“We are an artist duo called The Color Dreamers. Our team consists of artists Amir Shakir and Ivette Cabrera. We have been self‐employed artists for over nine years exhibiting paintings in national museums and galleries with art commissions in both residential and commercial applications. Amir Shakir is a musician and conceptual artist recently awarded a certificate of appreciation from the Miami-Dade County Mayor and Board of County commissioners for valuable contributions to the community. Ivette Cabrera is a visual artist, interior designer, and art curator that organized a four year artist residency program named Viophilia. Viophilia was a sanctuary for artists and creative professionals of all disciplines and backgrounds. The residency program was designed to provide affordable housing and workspaces for artists looking to focus intensely on their craft. We have successfully completed over 20 large scale public art murals and over 100 drawings and paintings.”
How did you start making art?
Ivette: Interestingly enough, I didn’t have any support in the arts but I always liked it. I am a self taught artist. There are no creatives in my family, I’m the only one. I studied Marketing and Interior Architecture & Design. I was able to do full renovation projects and design a house for my mother in Nicaragua from the ground up. During my studies I experimented with portraits on paper and eventually opened a gallery and art residency for artists called Viophilia in Miami, Florida. I think that transition has helped me feel more comfortable in the process of creating art. It felt very independent before but this was like I was jumping off a mountain and taking that giant leap. It didn’t matter where I was going to fall it was going to at least lead me in a way where I was going to be happy in what I was doing and not working for anybody.. I know I have this motivation and this passion and this drive that, if I put my mind to it, I know I can achieve it.
Amir: For me, my father was an artist so I started doing art when I was very young. My father was a diverse artists himself. He liked to tinker and do lots of different stuff but primarily worked in oil painting. He was also a taxidermist – as well as a mortician. Growing up, we had a lot of mounted fish around the house and some small animals that he had done taxidermy on. That basically got me started as an artist. I started playing trumpet when I was about 7 years old and that’s something that has stayed with me until now. I was involved in music and arts throughout my young life. I ended up going to Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas and there I studied music and art. As a teenager and young adult I was always focused on music. I was in various bands and we performed around the major cities in Texas. I was not really expecting that I would do murals as a profession but it is very satisfying work.
How did you meet?
Ivette: I met Amir back in 2012 while I was running the Viophilia Art Residency in Miami Arts District called Wynwood. It was a 2200 square foot space with art studios and we hosted different events and we had a program for visiting artists that would come to town to do a networking events, exhibits or some kind of community engagement event. We had a lot of really creative ideas that would come about in the process of collaborating with so many artists. We were there for about four years. Amir had a production studio across the street from me where he was doing music and creating art as well. One day as I was painting a mural in the front of the building. I noticed him entering the building across the street from me and I waved at him. He came over and introduced himself and we instantly became friends and began passing a sketchbook back and forth. The sketchbook was kind of challenge to one another to perfect our art skills. We were commissioned for our first mural project at a local French Cafe and about four years ago, we really started to dedicate our full time to creating murals for various projects and cities. We did a few commercials with a few liquor brands and hair commercials where they focused on our pieces and our mural process.
Amir: I moved to Miami about 13 years ago and I was primarily focused on music. I released an album with a band called Naicisum, which is musician spelled backwards, the album is called Stranded on Earth. Since then, I have been working on my first solo music projects. And so yeah, that’s what I was working on when Ivette was moving in across from where I had set up my studio in the Wynwood art district in Miami. From there, we started to pass a sketchbook back and forth and, in the process, were trying to figure out what we could potentially do to become professional artists. There was a lot of murals going up in Wynwood at the time and we wanted to find a way to be part of it. Once we saw the right opportunities, we realized that we could move in that direction. We were successful at a few major city funded projects that allowed us to keep moving. We hunkered down and became professional about our process of targeting those opportunities that lead us here today.
What was your first mural that you painted together?
Ivette: Well – this is really funny. I got contracted to do this mural for a French Cafe and it was a portrait of a mother and her son in the kitchen on these two different wall panels. I hadn’t really worked with painting color that way so it looked very, very cartoony. It was hilarious. They had a problem with their roof where it damaged the mural so they contracted me again to redo the mural. At this point, Amir had helped me with some aspects of the first mural and so then we went back and forth and he helped me design the updated mural. Amir did the whole photoshop layout of it and did the concept and it was on a larger scale and more focused on them and a little bit less on the background. To be honest, I was blown away when we actually started doing it. It came out so much better the first one, we really work well together and we always push each other to be better than before.
What was your first mural that you painted together?
Ivette: I feel like its very different every time. It’s definitely based on the project, what the wall looks like. The interesting thing about us is that we are very research oriented and so if we don’t know how to do something we’ll figure out how. We usually play with many ideas before settling on a final approach for a project. It’s actually really interesting because, in a way he’s very fluid in the aspect of reworking things and adding things later on. I’m very much like “I love that one! That’s it!” Whereas Amir is like “I don’t know yet, hold on.” Sometimes that process has a very beautiful way of just getting the idea across at first and then re-imagining it in a different way that makes that idea better.
Amir: I would say there is no part of our process that we don’t share or try to find solutions together on. The interacting is the recipe. If she likes it and if I like it we know at least we like it. Its from the proposal stage, all the way to the completion stage. If you’re interacting with each other on every level then sometimes you have to figure out when to not interact with each other. We’re always sort of mixing our differences together to create something that represents both of us. Sometimes she’ll create a concept design and submit it, that will be successful, sometimes I’ll create a concept design that will be successful. Again, going back to the graphic design history that really created that foundation. With murals, one of my strengths is to accept that things are going to change and to be prepared to make those changes and do it quickly. It’s important to really build your skills so when you do need to make an edit it’s not big deal.
What did the Mural Festival mean to you as artists?
Amir: This is our first time doing an international project and our first time in Canada. That in itself is something that we’re probably never going to forget, our first international project. It means a lot to us. It’s a great addition to our portfolio. Anytime we do a new piece, we’re always trying to document it to add it to our portfolio and add it to our history to show that we are making progress. We have had really interesting experiences interacting with the local people, seeing the city, and experiencing the forest fire smoke here in Canada.
Ivette: I would say that the experience has been pretty amazing in the sense that everyone has been very laid back and very positive. We have had a lot of great interactions with people where we have heard a lot of stories that relate to the mural and the building. We’re leaving with those stories knowing that it’s not just the concept we created, but the way that it relates to the community. We sat and we researched Canada and Nelson. Our natural intention is to find out everything about where we are. A more personal triumph that I feel from leaving here is that I feel a lot more comfortable in public speaking. It is something that I have always feared. I felt really comfortable at our workshop, and it definitely feels as though I have gotten over that hill. I would thank everybody in Nelson and everyone on the team for helping me feel comfortable about that. I think it’s a beautiful place and everybody is so nice
What did you think about the festival itself?
Yvette: The festival was great! We got to see a lot of different art and we definitely related to some of the artists as well. It was nice to hear their process and visit the studio, ‘Sweet 9.’ The festival was an interesting experience. We didn’t know that so many people were going to come out. At one point, we were flooded with such a large group of people that interacting with all of them was wonderfully overwhelming. We loved hearing the stories from everyone and it was such a real connection that we had with the community members. I think the festival was something that was not only amazing for the city in terms of growth and tourism, but also creating real connections with the public.
Amir: Nelson sort of has that big city energy but small town vibe and landscape. It was a little bit shocking actually to see so many people walking around when we had the opening night. A lot of locals took part in the mural tours which showed a real sense of community in Nelson. We hosted a workshop during our visit and took part in an artist panel help at The Civic Theater. All of those experiences were a lot of fun and very well executed by the team. I’d like to thank everyone who helped to make the festival run so smoothly. It was a great experience overall.