Masters of Street Art: Artsemble Underground Paints The TownJul 14, 2021 01:38PM ● By DAVID ACEVEDO
Southwest Florida is changing. Its thriving arts community is growing, its presence becoming more notable. Among the signs are massive, vibrant and eclectic murals—on buildings, fences and other public places—bringing beauty and intrigue to passers-by. Two of the most prominent creators of street art in Fort Myers are local artists Cesar Aguilera and Brian Weaver, founders of Artsemble Underground.
The goal of Artsemble Underground is to bring art to everyone, or as Aguilera and Weaver describe it, “Art for the people.” The duo also wants to help local businesses attract traffic through murals, sculptures and art events. Since they met in 2014, Aguilera and Weaver have collaborated with numerous artists and organizations, and in 2016 they formally established Artsemble Underground LLC.
“We wanted to forge an all-immersive multimedia assembly and experience of art and life, where ideas could be created anywhere without the need of an art institution or gallery that often hinders the creative process and final output,” says Weaver.
“The goal was to give emerging artists a platform to take them to the next level in their creative paths, with the idea that artists united can reach higher levels,” adds Aguilera, who sees the use of art as an instrument of social change instead of a commodity.
“If you can imagine it, we can create it,” says Weaver, who wants to make people feel comfortable with art again, not only as spectators, but also as contributors to the process. “Many places make normal people feel uncomfortable with art, like they need a special school degree to understand it,” adds Aguilera, who wants to make art fun and inspiring for everybody, indoors or outdoors.
The Artsemble Underground duo are staples of the local art scene. Weaver, who graduated with a degree in graphic design and computer animation from the School of Communication Arts in North Carolina, has produced multiple art events in Southwest Florida. He is also the founder of an underground warehouse called the Epicenter by Circus Arts United, most famous for its Battle of the Arts contests and fundraising events for local nonprofits. Weaver’s fine art has been displayed in the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center and the Cape Coral Art Center.
Aguilera, originally from Quito, Ecuador, is the art curator of the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center’s Grand Atrium and Capital Gallery. The 2015 recipient of the Gulfshore Life Emerging Arts Leader award also created a wearable art brand called Paionia, using discarded materials such as computer parts and other technology in a sustainably conscious effort.
The River District Alliance commissioned Weaver and Aguilera in 2014 to produce six monthly events, popularly known as Mystery Walk nights, in downtown Fort Myers. Weaver then started the Epicenter project alongside Aguilera and muralist Erik Schlake. Their intention was to create successive events with a strong group of artists in the community and raise funds for nonprofit organizations. Then in 2015 the Battle of the Arts event was established in which artists were challenged to paint for three hours on the streets of downtown Fort Myers, competing for a grand prize.
In 2016 Artsemble Underground was commissioned to paint live during Reggae Fest in Cape Coral, along with Jamaican reggae artist Ky-Mani Marley, Bob Marley’s son. The following year, the first Artsemble Underground pop-up gallery was inaugurated in an empty commercial space in the downtown River District. The event brought artists, performers and musicians together for two days of art extravaganza.
In late 2019 an art exhibition entitled “Pictorial Conversations: Opus 1” opened at the Cape Coral Art Center. “Artsemble Underground is an extraordinarily talented, collaborative and dynamic collective,” says the center’s recreation program supervisor Julie Gerhard, who worked closely with Aguilera and Weaver to coordinate the Cape Coral event. “Their enthusiasm for promoting the arts in our community is contagious.”
The mural commissions continued last year, including an unusual request from the River District Alliance to paint on the walls of the Hall of 50 States historical building. More recently, their tribute mural for fallen officer Julian Keen was unveiled in Lehigh.
Artsemble Underground Gallery and Art Lounge opened its doors in March in the Bell Tower Shops in Fort Myers. The art of renowned Southwest Florida artists is on display, and the Battle of the Arts event is now held there.
More information is available at artsembleunderground.com.
David Acevedo is an award-winning visual artist and arts writer living in Southwest Florida. He is the founder and owner of DAAS CO-OP Art Gallery & Gifts and the Union Artist Studios. He has a bachelor’s degree in visual arts from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus.