Decades after they were friends in a junior high school in Lucerne, Switzerland, Carmelo Fiannaca recently reunited, via email, with Juan Carlos Serrano – thanks to SMC Community Ed.

Mosaic art instructor Carmelo Fiannaca

Spaniard Serrano, who now lives in Barcelona, left a note for his old friend Fiannaca – an SMC mosaic art instructor and award winning and internationally exhibited artist – after reading an article about Fiannaca on SMC Community Ed’s blog, SMC Mindspace.

The note, which was forwarded to Fiannaca and was written in German (Lucerne is in German-speaking Switzerland), said, “You will not believe it, but this is Juan from Lucerne. . . (We) were very big fans of the group KISS and had common school friends. . . I would be very happy to hear from you again and get back in touch.”

“It’s amazing,” Fiannaca said about hearing from his former classmate. “I was just blown away.”

Serrano found the Mindspace blog on Fiannaca by doing a Google search. The blog entry comes up fourth in a Google search of the artist.

Juan Carlos Serrano, then and now

The two were in junior high school together from about the ages of 12 to 15 roughly 40 years ago, in the mid- to late-70s. Although Fiannaca was born in Agrigento Sicily, Italy, his family moved to Switzerland when he was young.

Fiannaca said he has been corresponding by email and phone with Serrano and plans to visit him in 2019 in Barcelona.

“I remember him to be a shy teenager,” Fiannaca said of Serrano. “He sounded very confident on the phone and he has really changed as a adult.”

Juan Carlos Serrano, today

“The really unbelievable thing is I’ve never been to Barcelona and I’m the biggest Gaudi fan, and my work is like Gaudi,” he said, referring to the Spanish architect whose work – which often incorporates mosaic art – is found all over Barcelona.

Fiannaca, whose commissioned work can be seen throughout America (including John Wayne’s former estate), has been teaching mosaic art at SMC Community Ed for seven years. Though he plans to return to Sicily this month to buy a house and eventually create an art and cooking retreat, he said he loves doing the course so much he will return to Los Angeles twice a year to teach. His Introduction to Mosaic Art and Mosaic Art IIclasses both began Oct. 20.

Fiannaca has been creating art from a very young age. By 10 years old, he gained attention through his comics and stories, whose illustrations showed advanced abilities in art. During a summer trip to Sicily, Carmelo discovered the Cathedral of Monreale in Palermo where he became inspired to explore the color, texture and surfaces of mosaic art.

He received his degree from Plattenleger Verband in Lucerne, Switzerland in design, restoration, fabrication and installation. Carmelo continued his studies through a scholarship from the National Art Association and later ended up at SMC, where he received his degree from the School of Design, Art and Architecture.

The path that led Fiannaca to SMC’s art school was actually a musical one. A guitarist, he came to Los Angeles in 1993 to study at the Musicians Institute in Hollywood. Afterwards, he started playing in clubs and bars in Hollywood with a band called Big Muckamuck, whose lead signer was Tequila, a well-known vocalist.

“That’s what kept me here,” he said. “I remember thinking, ‘This is fun.’ But on the side, I was making mosaic tables.”

Fiannaca is looking forward to reuniting in person with Serrano.

“I think there are no coincidences in life,” Fiannaca said.  “Once a situation like this unravels you have to explore it. I can’t wait to sit with him in Barcelona and have a glass of wine and some tapas over a nice conversation about our lives.”

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