Joezer Xavier is always exploring unfamiliar places and embracing new opportunities. The same mindset drives his journey as an artist—and that’s precisely what led him to McCullough Creative.

Joezer "Joe" Xavier was recently hired as the newest exhibit designer at McCullough Creative. Content Strategist Jeff Montgomery recently sat down with Joe to discuss what drives him and what brought him here.


Jeff: Before we dive in, Joe, I wanted to start by saying congrats. We’re excited to have you here.


Joe: Thank you so much. I am very excited to be here.


What exactly will you be doing here at MC?


Well, my job title is exhibit designer. And in my role, I will conceptualize and execute the design for displays, exhibits, and physical spaces. That could be everything from trade-show booths and corporate environments to nature centers and museums.

Joe and his colleagues sit on a set he helped create.
Joe and his colleagues sit on a set he helped create.

That’s awesome. I know that your journey started a long way from Dubuque. How did you end up here?


(laughing). Yes, that is true. About a year and a half ago, I moved to Dubuque from Brazil. One of the things I did there was set design, and I was really passionate about it. When I saw that McCullough did a lot of work with museums and exhibits, I was really excited. I’d finally found something that aligned with what I was doing back there. And now, here I am.


So you ventured all the way from Brazil. Where specifically did you grow up?


I moved a lot when I was a kid, but I started in the south of the country. It was a pretty great childhood. I remember going to the beach with my friends, being outdoors all the time and playing a lot of sports.

Joe and a childhood friend slide down a bluff in Brazil. This was the best selfie they got.
Joe and a childhood friend slide down a bluff in Brazil. This was the best selfie they got.

When did you first know you were a creative person?


As a kid, I always enjoyed creating. Sometimes just really strange, unique stuff. My three best friends and I would have a camera, and we would film squirrels and—


Sorry to interject. Must’ve misunderstood. Did you say “film squirrels”?


(laughing) I did, yes. We would film squirrels and use that footage for these weird videos we’d make. We would write up these movie scripts about what they were doing. And we’d find ways to do special effects and sounds for the movies we produced.


I mean … that’s definitely creative. Did you know early in your life that you wanted to pursue something creatively when you got older?


Looking back, the creativity was always there. But I thought it was for fun. For a hobby. I never knew I’d be able to do it professionally.

Joe directs a commercial film in Brazil.
Joe directs a commercial film in Brazil.

What work did you do back in Brazil to help bring your creativity to the next level?


For many years, I worked for one of the largest TV networks in Brazil. I started in the marketing department working on emails and graphic design. One day, though, they had a new program they wanted to start right away. It was a sports program where they talked about soccer. There was such a short time line that the companies that usually do the set design weren’t interested. The director asked me if I wanted to give it a try.


And you said ...


I said “Let’s do this.”


That’s the attitude! How’d it go?


We had five days to come up with the design and find a way to build it. We pulled it off. They ended up really liking the results. They invited me from that day forward to design other sets. From that point, I just dove in. I started researching and learning more, and I was able to move up in the company.

Another set created by Joe.
Another set created by Joe.

How did your role with the station evolve from that point? 


It really took off. I built an entire internal department that I staffed and ran. I worked a lot on the design side but also directly with the people building the sets. Through that process, I was able to get a unique understanding of the whole design-and-build process, which is something I am excited to work even more directly on in my role here


Certainly a wide base of knowledge there ... Any other areas you’ve focused on creatively?


Certainly! In my role at the station, we were responsible for anything related to visuals and design. That included graphic design, video work, UX design, creative direction, and more. It gave me an opportunity to tackle a wide range of design disciplines and understand the subtle differences in approach to each creative challenge.



How did you end up in the U.S.?


(laughing) Long, crazy story. In 2018, my wife, Keisy, earned an assistantship at the University of Southern Mississippi in the doctorate program for music. I stayed in Brazil at the time and used vacation days to visit here. I was in the U.S. in early 2020 visiting my wife and that’s when COVID began. I was supposed to fly home on a Monday. They closed the borders on Sunday. So my short visit turned into a long stay.


And you must not have hated it! You decided to stick around …


I didn’t hate it! And as my wife was finishing at Southern Miss, we realized she had more career opportunities here. I applied for a work permit. She got an offer for a position at Clarke University in Dubuque. And yes, we decided to stay in the U.S.

Joe and his wife, Keisy, in Mississippi.
Joe and his wife, Keisy, in Mississippi.

Glad you did. Were there any moments of culture shock?


Well, she accepted the job before we ever visited Dubuque. So our drive from Mississippi to Dubuque was very surprising. We were driving here, and it was just cornfields and cornfields and more cornfields and farms. I was like “Where are we going?“


The horror!


It was kind of surprising. But when we got to Dubuque, the scenery changed. There were hills and bluffs. It felt more like our country.

Joe and Keisy after arriving in Iowa.
Joe and Keisy after arriving in Iowa.

Any other surprises when you moved here?


I came from a city with three million people. So we’re used to big city life. And in Brazil, we’d normally have dinner at 9 o’clock.  So our first night here, we tried to go out to eat and everything was closed. It was a bit of a shock. But there’s also things that are different in a good way. It’s not as fast-paced and busy. You don’t have the long commutes here. It gives you more time to be with the activities and the people you like.


What are some other hobbies?


Travel is my main thing. I enjoy television shows, sports, and movies. Also, I enjoy being social. We found a small Brazilian community here in Dubuque, and it has been great spending time with those people.

Joe hanging with pals in Brazil.
Joe hanging with pals in Brazil.

You’ve been here a couple weeks now. What are your early impressions of McCullough Creative?


I am really excited. Everyone has made me feel very welcome. They are very willing to answer questions and help. Everyone is so creative here. You can tell that people put a lot of care into the work they do. I am excited to collaborate with these people and be a part of this.


Why is that collaboration so important?


For me, there is no creativity without collaboration. You need a lot of minds combining together to bring diversity and different perspectives. Different ideas and different points of view are critical. This is the only way to move forward with what you’re doing creatively.


Why do you have that thirst for continued learning?


As a creative person, joy comes from discovery. Some people are comfortable doing the same thing every day; I cannot live like that. I need to be seeing new places and trying new skills, both personally and creatively. It opens your mind for endless possibilities.