El Paso muralists paint murals in Uvalde in honor of victims of school massacre

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El Paso muralist Tino Ortega recently was in Uvalde, Texas, painting a special mural in honor of one of the children killed in the Robb Elementary School shooting.

Ortega said he was drawn to the opportunity because he felt it tied into his own goal of honoring the 23 victims of the 2019 El Paso mass shooting with murals featuring mylar balloons. He has created 11 around El Paso (including one that recently was painted over) and is still looking for space.

"It seemed similar. Theirs was just bigger but mimicked what I was doing. It just made sense to be a part of the project," said Ortega, who owns Galeria Lincoln at 3915 Rosa Ave.

Ortega was one of two El Paso artists who participated in the Healing Uvalde project organized by MAS Cultura in Austin, which invited artists to paint murals of the 21 victims. The project was made possible by MAS Cultura, Collectors Of Chicano/Latinx Art and Allies, and Art Lab-Uvalde.

The other El Paso artist involved was Victor Casas.

Texas artists have been going to paint in the Downtown District of Uvalde since July 9 and are set to continue through Saturday. The goal of the murals is to represent unity, healing and remembrance.

Ortega said the organization provided an Airbnb for the artists and he received some paint donations and took his supplies to paint a portrait of Jailah Nicole Silguiero. The 11-year-old was described as an energetic child who enjoyed making TikTok videos, according to a GoFundMe page.

Ortega said he chose to paint Jailah because her biography spoke to him.

Galeria Lincoln owner and muralist Tino Ortega stands in front of his "I (heart) EP" mural, which he created in honor of the victims of the Aug. 3, 2019, mass shooting at an East Side Walmart.
Galeria Lincoln owner and muralist Tino Ortega stands in front of his "I (heart) EP" mural, which he created in honor of the victims of the Aug. 3, 2019, mass shooting at an East Side Walmart.

"The reason I picked Jailah was because she really reminded me so much of my daughter. Her favorite colors were pink and blue and she was not too girlie but not a tomboy, somewhere in between," he said.

Ortega said Jailah's family, including mom Veronica Luevanos, and parents of other victims would go and make sure the artists had work benches, beverages and shade while they worked. And he said her family helped with Jailah's mural. Their names are written on the mural along with Ortega's.

"I really wanted to incorporate them in there. There was a little TikTok logo incorporated into the portrait, so I taped it off. And I was teaching them how to paint a galaxy design and teaching them to do stars in the piece as well," he said. "To have them have their names on the artwork, it goes to show how they were not just part of her life when she was here but how they are a part of her life when she's not. It's a way to keep her legacy going."

"I know (her mom) had been through a lot. I could tell she was holding back tears all the time. And I was glad she was able to be there and give some insight into who her daughter was," he added.

Jailah's mural is next to one of Jayce Carmelo Luevanos, her cousin who tragically also was killed in the massacre.

Ortega said he tried to incorporate some work that would connect the two murals. The artist who painted Jayce added a cup of coffee because the little boy liked drinking it.

"At the last minute, Jailah's parents asked if I could throw a Capri Sun in there," he said. Ortega ended up putting it in her hand.

Ultimately, Ortega said he feels fortunate to help give back.

"A lot of things I've been doing has been turning something negative into something positive," he said. "So, it's about being able to give back and make something uplifting out of something that was tragic."

More:Segundo Barrio's history comes alive in its colorful murals

María Cortés González may be reached at 915-546-6150; mcortes@elpasotimes.com; @EPTMaria on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on El Paso Times: El Paso muralists honor Uvalde shooting victims through artwork