News and Public Media for North Central Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Gainesville muralist Arianna Uberti painted her way to achieving her dream

More and more walls around Gainesville are being filled with the colors, smiley faces, and cheerful art of the Venezuelan artist Arianna Leon Uberti.

Her joyful murals in Lubee Bat Conservancy, the public library Archer Branch, and the Alachua Animal Center are some of her works that help bring the city a splash of color. She is committed to local art, small business, and fundraising for special causes. The City of Gainesville recognized just that a year ago when it awarded her the Emerging Artist Award in March 2023, but her recognition came after a long journey and the ups and downs of life where art was never part of her plan.

At age 23, Arianna Leon Uberti was in her native city in Maracay, Venezuela, with some friends, and they decided to go to a lake to spend the afternoon. Uberti was getting ready to jump into the lake, but as she was climbing, her hand slipped from her friend, and Uberti fell down the hill. She hit her body and head, so she lost consciousness and ended up in the water. Her friends quickly rushed to find her, but they didn’t know where she was; they thought she was dead. The clock was ticking; Uberti didn’t have much time as she was unconscious in the water. Finally, they found her, and she was rushed to the hospital.

The prognosis wasn’t good: a broken leg and a bacterial infection; she knew the recovery would be long, but she didn’t know that the accident would change her life forever. She spent her days in a dark hospital room with a small window and a TV. The food was bland, and she couldn’t move much. During her two weeks at the hospital, her mom brought her food, a notepad, and markers.

Uberti began drawing, she found a way to beat those long days, and in a similar process, as the famous Frida Kahlo artist went through, after being run over by a bus, Kahlo used her bed confinement to create her best work. In Uberti's case, she was able to discover art and decided that her hobby was going to become her career.

After her two-week stay at the hospital, a new Uberti came home, physically and artistically. She only cared that her leg was functional, so she rejected the esthetic surgery, and the six-month recovery process was ahead. Artistically, Uberti chose to portray the positive, which led her to create her business slogan: “Illustrations to make you happy,” her art reflects that, as her pieces are full of color, bold black outlines, cartoonish shapes, and smiley characters. She is determined and focuses on the positive of any difficult moment or situation.

Art was her companion, and during the recovery and physical therapy process, she established a strong client based in Venezuela, but with her achievement, other problems arose. Obtaining the supplies to do her art with the situation in Venezuela was like finding a needle in a haystack. Inflation changed the supply prices, and she didn’t make any money on more than one occasion. The country’s situation was going downhill. “I remember no one wanted to rent apartments because people didn’t have the money to pay the rent," she said.

Situations like these became more common as time passed. Uberti remembers a wake-up call when McDonald’s swapped their French fries for cassava or yuca because they couldn’t get potatoes.

She tried to continue working but couldn't get any work done when she started losing power and the internet for hours. Gradually, her friends began leaving the country, and later, she followed; she packed her things and came to the USA. “I thought I was going to stay in Venezuela alone. By that time, most of the country’s middle class had left," Uberti said.

Starting a new life

Uberti moved to the USA with her husband in 2016. Their first stop was Miami. She began working in any job she could find, but after working in housekeeping for a year, she landed a job in a coffee shop. Even though life was getting better, her work with art wasn’t going as expected. Miami is a big city, and even though she spent all her free time hustling, attending fairs, and setting up her booth, she was only selling one or two stickers after a whole day, rounding her earnings to two dollars after a full day of work.

“The moment I asked myself: what am I doing here? It was when I decided to go and sell my art at a fair in Doral. I had 800 dollars in my bank account and paid 150 to be there. I didn’t sell anything; no one saw me. Doral is full of people from Venezuela, and I thought they would pay attention to me and support me. I went home crying, and I said why did I come here? I am not going to paint anymore. I’ll do any job; I no longer want to do this,” Uberti said.

After that failure, Uberti tried again, but this time, she paid 280 dollars, and the same happened: she didn’t sell anything. She was about to give up hope in Miami and her career as an artist, but then the phone rang. Her best friend, who lives in Gainesville, called her and told her: “Why don’t you put your illustrations in Satchel's Pizza?”. The restaurant supports small businesses. Arianna got to work and put eight pieces there. Soon enough, they called and asked to send more because they had sold out.

Uberti was over the moon; this was the chance she had been waiting for so long. She told her husband: “let’s go to Gainesville and see what happens.” Once again, in 2018, they packed their things and began a whole new life in a new city.

The third time is the charm?

Ari kept doing the same work in Gainesville and went to all the fairs so people could know her art. She was invested in making it happen, so she hustled every day till 2 or 3 am between her part-time job in a coffee shop and her art. “I never had to work in the service industry before moving to the USA, but it taught me a lot about life; that type of work benefits you once you have your own business,” she said.

Her perseverance in her dream and talent paid off; she was being noticed, and people were buying her art and requesting more custom art from her. One of Uberti's best sellers is her illustrations of people based on a photo they sent her. They’ve been a hit since she introduced the service; she transforms a dull photo into a world full of color, and couples, families, children, and even pets have transformed into her creative world.

The orders kept coming in, so in 2021, at age 31 and five years after arriving in the USA, Ari juggled between her part-time job and art business. She had to cancel clients and was losing them because she had to go to work or call off her work, so she decided to make her business AriUberti. Finally, her hobby became her job and career.

In the last year, Ariana has been on a journey, and her art is now in homes around Gainesville and businesses around the city. She painted a mural for the Amazon Headquarters in Gainesville. She is attending more and more events around the city, and those days when she didn’t sell anything are a thing of the past.

She began a project she had always wanted to create, thanks to her success. Art with purpose is her initiative to create art and donate the earnings to an important cause. The first project she made was to help the people from her hometown, Maracay, after the town experienced landslides.

She created a unique art related to the cause and promoted it on her social media. “Art is a powerful weapon that can be used when you need to. In the past, it helped me to help others, and I am using it now to help those in need in my hometown," she said.

She has worked on campaigns for breast cancer and international nonprofit organizations and last year had her first solo exhibit, “Selva,” at the Hyatt Place Hotel in Downtown Gainesville, where each art piece has an environmental purpose to collaborate with the Esfera Foundation located in Venezuela. Her art, which began as a hobby, has become something much more profound that crosses borders and is changing not only her life but others.


One of Uberti's dreams for the future is to open up her studio to help other artists skyrocket their careers, the same way the pizza place did for her. Business awareness is essential for a small business to survive, and Arianna is constantly looking even underneath the rocks for opportunities to do just that.

She applied for a contest to display her art in one of the hotel rooms of the newest location of a citizenM hotel in Miami. She was thrilled once she received the good news: she was selected, and with that, all the prepping for her trip to Miami began for the grand opening on November 26, 2022. For Uberti, preparing for an event or a fair is a process that requires time, commitment, and patience. Uberti prints most of her products at home, so she usually spends one- or two days printing and preparing for an event.

The excitement was taking over her, but the six-hour drive from Gainesville calmed her down. She met the hotel owners and was taken to the room where she was about to create an immersive experience with the AriUberti style.

The end product was like entering her colorful and creative world. One of the walls has two paintings, one of a very chilling flamingo with glasses on and the other of three women with different fashionable accessories: heart-shaped glasses and flowers in their heads. The background is surrounded by palm trees colored with a very vivid green and a happy sun as bright as a lighthouse. The light in the room was pink, and on the ceiling, hanging leaves and seaweed that glowed in the dark. Rubber duckies were floating on the sink, and bananas, watermelons, coconuts, and pineapples were placed around the room, completing the chill and amazonic atmosphere.

Uberti had the opportunity to show her art, connect with multiple future clients, and redeem herself with Miami after the difficulties she experienced there. Her art finally made it in Miami, and it is timeless: her illustrations will be seen by every guest who sets foot into that room. Her hard work and persistence finally paid off: “If you have a goal, it is always possible to achieve. It doesn’t matter if you have to work on something else while making it, but do what you love because it is possible to work and live with what you love. It is possible if you work hard for it; it is not a crazy dream," she said.