Artur Silva’s first impression of life in the United States was one of laugh tracks and fantastically happy endings, courtesy of the feel-good American TV shows he grew up with in Brazil. “[These shows] happened to shape my childhood profoundly,” says the 37-year-old transplant. “I’m inherently an inquisitive person, so I had to know more about these things.” Silva’s curiosity led him to the Big Apple after art school in search of both a career and the Technicolor “American experience.” He didn’t quite find either, and his work became “lost in the noise of New York City,” he says. So in the wake of 9/11, Silva left Brooklyn for Indianapolis, the hometown of his girlfriend at the time.
His new Midwestern outpost served him well both artistically and professionally. Silva arrived just in time to take the only available studio at the Harrison Center, in the Old Northside. “His first studio was 75 square feet,” says Joanna Taft, the center’s director. “We were apologetic, but he was so happy. He said, ‘I’m from New York, and this is a two-bedroom.’” Silva quickly became an integral part of the local arts community and would eventually join the board of the Indianapolis Downtown Artists & Dealers Association. Impressed by his work ethic and collaborative energy, the Harrison Center put up a sign in its office that said, “We need 10 more Artur Silvas.”
Artistically, Silva found the inspiration he was looking for in Indiana’s heartland environment. “I think the American experience is best represented in the middle of the country,” he says, “and to talk about [that] through my work is an entry point to talking about who we are as people.” Here, he got noticed, and his career flourished. He’s received several fellowships and numerous corporate and civic commissions around town and has been exhibited at the IMA. You could make a strong argument that Silva has become the face of Indy’s new generation of artists: His likeness towers over Illinois Street traffic from a Union Station overpass, and when The New York Times wrote about Super Bowl XLVI’s 46 murals, Silva’s photo anchored the story.
The Brazilian’s relationship with Indy grew into a cultural exchange in 2008, when he and DJ Kyle Long formed Cultural Cannibals and began producing art-infused dance parties. The biggest event, Carnaval, celebrates Silva’s homeland. The pre-Lent party at The Jazz Kitchen (it falls on March 1 this year) will feature the IU Percussion Ensemble, led by seven-time Grammy nominee Michael Spiro, a student of Portela Samba School in Rio. Revelers can make toasts with caipirinhas and watch footage of the famous parade. “It’s a festivity of liberation,” says Silva, who found his in a place he never expected.
For more information: culturalcannibals.com
Photos by Tony Valainis
This article appeared in the February 2014 issue.