Carlos Garcia

Artist Carlos Gonzalez Garcia talks about the #LoveHillsborough Community Art Project he helped organize.

Carlos Gonzalez Garcia has a talent for making something beautiful from broken things. While that could be describing his work as a world-class mosaic artist, it also describes his hope to keep together his dream of opening NCMOSAIC, a school where Garcia will teach the art of mosaics at the Eno River Mill.

That was his plan and a big part of his reason for coming to Hillsborough. But the coronavirus shattered that. Naturally, Garcia got creative. He partnered with the Orange County Arts Commission to create the #LoveHillsborough Community Art Project, which will be a public art work that combines individual mosaics made by Hillsborough community members, into one giant mural. It will be installed on the westward facing wall on the ground floor of the Eno River Public Parking deck in downtown Hillsborough, directly behind Weaver Street Market.

“We figured that, since Carlos’ plans for starting a mosaic school can’t happen right now because of the pandemic, by doing this it would help people come to know him and also get an idea of how much fun it is to do mosaics,” said Arts Commission Director Katie Murray. “By the time he’s able to open the school he already has a group of people who are already interested.”

The letters were done by local elected officials, longtime town workers, longtime county workers. State Rep. Graig Meyer and his kids did the letter “I”.

“We had to make an instruction video on how to make the mosaics,” said Garcia. “This kind of mosaic is huge and depends on what technique you use. So, what I did was focus on something that is simple and had some basic rules that people could follow. That way it could be done at home without having someone having to coach them through how to do one. So, the rules and technique that they were shown worked out really well. People that have never done mosaics got to do a mosaic. People who have done them just applied what they knew. You can kind of tell which ones have done mosaics before, but some you can’t tell.” 

Participants were told to use anything that wasn’t a natural substance because that wouldn’t hold up well to being exposed to weather. For instance, State Rep. Graig Meyer’s kids used Legos for their mosaic square. 

“His kids said the color of the “I” represents how awesome Hillsborough is, while the gray part around it is supposed to represent all the other towns around Hillsborough that are boring,” Murray said with a laugh. “We had a drop-off schedule so people were spread out and not overlapping. It was a fun way to spend the week seeing each piece come in.”

Every piece has a story behind it. Murray said the Arts Commission plans to have an image of the completed project on its website, and when you scroll over each square, you can read the story behind it.

“One participant had experience working in an art studio, but had never worked with her granddaughter,” Murray said. “This project allowed her and her granddaughter to do that. They were really happy to get to work together. And another, it was one with a rainbow heart, that couple, just last week, their daughter had come out (as gay). That’s why they put the rainbow in it. It’s just things like that.”

The mosaic squares were gathered in a large studio space at the Eno River Mill where Garcia will grout each section. The Eno River Mill, Garcia said, is one of the main reasons he wanted to start his classes in Hillsborough.

“I have friends who live here and I came to visit them. My friend was showing me around. We got some ice cream at Whitt’s. I came here to see the Expedition School for my son because he had attended a Waldorf School. I thought this mill would definitely be a great place to have some mosaic space. The place calls out for art and mosaic art to be here. Before they even had spaces I contacted Katie and asked if they were doing anything with the mill. I told her I’d love to have a space at the Eno River Mill. And then the art spaces came open. Katie’s been really helpful with guiding me on things I could need in the future to open the space. Lots of things I didn’t know about that Katie helped me with.

“We wanted to do the school, but with the virus, we’ve had to step back a bit. Thank goodness we have a mural that people can work on so people could get to know me and actually have fun while they’re at home,” Garcia said. “Everything worked out really well. People are excited about the project. They can’t wait to see the finished project on the wall. I just have to make sure everybody glued on all their pieces correctly (laughs).”

Garcia said he has to measure each tile to get the full size to make sure it fits on the wall where it will be displayed. His hope is that it will be installed by the end of September.

“I don’t know if there will be a formal unveiling with the virus and all,” he said. “Maybe if people wear face masks. It would be great. I would really like to be able to quickly install it and put something on top of it so no one could see it. But I’m sure people will be watching as I install it.”