Washington State. And it's a quasi form of government, which, uh, gets it around the gift of public fund rules that, that preclude the government from giving, uh, money to like the government doesn't really give money away. It buys services from providers and nonprofits and cultural services organizations. So what the PDA can do is accept property and money in a way that nonprofits can't from government. Uh, and it can do direct transfers from, uh, government of different jurisdictions, state, and county and city.


Just one final question about that, but, uh, the Cultural Space Agency then as a quasi-governmental entity does purchase services. What kinds of mutual benefits do these entities provide back to the city for the funding?


Well, they're not required to, because of their PDA designation, they don't have that same required, a mutual set of mutual offsetting benefits. However, the construction of the PDA in its entirety is about community benefit. It's about creating long term, uh, cultural vitality, long term ownership and stability for communities on their own terms.


Randy Engstrom, we are so happy that you were able to join us to talk a little bit about the Cultural Space Agency. The CSA there's CSA can stand for a lot of things. <laugh>, but I guess like a farm project, it does grow things.


It does grow things,


Investment and growth. So thanks for being here




Thank you, Randy.


And coming up next, we're gonna talk with artist Jake Prendez, the creator of the gallery, Nepantla.


Well, welcome back to liveXposure. This is the, uh, live recording. Yeah. Live recording of doubleXposure. We're here at South Park Hall. So, we're resuming with one of my favorite people who happens to be an artist, a scholar, and the owner and co-director of Nepantla Art Gallery, which is located between West Seattle and White Center. He is Jake Prendez. Jake, first of all, I have to say how much I love Nepantla. It is the best sweet spot in the whole city.


You know, we are a multi-use multicultural art space grounded in the Chicana- Chicano Latinx arts traditions. So even though we are unapologetically Chicana- Chicano, we still want to amplify the voices of marginalized communities and communities of color that aren't always heard in the traditional arts spaces. Right. And when we are we're oftentimes fetishized or tokenized. So Nepantla is the space where you're gonna feel represented. You're gonna feel seen the term Nepantla is an Aztec word that means “the space in between” mm-hmm <affirmative>, it's that alternative space where, you know, if you don't like, kind of fit in, right? You, for example, um, being Mexican-American Chicano, I'm not Mexican enough for Mexico. I'm not American enough for Americans I'm in that, Nepantla, let's say that in between, and that can exist with identity, gender norms, different things where you just feel I'm kind of in that middle ground.


And I remember reading that this term in, um, Borderlands by Gloria Anzaldúa in college, and it just really hitting me. And it was like, that's what I've been trying to describe. Right? And so when it came to kind of creating a space, you know, Nepantla is where you heal, you rejuvenate, you create, and that's what we do. And that's, this was like kind of that perfect term that really, uh, captured what we were trying to do. I always loved art. I mean, I just was obsessed with art from pretty much as early as I could remember. Um, my parents used to buy me those like Disney and, um, Dr. Suess books, you get, you know, a couple in the mail every month. And, um, and so I just had these stacks of those books and I would bring out big stacks into the living room and just be looking through all the books.


And my parents were like, oh, mijo’s gonna be a great reader. He loves books. And he is like, Nope, he loves art. Like <laugh>. And so I just was always passionate about art, always drawing. And by the time I got to high school, even middle school, you know, um, like art was the one subject I excelled at and I'm dyslexic and actually didn't find out I was dyslexic till my, I was done with all the coursework for my graduate program. <laugh> oh, wow. It's like that would've been great information to have, uh, earlier on. So I just struggled in school and didn't know why and had this very low self-esteem and I'm stupid. I'm dumb, but art was always that one thing I was good at and that I impressed the other kids with. And, you know, I was, you know, becoming culturally aware and my stuff was more dealing with cholos and cholas and low riders.


And you could tell, like, it hasn't left me because I just threw the low rider block party <laugh> <laugh>. But I thought the one people like in high school or that were going to like me that were going to get me were gonna be art teachers. Right. And they didn't. There's two things. Teachers don't like gangsters and class clowns <laugh> it was both <laugh>. So I got, I, I spent more time getting kicked outta class than actually in the classroom. So even my art teachers, I think were a little scared of me because, you know, I had that like kind of cholo aesthetic and, and yeah. So, and I was told that my art was too ethnic. It was too gangster. And you can't do that.


We should also say where you grew up and what the community was like, cuz you were not in a, in a Latinx community.


No. So I was born in San Jacinto, California. San Jacinto and Hemet are kind of neighboring like kind of almost one, but um, we moved to Bothell, Washington when I was like five. So I went from a community and family, you know, that were <laugh> Chicano, Latino in a community that was largely Latino, to a community that wasn't. And you know, I remember my mom telling me that my grandparents would, you know, send pan dulce and tortillas up to us because we couldn't find any anywhere at that time. And I think my family was like the only Mexican American family in Bothell, maybe at the time, you know, you're not culturally aware so much in elementary and being light skinned. I don't think people knew maybe, but it's kind of, became more of an issue by middle school, kind of you culturally affiliate. And I was like, yeah, I'm Mexican.


And it was like, no, you're not like, and, or just kids that were like, I can't be friends with you now. It's weird. There were kind of these two paths I could have gone. I could have pretended I'm not Mexican and tried to blend and fit in or be super Chicano. And I don't know why I chose the latter, but I just remember going to the library in like middle school and high school, a lot of lunch, you know, time and just reading these books on Chicano history and culture and just like, I'm not gonna go let them get the best of me. I want to arm myself and defend myself. Mm-hmm <affirmative> I remember just some really messed up experiences, like a math class and a teacher handed out to all the students. It was called “ghetto story problems.” And it was like, Jerome sell so much drugs. And Maria gets pregnant so many times and you know,


Wait a minute, excuse me. What?


This happened. I'm sorry, what in class a teacher passed this out to students in Bothell at my school. Yes. And that was one of the moments that one, I guess your aha moments that you're like, I'm not one of you, you know, cuz all these kids are laughing. It felt like I'm the only one here that feels like this is terribly wrong. So I, you know, it had to deal with a lot of that. And we actually created a crew in middle school called “Different Shades of Brown” because there weren't enough Mexicans to like kind of be this Mexican gang. We weren't enough blacks to be a Black gang. And so we all hung out together and it was Black and Mexican and Peruvian and Cambodia and Filipino Vietnamese, all of us hung out together. I barely graduated high school, but went to a community college only, cuz my best friend's older sister had gone to community college. His parents were making him go. He didn't want to go alone. And he made me go with him. Right. And I thought, oh, I'll just do arts. What I love. And again, the art teachers were very critical of my work and you can't do this type of work. And I just gave up art from the time I was probably nineteen, til I was in my thirties. I just wasn't producing art.


What you're describing though is really interesting to me because it sounds like an incredibly stereotypical environment, educational environment that you were raised in. And what, what we've talked a lot about is how art can save and be a save your essentially in the education system. But they just defaulted to the stereotypes and did not actually embrace the creativity that you tried to express.




But so Jake, there was this long period of time where you weren't pursuing art mm-hmm <affirmative> so how did you get back to this passion?


So I had a son very early on, like when I was 20 and that's what kind of, I guess, straightened me out. Like I, I have now this human being <laugh> that now his existence is based on me. Right. And I have to get my stuff together and be a good father and um, and just really worked hard at the community college. It wasn't easy for me. I, you know, still dyslexic it didn't go away. And I would go to the math lab and do my homework every day in the math lab. And I remember I threw a last math class party when I passed college level math. Cause I was like “never taking math again!” So I transferred to University of Washington and I did my bachelor's in American ethnic studies. So I was passionate about culture. I was passionate about communities of color and reading those books and you know, and the Chicano history, but also read, you know, being just so inspired by like Malcolm X and you know, civil rights movement and what was happening.


And I ended up doing my Masters in Chicana-Chicano studies at Cal state Northridge, which is the large Chicano studies program in the nation. And as an elective, I took a painting class. Now it was a Chicano studies class, but it was a painting class and it was taught by Elena Cervantes, a famed Chicana artist. And I fell in love with art all over again. And it was, we had to do these first project was a self portrait. You have a mirror and you, you paint yourself. And I just remember thinking just smugly how great I am. <laugh> this is so good. I am amazing and best painting in class. And I look at that painting now and I'm like, what a piece of shit. <laugh> like, it's horrible. But thank God I loved it at the time because I just kept at it. And I think a lot of my art started off very stencil style.


And I started painting things that I, I guess I wanted my own house. Like I painted the Beatles or The Clash or, you know, Emiliano Zapata or something like, you know, like celebrities or political figures. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. And then I think over time, year in there's more, there's more ideology behind a painting. There's more structure behind a painting, more thought and it's less celebrity and it's more a like a, an ideology or, or a concept. Right. And there's stories behind them. Mm-hmm, <affirmative> one of the things. Do you have any advice for young kids? You know, and, and I tell them


We weren't gonna ask that


<laugh> um, but one of the things, you know, I tell them is every painting is gonna be a little bit better than your last painting. So you have to keep at it, you have to keep practicing and Dizzy Gillespie, wasn't Dizzy Gillespie. The first time you picked up a trumpet, right? There is so much work and practice that went into that and always scare yourself a little when you're creating art, if you're comfortable, you're, you're probably not doing it. Right. You should be a little nervous going into a painting. Like, am I gonna F this up? Like, can I do this? Um…


It kind of applies to everything, right? You should be just a little bit scared. I wanna ask you, Jay, you know, you talk about your journey and then you left and went to Northridge and had this rich experience that steeped you in Chicano culture. What did you find when you came back to Seattle? How did you balance being back in a city that, um, where Botell is <laugh> yeah, that's that's Bothell-ized. I guess we might call it.


Going to LA. I felt whole just seen represented. I felt like I fit mm-hmm <affirmative> a square peg and a square hole. Like it just and things that I always felt like the outsider, em, Bothell and things I thought were just quirky or whatever were kind of normalized in LA. Pan dulce, you have to find a Mexican bakery. Like they have it in their, uh, chain, grocery store bakery. Like it's just, we're not othered, coming back to Seattle. It was back to being othered. I wanted to, you know, do the art and create art. And, and I met amazingly talented Latinx artists in Seattle, but they didn't know each other. There might be someone in Olympia, someone in Renton, someone in Everett and they were doing all these shows, but never had done shows together. And so it became clear right away that there needed to be kind of this hub, this space that brought folks together. And I, I, you know, can't claim that, oh, I created an art movement in Seattle. You know, I, if anything, I was just a glue that brought talent that was already here and happening together.


But you played a role in bringing the, a little bit more cohesiveness to the Chicano community here.


I'm humble. So I'm not gonna say it, but <laugh>


We can say it


Nod your head. Yes. Well,


You mentioned Nepantla is an Aztec word. And it got me to thinking about the very rich traditions. I mean, Mexico is not one thing. Yeah. It's not one culture and it's not a contemporary culture. We're talking about thousands off years. And so I'm wondering how at the Nepantla or through your art, you are weaving together all of these traditions and creating contemporary work.


I think, you know, with my art, there's a lot of Indigenous influence in iconography. And I, a lot of that, I, I believe stems from me just trying to connect with my own roots, this, you know, where do I fit in? How do I fit in with my own family? Where, you know, my grandparents look very Indigenous and I do not, you go to one of our family reunions and it just looks like a Beneton ad of just multicultural people. And it's like, no, this is actually one family. And so it's kind of where do I fit in? And, and knowing that I have those roots knowing it's in me, I think it comes out in my heart, working with Indigenous communities and, you know, having best friends that are Aztec dancers and you just learn and it's such a diverse country. Right. And you know, there's no one Mexican, right. And so how do we deal with all that make us, and with Nepantla, we try to be very inclusive and, um, in a kind of, I think, mirror where we come from, right.


Mm-hmm <affirmative> so, so we're not gonna ask you what advice you have for the next generation, but you have described and, and, and shared with us kind of your journey. That's really steeped in not just Chicano culture, but this ancient traditions that are Aztecan and then your generations of family. Mm-hmm, <affirmative> I wanna ask you how you go about transmitting this culture to the next generation and why that's important?


I think what's important is giving community, and you know, this youth elders, adults, parents, the tools to express themselves, the tools to use art as a means of healing. I think it just comes out the culture. It's almost, I don't wanna say unexpectedly, but it it's just, you're gonna get culture. If you're talking to me, I'm gonna talk about it. But what I want to create is an accessible art experience for community. I'm tired of being on the fringes. I'm tired of not being fully accepted. I'm tired of not being heard or represented. And art is for everybody. And I think that's one of the things I was really driven as far as murals, you know, and, and researching Mexican muralism is this idea of flipping art from an idea of a commodity, something we can own. We can hoard in our attics to gain wealth for us someday, to this idea of art for the people, that it's for everyone, you can't take down this wall and put it in your home. And, and just the idea of accessibility and math, you know, with social media, we've just to the hundredth exponent right. Taking that. I, you know, now, instead of just literally taking to the hands of the people, you've put it like international and your message, your social justice cause is now accessible to someone in Japan, Cambodia, Italy, wherever.


It's interesting that you say that because you have founded a hub in Nepantla. So that is a physical center. We've been focusing for the last few episodes for this podcast on South Park. Now you're kind of white center, sort of South Park adjacent. I'm wondering what connections you feel to this place, if any, or if, what you're describing in terms of social media and really the ability to reach a lot of people means that it doesn't matter where the physical community is or where the physical Nepantla is.


Yeah. I mean, my heart is White Center. I met the most beautiful, amazing woman in White Center. So the co-director Judy Avitia-Gonzalez. Yeah. She's been living in White Center since she was 11. I believe so middle school. And she originally from East LA, so the running joke is I had to move to Seattle meet in LA girl, but she's so passionate about White Center. And when we started dating, I came out, I was like, okay, now I feel like I'm at home. Now I feel comfortable in, in that sense of like, oh, okay, this is it right. And the, one of the reasons why I'm so, so passionate about White Center and bringing this, you know, the Nepantla Cultural Arts Center that we're working on to white center is because it's Unincorporated King County. So we do not have the same access, the same funding, the same, uh, programs that Seattle does.


And especially like Seattle public schools does, like, I jokingly say, you know, white center where, you know, underrepresented underfunded, the only thing we're over is overlooked. Right. So yeah, we're, I'm, I'm very passionate, but I also see artists of color and Latinx artists borderless. Right? So if an artist is from South Park, is if an artist is from Buren, if an artist is from Lynnwood, right, you're still a part of my community. I want to create a space here in White Center because of access. And, but I want to make a space that's borderless that people feel seen wherever they're from.


Jake. There have been a lot of conversations and we have been in some of them together around racial equity, which normally, or tend to focus on housing, economics, education, that sort of thing. Where do you see culture and art fitting into the discussions around racial equity?


I can't separate my art from culture. It's me. I'm putting out on a canvas, a piece of me. I jokingly say, uh, my paintings are kind of like horcruxes if you're a Harry Potter nerd <laugh>, but a little piece of me is in every painting. Um, so you can't separate culture and identity and even historical trauma from my, one of my pieces, it might be sugar coated, um, with a humorous satirical look. But there's a deep story in everyone. When you feel unseen, when you feel underrepresented, where does that begin? And what can we do to change that there was a family, Mexican American family at Nepantla that came through. So it was the mom, the dad, the kids, and they brought the grandpa. Now, the grandpa looked like he was dragged there. He did not look like that was his choice of things to do that day.


The parents and the kids like immediately are in the gift shop. And they're looking around at prints and key chains and cool stuff, and I'm doing something else. And I kind of look back and I notice the grandpa looking at the art, and he's looking up at this, these paintings, and he's got this huge smile on his face. And I, it hit me. That's why Nepantla is here. He feels seen, this might be the first time that he's been in an art space or seen art that reflected him. That looked like him. That looked like someone in his family that told a story that was familiar to him. And it just, it was one of the best feelings I've had. And I just like, that's why.

Speaker 2 (29:54):

Jake Prendez, owner and co-director of Nepantla Gallery, which is located between White Center and West Seattle. But we're gonna say White Center where your heart is, and it's not that far from where we're sitting in Seattle, South Park Hall. Thank you so much for sharing your appreciate story with us. We're gonna take a short break and we'll be back talking with Angelina Villalobos.


Thank you so much, Jake. Thank you. Our music is courtesy of Big World Breaks, many thanks.


And this year we welcome our sponsor LANGSTON, cultivating Black brilliance from their home at Seattle's Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute in the historic Central District.


Welcome back to South Park Hall where we're recording this episode of doubleXposure. It's actually called liveXposure because it's in front of a live audience. And I'm Vivian Phillips,


I'm Marcie Sillman. And we are here with people, real human beings, which is not normally the case. Even if you don't know our guest’s name, you have probably seen Angelina Villalobos’ art. Angelina, who also goes by the moniker One Seven Nine (179) creates murals. And these murals are all over the place. There's a Climate Pledge Arena mural at Seattle Center. I first saw Angelina's work on the Link Light Rail SoDo track, where there are just some amazing murals. There's coffee shop murals. And if you travel to Alpina, Michigan, you're gonna find Angelina Villalobos’ art. Um, thank you so much for being with us today. We're so happy to have you here and we're recording it's audio, not video. And so for people who are not sure that they've seen your work, how would you describe it generally?


Uh, I think the newest description of my art that I've written is if you were to have a technicolor or dream of a Wolf, <laugh>, that's what you would see. So look at a Wolf, close your eyes, and then imagine it. And it will that's, that's what it will look like.


So color and, but also nature you're


Really, yeah, a lot. A lot of it looks like I remember, uh, watching the Wizard of Oz and at the beginning, it's all gray and then she opens the door and then there's the beautiful colors of Oz and that's or, yeah. And that's, that's how I would describe my artwork is opening up that door from gray to vibrancy.


I love that.


So, so much of what you explore through your art is your heritage. And I'm curious, have you always been artistic and always found this as an outlet to really explore your own cultural heritage?


Yes. I think that I can't remember much of my childhood because of life and I'm getting older <laugh> and it's being replaced with other things, but the things that I can remember all have to do with art, and I think my earliest memories are really related to when I would do art. Um, I have a little sister, Claudia. Um, I was born in ‘82, she's ‘84 and she's another, um, entity in my life that I don't remember before her. I don't have a lot of like, it's always been her and that's the same with art. It's always been art. And she specifically, um, introduced me to art. You know, when you have a sister so close, you guys are best friends. Um, I come into our bedroom that we shared and she's scribbling on the walls with crayon and <laugh>, I'm like, what are you doing? And she's like, I'm coloring. And so we do it together and obviously we get caught and my mom's super angry and Claudia bounces back. She super resilient. She just, you know, bounded away and went on to do sports. And I kept that crayon in my hand and just graduated to different forms. But since then, it's, it's always been art.


So even though you were drawing on the walls in your home, <laugh>, which I can't imagine was encouraged, but were you encouraged by your parents and elders to expres your creativity.


Yeah. And I think that's one of the reasons why I feel like I'm so successful, but I also feel such a tie back to the community because all through my life, I feel like even when I was making the wrong choices and I don't like to stick to like absolutes, like the wrong choice, mm-hmm, <affirmative>, it's a, a different choice, but obviously making like problematic choices for the direction of my life. I had adults that would step in and go, you know, would be a good idea is if you turned that into art. And so that was something that immediately people were able to connect with me. And so it makes me wanna boomerang it back to them and just say, Hey, look what I did with that tiny bit of information or that tiny bit of support you did. I was able to grow this.


So it's always been a part of your personality and your character. I love that.


Yeah. I know that you studied graphic art in school. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, but you’re best known for what I think of as kind of the opposite of a small graphic art project, you work on mural. I mean, graphic art as in public, but murals are public really public. And I'm curious, what are the challenges and what are the rewards for working in that venue?


The biggest challenges, a size, like I'm a small person. I'm not even five foot. I have to look at a problem and think creatively of how I'm gonna solve it. And I have to organize my thoughts and I have to take time and, um, care to nurture how I'm gonna approach something. I think that's my biggest challenge. It's not, if I'm gonna do it, how am I gonna do it? And I think early on when I was younger, I had a really wonderful, problematic and supportive mother who, um, would always just tell me and sounds so cheesy saying it, but she would say, you can do it if you believe. And those like really small, that small sentiment, like, like a football, I took it all the way to the goal.


So <laugh>, I love that. I love that image. Yeah. So what is the reward when you finally finish one of these big murals?


It's challenging now. And I think that we're, um, having this veil, um, taking over our eyes, um, where we struggle with our self-worth and productivity. And so that question is a really loaded question for me, because I'm always like, what am I doing next? And so, I never really stopped to take a look at what I'm actually doing and celebrating my successes because I'm so focused on what's happening next. Wow. Yeah. So, and that's because we are ingrained in hustle culture and entrepreneurship, and being able to have these successes and add it to our CV’s and our resumes where we're not actually breathing in the success that we have and looking back. And when I periodically do that, I'm like, okay, that's like, I'm really proud of myself because look at where I came from and look at where I'm now, but still like, you gotta keep, you gotta go. So like don't linger there too long. And so that's one of the things COVID is I feel like teaching us to pause, do, do the square, breathing, breathe, and really find joy in that success and sit with it.


So can you now find a little joy in your life?


Yeah. Now I'm definitely, um, taking time to between projects and not having to feel like I'm playing Frogger with them, like, okay. Onto the next one onto the next one, like purposely saying, okay, this week I'm working this week, I'm not. And I feel like because I'm privileged to now be self-employed and to make the jump to doing art full time. I now need to make sure that I'm taking care of the duality of who I am. So this week is for Angelina Villalobos. We're gonna go to the beach, we're gonna walk the dogs. We're gonna take our time. But 179, when she's on, like we're working.


I love that. We should say what, who 179 is before we continue? What, what is that? That's your, your AKA 179? What is that?


Right. So when I first started doing art, it was the crayon work I was doing my early period. <laugh> was


The wall work?


Yeah. The wall work was, um, like unicorns, ballerinas, just things that were, you know, little girls paint. And then, um, I discovered comic books in fifth grade and in fourth grade, um, I grew up with, um, with a brother, an older brother who was a menace and he would <laugh> he would make us play all like the weaker roles. Like if we were wrestling, he was like, oh yeah, you're the bad guy. And so, you know, I'd wanna be, I would wanna hang out with my brother, but I was still a girl. And so I'd get put on all these roles that were like really not fun. Like April O'Neal, all she did was get in trouble and kidnapped. And then all the boys got to be Ninja Turtles and do the fund rolls. And so not being able to participate physically, I was start, I started drawing the characters and then it developed into developing my own characters.


So I created this fantasy world as me, a superhero because I couldn't participate in action. And when I found comic books, it just like those two kind of things married together. And so when I got to high school, it was interesting because I was really nerdy and really awkward and just quiet. And so nobody knew what to do with me. Uh, I found hip hop and at that time, um, a bunch of my friends had transitioned into break dancing, but I was really like chubby and uncoordinated. And I still am very uncoordinated, but, um, I was drawn to the graffiti aspect of hip hop. And so the graffiti aspect there's anonymousness. So you don't have to show who you are. You can get a alter ego, like a superhero and develop a superpower, which would be your style. And then you could combine all the artistic influences you have. So my comic books were a shoe-in, but I also had the element of the Disney princesses that I grew up with and the anime that I was into. And in this subculture, you can combine all of those things and it would be socially acceptable. Um, and so that's what I did. So my alter ego was Angel 179.


Angel 179. Yeah. And so there's no, what's the significance of the number though? Does, does that have a relevance to you?


Uh, it has a relevance only because, um, the person that picked it out, um, was another young artist like myself. And he, I, I was just like, obviously I have to do Angel cuz it's short for Angelina. It's my, you know, family nickname, but I was, I wanted to sound like cool and sharp, hip hop. And so he just pulled these numbers out and I was like, yes, yes. And now that I'm like older and more established as an artist, um, he, he was like, you better tell, tell people I did that <laugh> so now I make it a point to be like, Mike did that. So


<laugh> Mike did that. Mike did that. Yeah. Well listen 179 <laugh> yeah. You are described as both an artist and an activist, and we know some of your activism, art that, that you've lent to, particularly the city of Seattle and probably other places speak to how culture, community and art making all kind of work together.


Um, so the, the, when I do, when I do youth workshops, you know, sometimes you're just a, an adult that's plopped into a classroom and they kind of tell you, oh, you're gonna do art with this person. And so they look at you really skeptically and they don't know like, uh, why you're there. And sometimes you don't know why you're there because they look at you and you're like, oooh, tough crowd. Um, but what I like to tell them is that the way that I look at myself is probably the way they feel about themselves is, I'm not a big person. I'm not a loud person. I'm not a strong person. And growing up, I had a lot of disenfranchisement, and that made me feel powerless. And the only thing that I feel secure of is my art form. And so if you have something in your life, your sports or writing, you should latch onto that.


And when you come here with me into this space, into this classroom, that we are gonna make sure we honor all of those things. And so, moving forward in my career, I make sure that if I feel passionate about something or I see injustice that I can use my art form to help advance that, to help like resolve it. And you know, we're talking, we talk about like equality and equity, and now we wanna start thinking about justice and how do we write those wrongs? And how can I use my art form to do that?


Do you have to make a conscious decision to have your art be a form of activism or is it kind of automatic?


I have to. It's automatic and that's problematic in a sense that I can't, I have to be really, um, mindful of keeping some for myself because I'm, I'm by nature a people pleaser. So, I will give, and I will give, but then at the end of the day, if I'm not careful, I won't have anything left for myself. So I need to make sure, and I feel a lot of artists are like that. That's what makes us successful artists, but we have to make sure that we hold onto a little bit of that because that's also what's feeding us.


Artists. I would, I feel okay saying this, Vivian. Artists are our favorite people.


Absolutely. Absolutely.


And, and we have talked a lot on this podcast about the role that artists and culture in general plays beyond a studio or a mural or a performance space. And so, I'm wondering what you think artists can bring to policy discussions about things like homelessness or transportation or, you know, economic development.


I think there's a level of empathy that artists hold because we feel so much, so much of that element is part of our absorption of the world around us. We're like sponges, you know, we see something, we absorb it, we hear something, we smell something. And then it sits with us. We translate it through our artistic lens. And then we push it back out into the universe, in whatever art form we have chosen for ourselves. And if you're not careful, a person can shut that empathy off and not be able to redistribute it through their own lens. And so it's important to have that part of your brain always active, which is why art is so important to education. Like young, you should have art as you grow up. So you can, it's like teaching that language, teaching that way to connect with yourself and to connect with others. But as we become adults, we get so hard. We become like marble. We're not able to absorb anything else and it's, uh, it it's problematic.


So it's the empathetic piece that it's the empathetic piece needs to be introduced into policy discussions. I just wanted to say, yeah, this is one of my favorite things to say, right. That's right.


It’s the difference between, um, having a textile created by a machine and have it being created by yes. By hand. Yes. Policy should be created by hand always.


Mm. I like that. Yeah, go ahead. <laugh> I, I think, I think that deserves,


That does


Really good acknowledgement. So Angelina you've lived and worked all over Seattle. What's your specific connection to South Park. And do you plan on doing and creating work here in sometime in the near future? Maybe?


Yeah. So I grew up on Beacon Hill. Um, we did, we, we did a short stint in Yakima. Um, our father was a farm worker and so he moved us out there and, you know, adult things were happening out there. So, we had to come move back. We ultimately ended up living with our grandparents who are very, uh, Tex-Mex Depression-era. We grew up really like don't make waves, proximity to whiteness is like, we don't speak Spanish in public. We just, if we leave well enough alone, they'll leave us alone. And so I just kind of kept with that until I started making choices that were <laugh>. But, and that was me starting to question, well, I don't wanna do that. I don't wanna not make waves. I am seeing injustice. I would like to say something. And I think a lot of that came from my mom who had a hard time with the Mexican Catholic upbringing. So that's, we had talked about that earlier.


We, we talked that about that before we started recording. I mean, you have used your platform as an artist to explore who you are. Mm-hmm, <affirmative> not just as a Latina, but also as, as a Catholic mm-hmm <affirmative> and as a woman, right. I mean, you were talking a little bit earlier about, um, having to create 179 to this kind of, you know, alter ego superpower. So I'm curious, uh, where you are in that journey of sort of reconciling those identities and how art has helped you do that.


It's definitely helped me process early on. I would write a lot. And so I wrote these, the I, I, well, at first I did these illustrations and it was just me kind of using illustrations as a journal. And it's like, they were takes of the Madonna. So the Virgin Mary, sometimes she would be holding a baby. Sometimes it would just be her or other times it'll be her as a little girl, um, or her as an adult woman. And so I was doing all these drawings and then somebody asked me about them and it was the first time anybody asked me about my art. And so, it just kind of like, it all came out and they were like, you should write that and you don't have to tell me twice. Like if I hear a good idea, boom, I'm gonna go for it. And I think that's also, what's led to me being so, um, versatile and successful is I don't pretend like I know what I'm doing very often. If we're interacting and we're doing something, if I make a mistake or if I feel unsure, I, I say it's my first day. I don't know. And youth often call me. It's not, I'm like, yeah, but you know what? Every, day's a new day. So it's, it is my first day. Cut me some slack.


Before we go on. I do wanna come back to, uh, cuz I wanna, I wanna learn what are your intentions for your relationship with South Park?


Oh yeah. Yeah. Okay. Sorry. <laugh> circular conversations that you're going all over.


It's totally fine.


Um, so since I grew up I'm Beacon Hill as Seattle residents, we've seen the immense change. That's happened over a long period of time and a short period of time. And I'm not gonna comment on exactly how I feel about that, but it's no longer the Beacon Hill that I grew up with. Uh, so I look for it in other parts of Seattle, you know, look for home in the faces that you see and you encounter and the places that remind me of those areas and that also remind me of Yakima and Grainger. But also I look at, for home in other people, is South Park, White Center, Burien, and those are, that's the trifecta, the, the places that I wanna see succeed the most. And it's not because they're my favorites cuz they are, but it's because


I see so much potential and so much love in each one of these communities and they can and will cross over and talk. And I, I wanna be a part of there. I, I wanna be in the room. I just saw Hamilton. I wanna be in,


The room where it happened. Yes. Well, you know, you're talking about being in these communities where you feel at home and obviously when you're at home, you have other generations, right? Mm-hmm <affirmative> around you to impact, how do you use the knowledge that you've gained to guide the next generation? And why is that the kind of work that's important for you?


I've had so many experiences with adults as I was growing up. I went through Seattle Public Schools and I've had really wonderful experiences with teachers and really negative experiences with teachers. And so, I was always mindful about how, what the adults, how the adults interact with you, how they can affect your life and what level of trauma they can give you without even knowing that they're doing that to you. And so I try to be really mindful that if I do make a mistake, I apologize and I explain, or if I have to teach something, that's something unfamiliar to them that I explain. And we go through all the steps together. If we encounter a problem that we didn't anticipate that we work through it together, that it's not me just telling them what to do. And the major thing that I've learned, um, and a youth taught me. This is the whole world is gonna tell you “no” all the time. So the last person you need to be telling yourself, no is yourself. So if I can make sure that I let them trust themselves, then we will be immensely more successful because we're coming from genuine problem solving and wanting each other to do the best.


That's good advice for all of us, not just you. Absolutely Angelina via Lobos, AKA Angel 179. Thank you so much for joining us for this special edition of liveXposure. DoubleXposure recorded in front of our audience here at south park hall.


This has been so much fun and we have to give many thanks to Coté Soerens for helping us be here in this very beautiful space to our audio engineer, Tariq Iman Sahali, and to everyone at South Park Hall, all of the community of South Park, we feel so embraced. And so, so warmly welcome. So thank you so very, very much for hosting us and that's wrap that's a wrap. Thank you.


DoubleXposure Executive producers are me, Marcie Sillman.


And me Vivian Phillips. We get production support from Hilary Northcraft, Randy Engstrom and Calandra Childers.


Support for doubleXposure comes from Pyramid Communications


And we're especially proud to support Crosscut Media’s Black Arts Legacies Project highlighting the role of black artists and arts organizations throughout our cultural landscape.


If you like what you're hearing on this episode of double exposure, be sure to follow us on your favorite podcast app and check out our website,

LiveXposure South Park
Download PDF • 168KB


DoubleXposure Podcast owns the copyright in and to all content in and transcripts of doubleXposure podcasts, with all rights reserved, including right of publicity.

What You Can Share:

You are welcome to share an excerpt from the episode transcript (up to 500 words but not more) in media articles, in a non-commercial article or blog post, and/or on a personal social media account for non-commercial purposes, provided that you include proper attribution and link back to the podcast URL. For the sake of clarity, media outlets with advertising models are permitted to use excerpts from the transcript per the above.

What You Cannot:

No one is authorized to copy any portion of the podcast content, images or likeness for any commercial purpose or use, including without limitation inclusion in any books, e-books, book summaries or synopses, or on a commercial website or social media site (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) that offers or promotes your or another’s products or services. If you would like permission to use our logo or an image of the hosts, please contact us.


bottom of page