For the retirement community Carolina Meadows in Chapel Hill, the best way to support UNC-TV’s annual fundraiser was puzzling at first – but then they pieced together the perfect team to tackle the project.
Resident artists Susan Gaca, Margaret Zircher and Bill Davis teamed up to design a mural with the theme “All Things North Carolina,” featuring prominent North Carolina historic and cultural features such as the Biltmore Estate, the stomping grounds of Blackbeard the Pirate and coastal lighthouses. It was then turned into a 550-piece jigsaw puzzle by Winston Salem company Heritage Puzzle, which is donating a portion of the proceeds to UNC-TV.
“It’s probably one of the most innovative ways that we have seen a group come together and not only showcase what they're doing artistically but also use that to support UNC-TV as well,” said Shannon Vickery, director of production partnerships and business development for UNC-TV.
Highlighting state features like the brown pelican, the birthplace of Pepsi Cola and the first cotton textile mill, the 18-inch by 24-inch puzzle comes with a key that gives background information on the 53 landmarks represented. It sells for $16.95 on Heritage Puzzle’s website, along with about 20 other stores in North Carolina such as Lynn’s Hallmark and Morgan Imports in Durham and Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh. It’s also sold at the N.C. Museum of History.
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The mural’s artists are donating all of their royalties to support UNC-TV, and the puzzle is also being used as a donor gift for those who support the station.
Vickery noted that UNC-TV loved the puzzle because it connected well with the content that the station strives to produce.
Initially, the artists painted an 8 foot by 7 foot mural on one of Carolina Meadows’ walls, depicting a map of North Carolina’s prominent features. Gaca, who majored in painting in college and has done murals in the past, said she created the design in the style of American painter Rufus Porter. Her favorite feature to paint was the Charlotte motor speedway racetrack.
Davis, a native of North Carolina, drew the lighthouses and wildlife. He said one resident who saw the mural suggested they turn it into a puzzle since “a lot of us old folks like to do puzzles.”
The artists then reached out to Karen Everhart, owner of Heritage Puzzle in Winston Salem, who agreed to turn the design into a puzzle and add the item to her product line.
“I think it’s a great puzzle not only adults but also for children,” she said. “It’s a great educational tool for all ages.”
Everhart will offer the puzzle in stores and online indefinitely, continuing to donate a portion of the proceeds to UNC-TV. She noted that sales have seen an uptake recently because of holiday shopping.
Puzzles are particularly appealing to customers because they’re a family friendly activity and help relax the mind, Everhart said.
Melissa Krass, vice president of sales and marketing at Carolina Meadows, agreed, noting that the puzzle is also popular because so many North Carolina residents are passionate about the state.
She said that the retirement community has been fundraising for UNC-TV for at least 15 years because so many of the residents love its educational mission and value public television.
“They know there’s not a lot of money to support public television, so residents of Carolina Meadows are committed to making sure that continues,” she said.
Davis noted that the most rewarding part of creating the puzzle was seeing how many North Carolinians enjoyed it.
“It’s not a great piece of art, but it’s something that appeals to a large number of people,” he said. “It touches a lot of people.”