Western WA Latine artist brightens up neighborhoods with over 2 dozen vibrant murals

Rosemary Montalvo, The News Tribune


Various tones of blue, green, purple, yellow, and orange acrylic paint fill red solo cups and plastic sauce cups, organized in a color-coded system.

Muralist Angelina Villalobos created this color-coded system to help her make a cohesive color palette with transitional colors for every mural she works on. Villalobos, also known by her artist name onesevennine, is a 41-year-old Mexican-American muralist, painter, illustrator and educator from Seattle.

Villalobos has been creating large, colorful murals for almost 15 years, and a lot of her work can be found in Seattle. Villalobos invited The News Tribune to sit in and interview her as she worked on her latest mural at the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 367 in Tacoma on September 28, 2023..

A History With Art

As a little girl, Villalobos enjoyed drawing, but mostly stuck to drawing unicorns and rainbows, because that’s “what girls were supposed to draw,” she said in a recent interview. She discovered comic books soon after and was inspired to draw the superheroes since she was never allowed to role-play as a superhero.

“When I would try to play with everyone and do those role-playing games, I couldn’t be any of the fun people. When we were little playing Ninja Turtles, I couldn’t be a Ninja Turtle and had to be April O’Neil, so I had to draw, and that would be my way of being able to be them. I would just draw them, and as I’m drawing, my head just kind of goes into this fantasy,” Villalobos said.

Once Villalobos was in middle school, she discovered hip-hop and graffiti, and that discovery led to an epiphany that would widen the scope of her art.

She had discovered a space where she felt like she belonged for once.

“I found other people that were also black sheep in their communities and their backgrounds, and that didn’t subscribe to the stereotypes that they were supposed to be,” Villalobos said.

Struggling With Self-Identity

Villalobos has struggled with her self-identity for most of her life because of her upbringing. Although her dad was from Mexico and her mom was Mexican-American, Villalobos did not grow up feeling connected to her Mexican heritage because her grandparents forced her and her siblings to assimilate to American culture while under their care.

“We grew up with this weird generation gap of this family from the Depression era from Texas, and so they were like, ‘we need to make sure that you guys assimilate into American culture, so since we didn’t teach our kids Spanish, we won’t teach you guys Spanish. We want you guys just to be Americanized’,” Villalobos said.

Not knowing Spanish and growing up in a predominantly Asian and Pacific Islander neighborhood made it difficult for Villalobos to find a space where she belonged. She says that, as a result, she always felt like the odd person out.

Villalobos only just recently connected with her Mexican heritage, but in doing so, realized that she had always been creating art that is associated with Mexican-American muralism. Mexican muralism began in the 1920s in Mexico, but the Chicano Mural movement began in the 1960s when artists began using the walls of buildings to depict Mexican-American culture.

Villalobos also struggled with self-doubt and low confidence because the graffiti industry is male-dominated and lacks representation of Mexican-American women muralists.

“For some reason, I didn’t think that I belonged to that world, even though I do,” Villalobos said. “What I am doing is community work and community activism and representing things that I feel passionate about, but for some reason my brain was like, oh, that’s over there and I’m over here and these things are two different things.”

Creating Art For The People

Meaningful community impact is always at the forefront of Villalobos’ mind when she creates a mural and when she helps educate artists in her own community.

Villalobos attributes her success as an artist to the supportive art community that she came from.

“Because I grew up in Seattle, I went through so many organizations that helped me when I was younger, so when I came into my own, I would always go back and reciprocate,” Villalobos said. “Somebody said ‘when you root yourself in community, the community will have your back’.”

Villalobos has painted private murals for Meta (formerly Facebook) and for Microsoft. Each mural that she has made for private companies has been paired with community murals for the community to enjoy.

“Good art should be accessible to everybody,” Villalobos said.

Murals In Pierce County
Photo by Rosemary Montalvo/The News Tribune

Villalobos is currently working on a private mural for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 367 in Tacoma. She collaborated with the UFCW 367 president, Michael Hines, to create a mural that is a combination of the union’s logo and Villalobos’ colorful style. It will feature portraits of four local union members that work at Macy’s, Safeway and Fred Meyer.

She told the News Tribune that this mural is important to her because she understands the important role that unions play in workers’ daily lives.

Within her own family, Villalobos recalls her dad working as a field worker in Yakima because that was the only job he could obtain since he was undocumented. Villalobos said that she looks back on the days where she would visit her dad in the fields and thinks about how farm workers are getting paid close to nothing and are forced to live in poor conditions.

“When you go to the city and you try to live, pay rent, and take care of your family, the only sustainable jobs are those union jobs,” Villalobos said. “My husband’s a plumber and we worked really hard to get him into the Union and now, thankfully, he’s there. My cousin works for the electricians union, and he was able to buy a house and take care of his mom and I just think to myself, if we didn’t have these things, how would we live? How would we survive? How would our families be safe?”

Villalobos’ mural is located in one of the union’s office spaces that will be used to train members of the union. The mural is still in the process of being completed.


Villalobos spray-painted a mural at Fort Steilacoom Park in Lakewood in August. The mural was unveiled on September 10 during Mexam NW Festival’s Hispanic Heritage month celebrations at the park.

The vibrant mural has images of rabbits, deer, flowers and butterflies, and wraps around the entire restroom facility.

Photo Courtesy: onesevennine
Map Of Other Locations

Villalobos has painted 25 public murals throughout her career. The map below shows all of the locations to the murals.

Cover Photo by Rosemary Montalvo/The News Tribune

Publisher’s Notes: Latino Latino News (LNN) and The News Tribune are partners in best serving the public. Western WA Latine artist brightens up neighborhoods with over 2 dozen vibrant murals was originally published in The News Tribune, and was republished with permission.

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