Artist Maite Nazario debuts Beltline murals on queer love, HIV

At just 19 years old, Maite Nazario has already made her mark on Atlanta’s art scene by celebrating queer and trans people of color.

The queer, gender nonconforming artist was one of five LGBTQ artists chosen to collaborate on a mural for Living Walls’ “Start Talking, Stop HIV” campaign. The piece on the Beltline’s Westside Trail at Cascade Road and White Street was unveiled in August.

Nazario debuted a mural featuring two friends who are in a polyamorous relationship in September. The mural (photos) behind Mason Fine Art on the Beltline’s Northeast Trail is part of the #OurLove series about queer couples in Atlanta.

To top off her big summer, Nazario was among artists chosen to have their work hang outside Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ office in City Hall for an LGBTQ art exhibition.

Q caught up with Nazario to talk diversifying Atlanta’s arts scene, why the #OurLove mural is her favorite piece and her upcoming collaboration with a local brewery.

What inspires your work?

My community and the stories of others. I can truly say that what keeps motivating me and pushing me to make good art is the people around me and how inspiring they are. I make art about my Latinx and LGBTQ communities because I want to bring awareness and visibility to us and tell our stories because they aren’t told in popular media. 

My art has been my way of using my voice to uplift and bring awareness to the people I love and try to create the change I want to see. I hope that my work is able to make people feel like they are seen and recognized and that our existence is also meant to be documented in art.

What’s the biggest challenge you run into when creating?

Wanting to make sure that I am representing my community correctly. I always want to make sure that I am doing the best I can when telling our stories and making sure people feel seen and represented. 

I am very proud of who I am and the communities I belong to, and I always want to make sure that when my work is up on the Beltline or a gallery that my people feel seen and proud.

What’s the state of Atlanta’s art scene right now? 

I would say that the Atlanta art scene is thriving and up and coming. It is always growing and I’m seeing more and more talented artists every day. I’m happy that Atlanta has become such a home for the arts. 

The scene needs improvement in diversity and representation. Most of the successful artists are men, and cishet men at that. I hope to see more queer people and women being highlighted in Atlanta arts scene.

Do you have a favorite piece of yours?

My favorite piece right now would have to be my new #OurLove mural on the Beltline. I am so proud of that piece because it took so much effort and dedication to be able to make it happen. It is a mural that is focused on QTPOC and it tells the story of Kenie and Dionne unapologetically. 

That mural means the world to me, because if a 19-year-old, Latinx, immigrant, queer artist can put something that bold on the Beltline, anything can happen. Eternally grateful for all the support that piece has received from my community, so happy that the entirety of Atlanta can witness our community thrive.

What advice would you give to aspiring artists?

Something I would say to anyone trying to become an artist is work hard. Work like you believe in your art. No one is going to believe in your work unless you believe in it first, so prove to yourself how much you want to create meaningful work and everything else will follow. 

It took me three years to be able to get a wall to create what I wanted to, but I made it happen. Everything comes if you work for it. Believe in yourself, put in the work and the rest will follow.

What’s next for you?

I am working on a collaboration with Second Self beer and my abuela’s food to create a new design for a beer that will be representing Puerto Rico. “El Velorio” will be released October 12, and I couldn’t be more excited for people to see what we’ve come up with. 

I also want to continue creating murals that are in the series of #OurLove, or that overall are able to tell stories about queer people of color. I feel so grateful for the opportunity of being able to showcase my art and bring awareness to the beauty of my communities. I am beyond proud to be a queer Latinx artist creating art for my community.

Photo by Russ Bowen-Youngblood

This interview originally appeared in Q Magazine. Read the full issue online below:

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