Ten years ago, West Seattle’s Jake Prendez fantasized of opening a cultural space devoted to the arts. Come this Saturday, February 2nd, his dream will become a reality.
Prendez, along with his life and business partner, Judy Avitia-Gonzalez, will celebrate the grand opening of Nepantla Cultural Arts Gallery, a multi-use space in White Center, that will host art exhibitions and workshops, house a gift shop for artists and artisans, and offer an events space for spoken word, music, and arts related lectures.
“Seattle has cultural spaces, but there was nothing devoted to the Latinx* community in the arts like this,” Prendez, Owner and Co-director of the new gallery writes. “It is time that Seattle had a permanent arts and cultural space focused on marginalized communities.”
To call, Prendez, a Chicano artist, scholar, and public speaker, “woke”, is an understatement.
A Southern California native who was raised in Bothell, just north of Seattle, he earned his Master of Arts degree in Chicana/o Studies from California State University, Northridge after completing his Bachelor of Arts degree in American Ethnic Studies from the University of Washington. The combination of his scholastic knowledge with his 15 years of living and successfully working in the art scene in Los Angeles before returning to Seattle three years ago, Prendez’s colorful portraitures incorporating indigenous influence and social realism are undeniably saturated with current themes relating to Chicana/o culture, activism, social justice, pop culture, and satire. For instance, take Prendez’s oil on canvas painting entitled “A Little Prayer for Those Who Migrate”.
In this piece, the painter depicts a young girl whose braided brown hair adorned with pick roses wraps around her crown to simulate a halo, like how many women in Mexico and Central America wear their hair, while two hummingbirds flank her head, much like cherubs would in fine art. A healthy pair of Monarch butterfly wings proudly protrude from the child’s back propelling her dreams and strength for the terribly long journey, a wink to the two-way migration these insects make throughout North America. Her innocent brown eyes look up towards the heavens hopeful and yet with caution as she clasps her prayer hands in front of her multi-colored huipil, a vibrant embroidered blouse often worn by indigenous women in Mexico and Central America. At the center of this image is the girl’s face, half of which portrays life and the other, death, shown in this portion painted like a skeleton, a common practice to those celebrating Day of the Dead in the United States and Latin America. Undoubtedly, Prendez takes on the current hot topic of immigration into the United States head on.
Each month, visitors of Nepantla Cultural Arts Gallery can expect to see new exhibitions focused on marginalized communities. Up next, “Love Without Borders”, with 16 artists exhibiting various forms of artwork in the form of paintings and photography.
“We felt Love Without Borders fit a February/Valentines feel and was still open enough to interpretation of the artists,” Prendez explains. “To some it’s about immigration, to others it could be about racism or homophobia.”
Avitia-Gonzalez, Co-Director, adds that both the gallery and the grand opening event will be family friendly because “our family will always be present”. Prendez and Avitia-Gonzalez share a blended family consisting of two adult children and three school-aged children plus a cat to boot.
“We will grow together with the shop,” Avitia-Gonzalez affirms.
An East Los Angeles native, Avitia-Gonzalez has called the Seattle area home since the early 90s, which is why she is committed to giving back to her community.
“That’s why we kept [the gallery] local.” She goes on to say, “With our success, comes great responsibility to give back.”
And give back they are.
Together, the couple launched a GoFundMe campaign on January 26th to help the Gonzalez Family (no relation to Avitia-Gonzalez) after tragedy struck just before Christmas when a bullet entered their car’s front windshield, striking then 13- year-old Andy in the head when they were riding down State Road 509 near the First Avenue South Bridge. He turned 14 years of age just three days later while in the hospital and has been left blind. This event is one of eleven random shootings in that same area since June 2018 prompting law enforcement officials to call on the public to offer them any tips on these incidents.
In addition to launching the online fundraising campaign, the Nepantla Cultural Arts Gallery will be donating 20% of its Grand Opening Pachanga sales to Andy and his family to help with all costs attributed to their misfortune.
Nonetheless, Prendez promises, “Expect a very positive atmosphere of friends, family and community sharing space and breaking bread” at the grand opening this Saturday. I for one will not miss it.
*A gender-neutral alternative to “Latino” or “Latina” referring to someone of Latin American descent
Location & Hours
The Nepantla Cultural Arts Gallery
Grand Opening Pachanga, Saturday, February 2nd, 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Store Hours: Wednesday-Sunday 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Address: 9414 Delridge Way SW Seattle WA 98106
You can find and follow Nepantla Cultural Arts Gallery at:
ABOUT ERIKA ALMANZA BROWN
Erika Almanza Brown is an experienced educator, freelance writer, and amateur photographer who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Grinnell College and a Masters of Arts in Teaching from American University. A Texas native, Erika, has called Seattle “home” for eight years by way of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Her articles have appeared in Seattle magazine, Seattleite.com, and Seattle’s Child magazine. When she is not writing, Erika serves as Co-President for the La Isla Foundation Board of Directors, a Seattle nonprofit organization offering hurricane relief to those in Puerto Rico, enjoys traveling, exploring new beaches, and hosting gatherings with her husband and young daughter. Follow her @AlmanzaBrown on Instagram as she attempts to maintain her street cred all the while parenting alongside her husband in the PNW.