Author: Juliann Lehman, Keep Gastonia Beautiful Administrator
Bee City Affiliate: Gastonia, NC
USDA Plant Zone: 7b
My top 5 native pollinator plants: Milkweed, Salvia, Coneflower, Black-Eyed Susan, Bee Balm
Lessons learned: Well, to be honest, before taking this job, I didn’t know how important bees truly were! Now I’m the “queen bee” around here, connecting both citizens and students with information that is age appropriate.
A Great Place to Bee
Keep Gastonia Beautiful is always looking for unique ways to highlight our Bee City USA affiliation. We decided public art—a large mosaic piece and smaller place-making metal bees that “waggle” through Main Avenue—would add a flourish to our downtown. This project, titled “Great Place to Bee,” has created a buzz of excitement and interest throughout the community.
Choosing an Artist
With the completion of the new multiuse stadium near downtown Gastonia, and the arrival of the Honey Hunters baseball team, Keep Gastonia Beautiful was excited to create unique public art and educational opportunities for citizens and visitors to downtown. Our volunteer Art Committee was very involved with the search for artist’s qualifications in 2021 and finally selected the artist in 2022. The chosen artist, Carlos González García from Hillsborough, NC, created a mosaic piece that showcases both our Bee City USA affiliation and our mission of recycling. His mosaic studio, NC Mosaics is the first in North Carolina to create smalti glass for projects from recycled glass.
With honeycomb geometry and Main Street Gastonia architectural elements together in the mosaic column it begins to bring the original vision of a “Great Place to Bee” to life, creating a vibrant, colorful landmark that will spur a look to the future of Gastonia while embracing the past. The place-making bees “waggle” through downtown and make their way to the mosaic column near the stadium where the Queen Bee will be waiting by the Hive. The artist has decided to call the column “Serenity,” as all the buzzing bees around the hive might seem like chaos but inside the hive there is much order.
Creating a Sense of Place
The place-making bees represent our city’s motto, “Great Place, Great People, Great Promise,” and we love to think that they truly highlight that this is a “Great Place to Bee.” The metal bees feature both facts on bees and pollinators and also highlight the historical significance of many of the buildings featured in “Serenity.” The bees have QR codes that can be scanned to access information, which we will change and update from time to time to keep the project always evolving. It’s bringing whimsy and fun colorful bees to downtown. Bees are on light poles, in flower beds, and welded onto bike racks.
An Award-Winning Idea
This multifaceted project demonstrates that Keep Gastonia Beautiful is enhancing the quality of life and investing in our community. We submitted it for an “Innovation Award” through Keep America Beautiful and were thrilled to be one of nine affiliates, out of 700, to be chosen for the 2022 award.
Pride in the Community
The new artwork brings pride in the community, reminding people to explore downtown. With the new baseball season right around the corner, we anticipate that citizens and visitors alike will be found up and down Main Avenue looking for bees and learning that Gastonia is a “Great Place to Bee”—and a Bee City USA affiliate!