On Friday, Fort Worth artists Juan Velázquez and Sarah Ayala arrived in Uvalde to paint a large-scale mural of 10-year-old Alithia Ramirez, one of 21 victims of the May 24 shooting at Robb Elementary School.
An exterior wall of the Art Lab contemporary art space, a few blocks from the town square, served as the mural site. Ayala illustrated the background and Velázquez designed the portrait based on a photo of Ramirez wearing a tie-dye shirt. At the top of the shirt, he reproduced three characters that Ramirez herself drew.
“I had seen the news, and one of the kids caught my eye because she was an artist,” Velázquez said. “From one artist to another artist – it was in my head.”
But Ramirez is just the start – each of the victims’ families have consented to having murals of their loved ones painted in Uvalde on weekends until August 20, said Monica Maldonado, who is helping to organize the project. . There will also be two community murals, painted alongside local children, said Maldonado, who is the founder of MAS Cultura, an Austin-based organization that connects Latino artists to resources.
Each of the muralists, who all live in Texas, are volunteers. Maldonado raised over $12,000 through a GoFundMe for art supplies, and an online auction also helped raise funds.
“It’s not going to fix anything, but it brings a certain type of unity to a community,” Velázquez said. “It’s hard for me to find words to be able to say or express what I feel, and I find it easier to do so through art.”