No Barriers Project Mural – Anita Stroud Park 2016

This year I had the pleasure of creating a mural at Anita Stroud Park in Charlotte NC. The No Barriers Project is a Knight Foundation Cities Challenge project that seeks to identify physical barriers that often serve to divide neighborhoods and invite the residents who live there to talk and reimagine the space as something new they build together.

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Día de Los Casi Muertos Maker Day with PMTNR 2016

The Día de Los Casi Muertos project has had a lot of help from the community. Pam Murray, who organizes the Plaza Midwood Tuesday Night Ride (PMTNR), helped make a whooping 200 flowers in about an hour at St. Martins Episcopal Church. The Spoke Easy was able to provide swag bags for teams that made the most flowers. A lot of fun and amazing what could be done in an hour.

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Chair Fair – Yard Art Day 2016

Nicholas Holman had an idea to make a mini festival in his back yard, but where would all the people sit? They would bring their own chairs of course. It would be called Chair Fair. It happened this year as part of Yard Art Day. The chairs were created in memory of a loved one and will be part of the Dia de Los Casi Muertos exhibition Oct 15 – 22 @ C3Lab

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Two Turntables and an ArtPop Billboard

Two Turntables and an ArtPop Billboard

Categories: Blog

Why This Matters: ArtPop showcases the work of local artists on billboards across the Charlotte region.

Julio Gonzalez's 2016 ArtPop billboard.

Julio Gonzalez’s 2016 ArtPop billboard.

By Bernie Petit
Communications Manager

A set of Hello Kitty markers changed everything for Julio Gonzalez.

Before saving the markers from the garbage heap, his artwork was black and white and shades of gray.

“I never worked with color. Everything I did was illustrations, comics – all lines, all pencils, all ink,” the Charlotte artist said. “When I got that line of markers, so many different things clicked because I realized there were so many different ways of drawing a straight line with technique. It freed me up from being so self-critical.”

That was about five years ago, back when “I was doing all of this art that nobody knew about,” he said. Dozens of drawings, many in a style influenced by legendary comic artists such as Jack Kirby and Evan Dorkin, were kept in sketch books he didn’t share during his deejaying days at a popular Charlotte nightspot.

Fast forward to 2016, when “Lily,” Gonzalez’s acrylic painting of a brightly colored, big-eyed fish, will garner more than one million commuter impressions through ArtPop, an annual program in which local artists submit their work to be displayed on available billboard space.

ArtPop founder Wendy Hickey, Adams Outdoor Advertising and ASC partnered to launch the local program in 2014.

“It felt really good – it still feels really good,” Gonzalez said of being one of the 20 artists selected this year. “It’s such a boost of confidence, seeing it up there on a billboard.”

Indeed, if it weren’t for ArtPop, “Lily” wouldn’t exist. From the dimensions to the cropping, Gonzalez specifically created the painting to fit a billboard.

“You can work and plan for stuff, but when it happens, it’s kind of surreal,” he said.

Before those Hello Kitty markers colorized his artistic life, Gonzalez – an engineering technologist in smart grid operations at Duke Energy – said he was like a typical beginning artist. He didn’t know how to value his work or how to sell it.

“I didn’t have a lot of confidence in what I was doing,” he said.

Julio Gonzalez.

Julio Gonzalez.

Eventually, he learned how the lessons from his former deejay life – the networking and the promotion – translated into being a working artist. His focus these days are the gonza fish series that led to his ArtPop piece, his Mayan-inspired sculpture and a new Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, project he will unveil this fall (an $1,800 Regional Artist Project Grant from ASC allowed him to purchase the Canon camera for the project).

And, as his creative circle and interests have expanded, he’s learned to say “No.”

“If you say ‘Yes’ to everything and you don’t think about where you want to go with your artistic career, you can get spread thin really quickly,” he said.

– See more at:


Duke Energy STEM Mural Project

Julio Gonzalez and the members of Duke Energy’s Latinos Energizing Diversity (LED) Employee Resource Group wanted to do something different for an educational outreach program in Charlotte-area schools – something unexpected.

“We thought, ‘Well, putting a fresh coat of paint on a school playground is fine, but what if we tried to engage students more and put left-brain, right-brain concepts together on a project?'” asked Gonzalez. The group envisioned a collaboration that involves students in a hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) art project that would leave a lasting impact on the students.

In case you haven’t heard, STEM is an education buzzword (well, “buzz-acronym”) these days. That’s because not enough students are graduating in these disciplines to fill the open jobs in the workplace. According to the Department of Education, jobs are growing at 1.7 times the rate of non-STEM jobs, and the U.S. is simply not producing enough candidates to fill them. More alarming is that only 16 percent of high school seniors nationwide are interested in pursuing science, technology, engineering or math careers.

Gonzalez, an associate research analyst and an artist himself, along with members of the aid group, contacted UNC-Charlotte’s STEM Program last year, presented the idea to Charlotte’s Morehead STEM Academy and Mallard Creek High School. A teacher at Vance High School heard about the project and asked to be included.

Duke volunteers then visited the schools in May, sharing information about Duke Energy and various career paths at the company. The response from teachers and students was overwhelming. Approximately 90 students (30 from each school) then got to work, helped by a grant to each school from The Duke Energy Foundation.

Enthusiastic students, chosen by principals and teachers, worked independently to illustrate an aspect of STEM on 8.5-by-11-inch pieces of paper. The illustrations were then put on large vinyl stickers and assembled into a mural.

The finished pieces of art show a wide range of topics relating to energy concepts, from battery development and the grid to solar and wind energy.

“The program gives students access to real-world applications of science,” says Jeanne Cooper, Mallard Creek science teacher. “It also gives them an opportunity to hear directly from professionals involved in science, engineering, technology and math fields. It helped students apply what they know to solving real-life problems.”

Another plus is that each mural is renewable. The illustrations on the stickers can be swapped out with new pieces of art that may be created by new students during the school year and on into the future. “The project helps further STEM education, but it goes well beyond that,” said Gonzalez. “As students see the murals, hopefully they will also want to become involved with the project. It builds pride in their school and what the program is doing.”

Vance mural_mainpic

PowerPoint Presentation

2016 ArtPop Artists Announced

ASC has announced the 20 regional artists that will be part of ArtPop in 2016. ArtPop is a program in which local artists submit their work to be displayed on available billboard space. ASC, Adams Outdoor Advertising and ArtPop founder Wendy Hickey partnered to launch the local program in 2014.

Billboard installations will begin the week of January 4, 2016, and selected artworks will be displayed throughout the year in Adams Outdoor Advertising’s Charlotte coverage area.

There is no cost to the participating artists. Adams Outdoor Advertising provides the billboard space and ASC covers the production costs of reproducing selected artists’ images on vinyl to fit the billboards.

Hickey established ArtPop as a 501c3 in August. She has expanded the program to seven U.S. cities with a mission to promote local artists work through available media space.

A jury composed of local arts and design experts selected the top submissions for the Charlotte area program, with artists ranked among the top submissions automatically receiving invitations to participate. A public vote determined the final participants.


Jury-selected program artists (with artistic mediums in parenthesis) are:

Jean CauthenJean Cauthen (oil painting on canvas)

Christopher CraftChristopher Craft (encaustic painting on cradled wooden panel)

Leonor DemoriLeonor Demori (acrylic paint on glass)

Chris EvansChris Evans (acrylic on wood panel)

Julio GonzalezJulio Gonzalez (acrylic painting)

Laura HitchcockLaura Hitchcock (oil painting)

Foozhan KashkooliFoozhan Kashkooli (oil on board)

Allison LuceAllison Luce (fired clay with oxides, under-glaze, glaze and mixed media)

Kyle MosherKyle Mosher (mixed media)

Nicholas NapoletanoNicholas Napoletano (oil paint on canvas)

Osiris RainOsiris Rain (oil on linen mounted to aluminum panel)

Veda SaravanVeda Saravan (acrylics on canvas)

Sydney SogolSydney Sogol (fiber art, weaving, yarn)

Jimi ThompsonJimi Thompson (acrylic/digital)

Rob YoungRob Young (acrylics)

Artists selected by a public vote are:

Susan CardSusan Card (acrylic painting and mixed media)

Barbara EllisBarbara Ellis (acrylic on canvas)

Elyse FrederickElyse Frederick (acrylic and oil pastel)

Jennifer Parham GilomenJennifer Parham Gilomen (thread, rice paper, wax, tea, wallpaper, cotton rag paper)

Veronica MaldonadoVeronica Maldonado (oil on canvas)


Julio Gonzalez is a self taught multidisciplinary artist.

His work is heavily influenced by his Latin Heritage and has been described as bold, vibrant, and controversial.

I enjoy traveling and collaborating with other artists and creatives. Through my art, I seek to inspire others to wonder and celebrate the vibrancy of life.




New Dawn





Cox Mill Elementary

Cox Mill Elementary

uncategorized works


SONRIA – Art Exhibition – CLT NC 4.2.2016

I Am Quixote Festival – Raleigh NC 11.12.2015

“Curio”-Solo Exhibition – CLT NC – 2015

“Derivations” – Espada/Custom CLT NC – 2013

“CV”- Studio 1212 CLT NC – 2012

I Am Quixote Festival – 11.12.2015

I had the honor of creating a piece of art for the I Am Quixote Festival.




Cervantes relates the story of Don Quixote as a history, which he claims

he has translated from a manuscript written by a Moor named Cide Hamete Benengeli. Cervantes becomes a party to his own fiction, even allowing Sancho and Don Quixote to modify their own histories and comment negatively upon the false history published in their names.

In the end, the beaten and battered Don Quixote forswears all the chivalric truths he followed so fervently and dies from a fever. With his death, knights-errant become extinct. Benengeli returns at the end of the novel to tell us that illustrating the demise of chivalry was his main purpose in writing the history of Don Quixote.

To learn more visit the site: