Meet Judy Avitia-Gonzalez and Jake Prendez, the owners of Nepantla Cultural Arts Gallery in White Center. Judy and Jake wanted to create an accessible space in Seattle that was a hub for Latinx and Chicanx artists, so they opened their gallery and gift shop in 2019. Jake was a part of the East LA Chicano art scene, surrounded by artists who inspired him and helping host art shows and events that showcased their community. Judy has had a life-long admiration and appreciation for art that she instilled in her children as well.
Get to know more about Nepantla and Judy and Jake in this week’s Business Spotlight Q&A.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What’s something your customers may not know about you or your business?
Jake: Well, we just got engaged! I don’t think anyone knows that yet. I think for me, I’m more of an open book, so I think more people know more about me as an artist.
Judy: I think one thing people sometimes don’t know is I’m full Mexican — Spanish is my first language.
Why did you start Nepantla Cultural Arts Gallery?
Jake: I was doing a bunch of art shows and events in LA and really was immersed in the East LA, Chicano art scene. I tell people that being in that scene must have been what the Harlem Renaissance felt like. […] There was always this really great energy in that scene. […] Creating Nepantla was trying to recapture that [in Seattle] because we have the community, we have the people, we have the talent, we just needed a hub, a center, to bring it all together. It’s art exhibitions, it’s a gift shop where we can highlight other artists, it’s a space where we can do cultural events. It’s always been about creating an accessible art space for our community.
Judy: I’ve always been an art lover. I admire art. I’m not an artist myself — my children are artists, so I was just trying to engage them and expose them to these pop-up mercados and just places where they could take part in art at workshops and community events. So when Jake was looking for a place to open to Nepantla, me being a resident of White Center and raising my children here, I knew that the community and the diversity was here. […] Our youth need an outlet just like this. There’s a lot of new places in White Center, not any art places that was creating things that Nepantla is doing.
What’s your favorite part about the community your business is in and why?
Judy: For me, it’s because White Center hasn’t changed since I first moved here from Los Angeles. There is just this diverse community of mom-and-pop shops and families. You have pho in one corner and tacos and elote on the other, and it’s just a real sense of community but we’re small and it’s not gentrified yet. White Center people are so proud of their “Rat City” like it’s called. […] It’s still very original, so I hope that it stays that way.
Jake: For me, when I first moved here, I moved to Shoreline and I just had a culture [shock]. When I started dating Judy and coming out to White Center, it was kind of like, “Ok, now this feels familiar. This feels like home.” I can get my mangos con chile right here, go down the street to South Park and get really good pan dulce. [White Center] is a community that has a lot of Mexicanos and other Latinos. It [has] a large immigrant population, it’s diverse — there were just so many things I loved about this community.