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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Gatieh Nacario thrives in the local arts through painting and acting

Growing up in the Philippines in the province of Cebu, Gatieh Nacario couldn’t remember a time in his life without art. His earliest memories, whether of spending time with family at home or with friends on the playground, are filled with creating.

“My friends always asked me to draw things at recess,” Nacario, 48, said. “And my siblings encouraged me … told me I had talent.”

Art was Nacario’s passion, but the expense of pursuing a fine arts degree in the Philippines pushed him toward education – and eventually arts education.

He spent time teaching children’s art classes before being promoted to school administration. While it was rewarding, the amount of focus he needed to give this new position meant less time for creative endeavors.

But that all changed in 2019 when he left administration behind and moved to Spokane to be with his partner, William Geelan. The two wed the same year.

Happily married and thriving in his new day job – finding work for individuals with disabilities through a company called AtWork! – Nacario found space in his life for art again.

“I got here, I had all this time,” he said. “And then of course there was the pandemic, and I said, ‘You know, I think it’s about time to go back to my drawing table.’ ”

After that, it was all a question of finding his way into the local art community.

Walking through the Garland District one day, Nacario and Geelan stumbled across the Art Alley. Nacario had previous experience designing and creating murals and was moved to reach out about adding a piece of his own work to the alley.

Once in contact with Garland District president Julie Shepard-Hall, Nacario volunteered his time and secured funding for supplies.

Since finishing his Garland District Art Alley mural, “Butterfly Garden,” Nacario has completed two murals for M.A.D. Collab Studio and many smaller-scale, acrylic-on-canvas artworks. His style, always vibrantly colored, ranges from illustrative works highlighting Filipino culture to more abstract pieces.

In an effort to repair the foundation of Nacario’s ancestral home in Cebu that was damaged after Super Typhoon Rai hit the Philippines on Dec. 16, M.A.D. Collab Studio will host a fundraising event Saturday. The fundraiser will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the studio, 3038 E. Trent Ave. The goal is $1,000.

To support the effort, attendees can buy selections of Nacario’s art on display, try the “Gatieh have it” drink offered by Celestial Beans – located in the M.A.D. Collab Studio building – or make a donation. All attendees who donate in any way will receive a digital copy of Nacario’s recent work, “Devastation,” which is inspired by the aftermath of Super Typhoon Rai.

Since starting to branch out into the local art community, Nacario has worked often with M.A.D. Collab Studio and is now a member of the River Ridge Association of Fine Arts. In addition to his work in visual art, Nacario is involved in local theater and will appear as the apostle James in Stage Left Theater’s production of “Corpus Christi,” running Friday through Jan. 30. For more information, visit

“Besides being one of the most talented artists I’ve met, he is just a very kind man with a big heart,” River Ridge Association of Fine Arts president Denny Carman said.

Carman recalled how when he was trying to find artists to lead virtual art demonstrations for students at Westview Elementary last year, Nacario was one of the first artists to sign up.

“He loves helping the children around our community,” Carman said. “The kids loved him, and I hope to have him as part of future events. … I’m very thankful to have him as a big part of our art community.”

In September, after just two years together, Nacario’s husband passed away suddenly from a heart condition at age 58. But the community Nacario has found, along with his sister’s family and the art he continues to create, has helped him stay positive and inspired.

To aspiring artists, whether art is a full-time pursuit or a hobby, Nacario offered the following advice:

“Don’t be pressured by external standards. Think of how you can be unique, how you can be different, find your niche. If you have an area of weakness, figure out how to turn it into a strength. Work around that, and create your own brand.”