Mural loses its home before move-in day

One of the area's largest outdoor murals has an unexpected problem: No place to be displayed.

The Latino-themed painting, paid for with a $5,500 Arts & Science Council grant, was set to go up this month on a building near Eastland Mall. But Peruvian-born artist Carlos Herrera Burgos says he was recently told the building has since sold, and the wall space is no longer available.

Burgos, 58, has spent the past two weeks searching for a new host, but no takers. In the meantime, he has an 80-foot-long, 40-foot-high painting that won't fit into his 10-foot-by-12-foot University City apartment. So he's got it sitting in pieces in the parking lot. “I am hard headed,” he says, through an interpreter. “I'm a little sad that it won't go where it was intended, but I know in the end it will have a good destiny. It could be a museum, a gallery, a school or a park. I would just like it to be someplace permanently.”

Titled “Cosmic Visual Art of Indigenous Latin America,” the painting is part of a new Arts & Science Council initiative that seeks to promote the city's growing Latino arts community.

Burgos spent four months painting it, employing a design that combines images from Latin America's ancient Maya, Inca, Aztec and Paracas cultures. A second Latino-themed mural by Colombian-born artist Edwin Gil was recently mounted at the Compare Foods market on Arrowood Road. That one is smaller at 9 feet by 25 feet.

“Finding places for these murals has been a struggle, even with Edwin's mural,” says Cathy McCann of the Arts & Science Council. “It's a situation that has definitely surprised us. We went into this process thinking, ‘Two murals in the international corridor along Central Avenue. It will be great!' But it was hard to find businesses to commit. I'm not sure why.”

One problem, says Burgos, is that some popular Latino businesses along Central Avenue are in rented buildings, preventing long-term commitments. Other shop owners may feel the mural was “too bold” at a time when anti-immigrant sentiments have grown in the country, says Burgos' son, Carlos Herrera, who is working to help his father find a home for the painting.

A temporary solution was recently reached when Burgos loaned the mural's 24 panels as background for the upcoming play “Limbo” at the Carolina Actors' Studio Theatre on Clement Avenue. The play, running July 10-26, has a Hispanic theme and was also funded by an Arts & Science Council grant. Once the play ends, Burgos' only option is to wrap the 24 pieces in plastic and return them to the parking lot of his apartment building off N.C. 49.

That's a terrible waste, says his son.

“We went to one mall to see if they would display it, and they wanted to charge us money because they said it was an advertisement,” says Herrera. “My father just wants this to be out there so people can see it. He doesn't care what part of town, just as long as it is in a place where the public can have access to it, no matter the race or culture.”