A sense of community through unity: a conversation with graphic designer Angie Quintanilla Coates, featured in the latest issue of EQUALITY

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Let’s start by connecting to who you are as an individual. Can you tell me a bit about yourself as a person and how that helps lay the groundwork for who you are as an artist, creator and advocate?

Being a lawyer is one of my core values. Creativity is a service. I believe we are here on earth to find our purpose, and it is our purpose for all of us to help each other, authentically. I like what I learned through art. What motivates me is empathy for other human beings. If I can do a favor in any way to leave things better than I found them, then that’s fine. I meet so many nice people through my work. Everything we give comes back to us. I feel very privileged to do this.

For me, subconsciously, I have always been empathetic towards others. I have always felt a connection with others, even if they are strangers. Before, I considered it a weakness, but I learned that it was a strength. The pandemic has also helped me to see my art as an expression of solidarity, like saying, “You are not alone”. A huge change for me was when Trump was elected. It was a reality check. It helped me wake up and realize that no one is going to change things for us. We have to change them ourselves. We must all participate in changing the world. In 2016, everything was on deck.

You were born in Monterrey, Mexico, and now live in Vancouver, Canada. How has living distinct, individual lifestyles and in different social and political climates contributed to the way you look at the world and create art?

I grew up in a country where you can’t trust the government, you can’t trust authority. People have found a way to be resilient and joyful. We are privileged to be like this. Many people have experienced this. Coming from Mexico helps me realize my privilege; such as health care. It gives me perspective. I like mixing cultures. I love Canada so much. It allowed me to celebrate my culture and my differences here in another country.

Quintanilla Coates’ work raises awareness of pressing social issues in a way that emphasizes the resilience and hope of the human race. Much of his work highlights LGBTQ+ identities through an advocacy lens, demonstrating his support for LGBTQ+ people, especially trans and non-binary people. Similarly, Quintanilla Coates also addresses issues affecting the vast Latinx community by bringing attention to these issues through elaborate and dynamic graphics, drawing on the visual aesthetics and iconography of the culture.

Within a global artistic community, how does being a Latinx artist help you create not only your work of art, but also your identity as an artist?

Many people from different cultures have access to my art through social networks. I met people from all over the world and it got me thinking about how my art would translate to other cultures. Would the message be universal? I think no matter what culture we are part of, our basic humanity is universal. We realize that we are so similar through art. I don’t worry so much about impersonating Latinx anymore. The core messages of empathy, equality and justice, love, these translate to every human being, wherever they come from.

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