A Sense of Community Through Togetherness: A Conversation With Graphic Artist Angie Quintanilla Coates, Featured In The Latest Issue of EQUALITY

by Jose Soto

Transnational and bicultural artists like Angie Quintanilla Coates are often presented with the challenge of creating artwork that, while appealing to a broad audience, remains true to their identity and culture, including political and social implications. Quintanilla Coates resides in Vancouver, Canada, but was born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico, a bustling metropolitan city that remains largely conversative. While her artwork isn’t meant to solely capture a Mexican culture aesthetic, it does address social justice and civil rights issues, like LGBTQ+ issues, and the societal limitations that often hinder social progress.

“The best parts of me are because I am Mexican,” Quintanilla Coates said. “Being an immigrant has greatly impacted my work. Having grown up in a country like Mexico, I've learned to appreciate my community and culture, and the optimism and resilience of people.”

Quintanilla Coates and the Human Rights Campaign established a creative partnership in late 2021. Her artwork is featured on the cover of the latest issue of EQUALITY magazine, the theme of which is community. Since Spring 2021, EQUALITY has been partnering with community artists to not only elevate their art, but to amplify their messaging, allowing for an artistic expression of intersectional issues.

A conversation with Quintanilla Coates brought up the work she put into creating the exclusive art used on EQUALITY and why LGBTQ+ equality is important to her work.

Let’s start off by connecting about who you are as an individual. Can you tell me a little about yourself as a person and how that helps build a foundation for who you are as an artist, a creator and an advocate?

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

For me, subconsciously, I’ve always been empathetic toward others. I’ve always felt a connection to other people, even if they’re strangers. I used to think of that as a weakness, but I’ve come to learn that it’s a strength. The pandemic has also helped to see my art as expressing solidarity, as in saying, “You’re 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 need to change them ourselves. We all have to take part in changing the world. In 2016, it was all hands on deck.

You were born in Monterrey, Mexico, and now live in Vancouver, Canada. How has living individual and distinct ways of life 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 that way. Many people have experienced that. Coming from Mexico helps me realize my privilege; such as healthcare. It provides me with perspective. I love combining cultures. I love Canada so much. It has allowed me to celebrate my culture and my differences here in another country.

Quintanilla Coates’ work brings awareness to pressing social issues in a way that prioritizes emphasizing the resilience and hopefulness of the human race. Much of her artwork spotlights LGBTQ+ identities through an advocacy lens, demonstrating her support for LGBTQ+ people, especially trans and non-binary folks. Similarly, Quintanilla Coates also addresses issues impacting the broad Latinx community by drawing attention to these issues through elaborate and vibrant graphics, leaning into the culture’s visual aesthetics and iconography.

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

Many people from different cultures have access to my art through social media. I have met people from all over the world, and that made me think about how my art would translate to other cultures. Would the message be universal? I think no matter what culture we are a part of, our basic humanity is universal. We realize that we are so similar through art. I don’t worry about coming off as Latinx that much anymore. The basic messages of empathy, equality and justice, love, those translate to every single human being, no matter where they are from.

How do you feel your art impacts or influences the broader movement toward equality and social justice and why do you feel it's important to use your creative energies for advocacy?

It's the right thing to do. I want to live accordingly. That is a huge part of what drives me. I hope it helps. I know representation matters, and what I do with my art in terms of creating representation for different communities, I hope it helps normalize things. I hope it helps start conversations with loved ones about issues like abortion and using correct pronouns and other important social issues.There’s power in numbers and I’m just one more person talking about things that are very important to talk about. I genuinely do believe that we should all know and do better, especially when you grow up with different or opposite information. It’s just shedding light about what we should all be talking about.

What inspires you to do the work you do in support of the LGBTQ+ community?

I love the community so much! I know what it’s like to not necessarily be accepted for who you fully are. We all deserve to be the most authentic version of ourselves and we have the right to feel accepted, respected and loved. Who we touch in our lives when we are being our most authentic selves is part of our legacy. If we prevent people from being their most authentic selves, we are all missing out. If people that we know are not allowed to live as who they truly are, then we aren’t supporting them enough. They’re not living the life they were born to live. If my community is thriving, then I am thriving. We are all connected. It’s a win-win.

How did you go about visually depicting the concept of community for the artwork featured in EQUALITY?

It was an experiment in terms of style. The shapes are very simple. If they’re separate on their own, they look OK. They’re decent, simple designs. But when the designs come together, the artwork takes on a different life. The design pieces look amazing together, it creates something bigger and better. I definitely see across so many communities. When we come together, better things happen than when we do things alone. I see that in progressive organizations such as HRC. The organization, composed of so many great people, has done so much for the LGBTQ+ community.

Follow Angie Quintanilla Coates on Instagram.