Gabriel-Bello Lawrence-Diaz is the new executive director of Coyote Central, a non-profit art program for youth in Seattle. He was hired this summer after co-founder and former program director Marybeth Satterlee and executive director Claudia Stelle retired.
Coyote Central has two locations, at 2300 E. Cherry St. and 12325 Lake City Way N.E. Answers have been edited for grammar and clarity.
Q: Who is Gabriel-Bello Lawrence-Diaz?
A: I am a Puerto Rican (Boriken) education activist, community organizer and artist.
Q: Where did you grow up and go to school? And what brought you to Seattle?
A: Born in Hendon, London, England, moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, then to Camden, New Jersey, and finally to Pennsauken New Jersey, where I graduated high school.
Completed my undergraduate degree in Boston, Massachusetts, at Wentworth Institute of Technology for a Bachelor of Science with a minor in Art and Architecture and History. After moving to Europe, I went to the University of East London for a Masters in Architecture and Urbanism. Then (I) moved to Barcelona, Spain to go to the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC) for a second Masters in Advanced Architecture focused on robotic engineering.
What brought me to Seattle was to move back to America and be closer to my father who has lived in Washington since ’92. He sold me on the narrative of Seattle being a place I could flourish as an artist and entrepreneur within the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) world I was working in.
Q: Tell us about your favorite experience as an artist?
A: My current work in augmented reality is my favorite. Recently, I created a mural in South Lake Union in collaboration with Future Arts. More info on this project here: smashthebox.org/news/augment-reality-public-art-mural-in-seattle. This is my favorite because I was able to create a 3D model in virtual reality with (Tilt Brush) and export to edit for augmented reality. This was activated by a 30’ x 10’ mural I designed in Photoshop. This was very new but familiar as I have spent my career creating in the virtual 3D world but never this interactive.
After IAAC, where I learned coding for microelectronics, designing for laser cutting and modeling for 3D printing, I began infusing those techniques with traditional forms of art including sewing, painting and sculpting. I have explored many mediums of art in my lifetime and still have more I want to experiment with. Next is ceramics (2024). I have treated art as a meditative process and a way for me to get my thoughts out. A form of journaling.
Q: What attracted you to Coyote?
A: Being a multi-disciplinary artist and my experience teaching 6th grade through 12th grade STEAM classes, where my classroom was an exploration of tools and skills, Coyote spoke to my heart. Coyote embodies all I believe in when it comes to empowering youth through art education. I have such a vision on how Coyote can really grow over the next decade, and the foundation for this work is already there. Coyote has a beautiful history of supporting youth in Seattle, and I want to continue that legacy while expanding our support for youth and collaborating with other orgs to enhance our classroom experiences.
Q: What have you discovered since taking the lead?
A: Take it slow. As someone with a lot of ideas and motivation, I see so much that's possible, but there is a need to absorb for a bit longer as a new executive director. There's a lot to learn with any new leader in the nonprofit world whose organization is emerging out of COVID. This includes the need for outreach to communities we serve and see how they've survived and what they need.
Q: How does Coyote’s pay-what-you-can pricing work?
A: Pay-what-works-for-you is one of the aspects I love about Coyote and really shows our commitment to underserved communities. Families are able to pay what works for them, and every student receives the same quality classroom experience. It’s that simple. That's why we work hard to get community support to make sure this model can continue.
Q: Do you have a favorite class or work of Coyote art so far?
A: The music production class by Robb Clemente, hands down! It was an unforgettable experience in summer when I first began to witness these young artists creating industry professional work. I heard their final music piece at the Coyote showcase and couldn't stop thinking that they could be creating music for a whole film, theater production, music video, beat maker for other musicians or any other path in this field, if they wanted. Just impressed.
Q: Coyote’s co-founder Marybeth Satterlee and longtime executive director Claudia Stelle recently retired. What has it meant to step into their shoes?
A: Marybeth Satterlee, our co-founder and program director, is absolutely inspiring. The history of how Coyote became what it is today shows consistent dedication to youth exploring art in all its forms. Initiatives like Hit the Street, where students are able to showcase their work and talent in public, is something I’ve wanted to see for years and look forward to continuing to support these legacy projects. I really resonate with Marybeth’s path from educator to education leader and she has paved a beautiful path for me to continue this work. Former Executive Director Claudia Stelle is another powerhouse I really look up to. After 20 years she has steered Coyote into the success and expansion you see today. Her vision for Lake City is spot on, and I will be continuing that work to keep Coyote supporting our diverse communities.
Q: How do you see Coyote growing in the future?
A: Our first goal is to grow back to full capacity for both our Central and Lake City locations. North is still fairly new, which means a lot of more outreach to Lake City communities and building strong relationships with families in that area. Coyote was gifted with 3D printers and a laser cutter that we look forward to building out to offer more classes in STEAM and digital designing. We are looking at including new emerging artistic mediums like virtual reality, augmented reality and other cool mediums for our young artists to explore. I would love to get to a point where we have increased our presence in public schools and collaborate with other organizations to expand our offerings and the experience for our students.