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Healing Uvalde Mural Project Art Explanation

Remembering Uvalde Through Art

By Jollean Vasquez 

UVALDE– May 24,2024 will mark the second-year anniversary since the school shooting in Uvalde. The 21 children killed in the shooting at Robb Elementary School are immortalized in murals around downtown, a part of the Healing Uvalde Project created by Abel Ortiz Acosta.  

The Healing Uvalde Project was put into place by Ortiz and carried out by many individuals who dedicated their time to complete the big vision. Each victim is pictured in their very own mural, with the exception of Joe and Irma Garcia, who share a mural as long-time lovers.

 The Project began two months after the tragedy occurred. In the harsh heat of the summer, many artists from all over traveled to assist Ortiz’s plan.  Artists were assigned a project to complete, some taking on more than one mural.  

Acosta is an associate professor of art at Southwest Texas Junior College and an Art Lab owner.  

“For art, I am always optimistic but the whole idea was born from an emotional response. I was sitting on my couch that night on the 24th, it rained strong and poured on Uvalde and I asked myself ‘what can I do?’” Ortiz said.    

He pictured the murals as monumental pieces, because he understands the pain families are enduring is just as large, and permanent. 

Twenty-one children including 2 teachers were fatally wounded while in session at school.  

Uvalde has a population of 24,960 people and has now become a place of one of Texas’ deadliest school shootings. 

Defined by the Office of Justice Programs, a mass shooting is any incident where four or more individuals are shot and killed. 

Walking through downtown Uvalde, Texas, the walls of businesses are painted with murals dedicated to those who lost their lives on May 24, 2022.  

Ortiz immigrated to the United States from Mexico as he was entering the first grade. Here, he says he was introduced to art and connected with it deeply to calm his feelings.  

“My own experience with trauma, as an immigrant kid, based in the first grade of August 1973. Art had the power to calm me down and gave me a sense of belonging,” Ortiz said. He gives his thanks to his teacher, Mrs. Wilson, for allowing him to experiment with art at such an early age.  

One of the most positive actions that have come from the making of the Healing Uvalde Project is that “many families are using the space for calming, and a space for reflection.” Ortiz said.  

Ortiz also said one of the most challenging aspects that came from the creation of the murals was the process of bringing the whole project together.  

Finishing a total of 26 murals scattered throughout Uvalde, Ortiz said It took 3 months and 10 days to begin organizing it, although he had a whole team behind him, assisting in the project.  

Other challenges that arose include the historical commission not allowing the process of painting due to the walls belonging to historical buildings, not having the correct equipment, heat exhaustion, and running out of money to continue the plan.  

Ortiz said if there was an obstacle in the way, somehow it was taken care of by circumstances of connections throughout the community such as having a friend that works in the historical building bureau, putting in a positive word for the Project.  

Monica Maldonado, founder of Mas Cultura in Austin, Texas, was also involved in the Healing Uvalde Project. Maldonado assisted in pairing artists with a mural of their own.  

 Dr. George Jesus Meza, a psychologist and art collector-based in Los Angeles, helped the Healing Uvalde Project as he assisted in grouping a committee together titled Collectors of Chicano/Latinx Art and Allies, developing an online art auction across the nation. In total, this action created to assist the Uvalde murals raised about $42,000.  

This helped jumpstart the project and begin their planning and painting.  

The Healing Uvalde murals was a fully non-profit project. Lodging, travel, and food were paid for by the project in trade for artistic helping hands.  

As the project reached its midpoint and was running low on funds, television show host Kelly Clarkson donated $10,000 to keep the project going. The ending total donations for the project came out to $52,000.

Clarkson’s donation helped cover the cost of paint sealant and anti-graffiti protector on the murals.  

A volunteer group out of the University of California Los Angeles donated their product of development, an ultraviolet ray protector, and sealed the murals for the community.  

“This community is still very much divided. Politically, it did not change much. But the murals are working in many ways. The main idea was to comfort the families and comfort the community, a healing process. This is a memorial art walk; the idea is to walk all the murals. A benefit that hopefully the city will gain from as well,” Ortiz said.  

The murals are in a spot of recognition; many town members can drive by and witness them daily.  

Parents of Uziyah Cross, Brett and Nicki, said “I love looking at Joe and Irma’s mural. They have a beautiful love story. And with meeting their families, I know that story now and I can look at that mural and I tell you, it exactly represents them and their love story. So, I think it’s a good way for everyone to get to know them.” 

Beams of light have now been placed above each mural to ensure families and visitors can pay their respects and see the painting at any time of day.  

Below are pinpoints throughout Uvalde that mark mural placements, and other significant buildings such as the El Progresso Library, Downtown Uvalde, the art lab owned by Abel Ortiz, as well as the site of the tragedy, Robb Elementary 

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