UVALDE, Texas — What may have seemed like a regular school day for 19 students and two teachers, became a nightmare for them, their families, and for many across the nation.
For two months, the world has felt and mourned the innocent lives lost during the Uvalde school shooting that happened in May.
Many communities across Texas have united to help the families of the victims through their healing process.
Uvalde-based artist Abel Ortiz is doing that in conjunction with a group called Collectors and Allies of Chicanx and Latinx Art and "Mas Cultura," a non-profit organization which has organized and deployed numerous artists to execute the vision.
The project is called "Healing Uvalde," and it focuses on creating 21 portrait murals that look to honor the tragedy's victims.
Mas Cultura's project manager, Monica Maldonado, hopes to provide healing to the victims' families and to unite Uvalde residents.
“We are just really grateful to be here," she said. "Even though this has been a, you know, a very heavy, heartfelt tragedy — it’s heartwarming to see people come together.”
All 21 victims have been assigned to a specific artist from the Texas region. There are artists from Austin, San Antonio, Houston, and even Corpus Christi.
Once the artist is matched to a family, it is their job to design the mural and personalize it in a way that when it is viewed, that child or teacher is remembered.
“We didn’t know what to expect, and it’s been really, really beautiful just to connect with the families and also have them work with us through this process," Maldonado said.
Cristina Noriega, a portrait muralist from San Antonio, is painting Amerie Jo Garza’s mural. She said Amerie's family has expressed its gratitude for the project.
“It’s very meaningful to us, to know that we’re doing something that matters to the families,” Noriega said.
The artist focused on Garza's favorite colors and interests for her part of the mural.
Garza dreamed of one day being an art teacher and loved sunflowers, so Noriega incorporated those subjects into the painting.
Noriega also added the Bronze Cross posthumously awarded to Amerie to the mural.
The medal is presented by the Girl Scouts of America, and is given to a girl who has shown extraordinary heroism or risked her life to save another. Garza was one of the students that attempted to call 911 during the shooting.
For more information or if you would like to donate to the ‘Healing Uvalde’ project click here.