The best way to tell the story of Community Ed mosaic art instructor Carmelo Fiannaca is to visit him in his stunning Tuscan-style villa with its sweeping view of the Malibu coastline.

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It’s there you will see the beautiful mosaic work that this award-winning and internationally exhibited artist has done throughout the house, both indoors and outdoors and in his workshop.

It’s there you will see his outdoor pizza oven, a clue to his love for cooking for others.

View images of Carmelo Fiannaca’s work

What the house will not fully reveal is his range of artistic talents, or the impressive commissions he has received (including John Wayne’s former estate), or the journey that led him from Sicily to California via Switzerland, or how Santa Monica College changed his life, or how much he loves teaching students who all have interesting stories of their own.

Fiannaca’s deep passion for art began as a young child in Agrigento Sicily, Italy. His family moved to Switzerland when he was young, and it was during this time that he discovered drawing and painting.

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.”

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Eventually, he moved back to Europe, sold his house in Sicily and returned to L.A. to study sculpture and art at SMC.

“I loved the Art Department,” he said. “So many wonderful professors took me under their wing because they knew how dedicated I was. The school was like my studio, and I would often arrive before classes started and leave after the last professor left.”

Fiannaca cites two professors– sculpture professor Don Hartmann and Ronn Davis, currently Art Department chair – as particularly influential in his artistic pursuits and career. In fact, Davis, who is still a close friend, was the one who suggested Fiannaca to teach at SMC Community Ed, which he started doing five years ago.

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Fiannaca not only took classes through the Art Department, but he was also admitted to SMC’s School of Design, Art and Architecture, a widely praised program for a small group of talented students who were taught by leading artists such as George Herms.

Right after graduating from SMC, Fiannaca got a significant commission to do a mural in a wealthy couple’s home in Montana. It took him a year to complete the mural in his studio before shipping it to his client.

That launched his career as an artist who designs, fabricates and installs one-of-a-kind mosaics and sculptures for gallery, architectural, community and home settings. He says his mosaics are produced using the finest materials gathered from sources around the world: smalti, gold, marble, vitreous glass, ceramic and more.

He recently completed a three-year-long installation at Duke’s Point – the former home of John Wayne – in Newport Beach. His award-winning art is exhibited both nationally and internationally and is represented in private, public and corporate collections.

An accomplished artist, he travels the world and is constantly exploring both classical and cutting-edge mosaics, sculptures and installations. He continues to draw his inspiration from the world around him, and his work reflects many of the masters: Picasso, Gaudi, Warhol, Klimt, Hundertwasse, Nikki de Saint Phalle, Simon Rodia (creator of the Watts Towers), as well as his own Italian mosaic art heritage.

Carmelo Fiannaca will teach Introduction to Mosaic Art beginning Sept. 10, Mosaic Art II beginning Sept. 10, and Mosaic Art IIbeginning Oct. 15.

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