by Patheresa Wells
YOLTEOTL Press, an Indigenous printmaking and traditional arts studio, will open in Ballard in early September. The press is the brainchild of Ixtlixochitl Salinas-White Hawk, an Indigenous artist, community advocate, and matriarch. Located in BallardWorks at 2856 NW Market Street, the press will be a space not only to showcase and create Indigenous art, but also a place to share culture across generations.
Salinas-White Hawk comes from a lineage of Indigenous artists. Her father is a muralist who trained in Mexico City during the era of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Yet despite having art in her home, she said that growing up here in Seattle, she could not find people like herself. She could not find a place to nurture or connect to art outside her home. Salinas-White Hawk said this lack of representation caused her to lose herself, leading her to drop out of high school. So when she had children of her own, she told them she would open an art studio.
“I always look at my children and I look at other people’s kids. I look at people that need a place to create, that healing, that need that family. Especially as Native artists everything that we create, it really is art,” she said.
The press will be a place for traditional art and printmaking but also a place where ancestral knowledge meets contemporary styles. The name of the press was very intentional. For her people, the Mexika Tenochca, different types of artists have various spiritual responsibilities and the word YOLTEOTL for visual artists. She said, “YOLTEOTL is the expression of [the] creator [that] lives in my heart.”
And Salinas-White Hawk believes that that expression of a creator that lives in the heart is something that belongs to everyone. Her dream of opening a space where an artist’s creative mind can be nurtured stems from her belief that “art itself is in everyday lives.”
As an Indigenous woman, she considers herself a matriarch, which she said comes with responsibilities some might consider activism. But for her, the word matriarch is more appropriate than activist because her “roots are much older than the word itself.” The responsibilities she has to the community are present in her art, her traditional medicine work, and her desire to have a place where people can gather.
“I want to be able to have workshops, I want to be able to make all these things available for the community, especially for Indigenous, Black, and POC youth,” she said. Even the studio’s location in Ballard is crucial to her because she said that while Indigenous people are everywhere, they are often invisible. She said they are erased from history books, mainstream media, and data, despite being the people of the land. “And so one of the efforts that I have been working on with so many other Native folks in the city is being able to be present in many spaces.”
The vision of YOLTEOTL Press, according to Salinas-White Hawk, is a place where Native people can have their voices heard. Where her Native relatives can know there is a home for them, a community space where they can take care of each other. She wants to extend an invitation to participate in the vision.
The matriarch has planted seeds to be able to nurture others in the way she needed as a young artist. She hopes others will join her to provide resources, connect, and help build the space. When Salinas-White Hawk passes down the knowledge of her art to her children, she said it is a nurturing of a generational, inherited, and cultural seed. A seed present in all of us. That creativity where life becomes art.
YOLTEOTL Press is about capturing that transition from life to art. For Salinas-White Hawk, “It’s capturing emotion, and it’s capturing the perception and the life of an Indigenous woman in Seattle, in an urban city, in Ballard of all places.”
YOLTEOTL Press will open in early September. Follow their Instagram for more details about the grand opening.
Patheresa Wells is a Queer poet, writer, and storyteller who lives in SeaTac, Washington. Born to a Black mother and Persian father, her experiences as a multicultural child shaped her desire to advocate for and amplify her community. She is currently pursuing a B.A. in creative writing. Follow her on Twitter @PatheresaWells.
📸 Featured Image: “We Lift Each Other Up,” print by Ixtlixochitl Salinas-White Hawk. Relief, Linoleum print on Amatl (tree bark) paper.
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