Portrait mural project in Uvalde honors victims of Robb Elementary shooting

It has been two months since 21 people were killed inside of Robb Elementary.

UVALDE, Texas – It’s been two months since a shooting at Robb Elementary School took the lives of 19 children and two teachers.

There were 17 others hurt, including a 10-year-old girl who is still receiving care at University Hospital in San Antonio.

The tragedy is being felt throughout Uvalde and the state. It inspired an art project called, “Healing Uvalde 21 Portrait Murals.”

“She loved her shoes so much that she had to put her mark on it. And so, we’re kind of trying to help to make, to help her leave, you know, a bigger mark,” artist Ana Hernandez said.

10-year-old Maite Rodriguez’s green Converse have become iconic.

“She drew a little heart on her Converse right after she got them,” Hernandez said.

Maite’s mom, Ana Rodriguez, shared it’s the only way her daughter was identified after she was killed inside of her classroom -- a truth that rocked the nation and touched artist Ana Hernandez.

“My daughter is actually 10 years old,” Hernandez shared. “And her name, she has the same middle name as her. Uh, like they’re in the same grade.”

Hernandez and her assistant Gabi Magaly are just some of the more than 50 artists from across Texas working in Uvalde.

“Last night we came in a little late, around like 9, because we had to project and we didn’t know the family was going to be here. So it was kind of cool to have the family like see the reveal of the design,” Magaly said.

They’re collaborating to embody the spirit of the lives taken far too soon.

“That’s her actual handwriting. That’s, that’s the way she wrote her name. That’s the way she wrote ‘you console me,’” artist Cristina Noriega said. Noriega painted a portrait of Amerie Jo Garza.

Each brush stroke by the artists keeps their memories alive.

“I decided to use the photograph of Eva because I noticed that her daughter, she had posted that. That was her favorite picture of her mom, and she wanted to have it there forever,” Sandra Gonzalez, the artist painting the mural of Eva Mireles, said.

The Healing Uvalde 21 Portrait Murals project has been in the works for weeks.

“Pretty soon after this whole tragedy happened,” Monica Maldonado, the project manager, said.

Each artist was carefully paired by organizer Abel Ortiz and Maldonado.

“It was just very intentional and us wanting to make sure there was a connection between the child and the artist,” Maldonado said.

These murals allow families and friends a place to come and visit.

“We came early yesterday and there was one of the, one of the teacher’s best friends was having coffee in front of the mural and they were just like having coffee,” Hernandez said.

A place to remember and never let them go.

“What a beautiful child. And we need to remember that about her,” Noriega said.

The murals will all be finished in the next couple of weeks and a dedication ceremony is in the works for August.

There will also be a map made so people can easily find where each of the murals is at.

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About the Authors:

Leigh Waldman is a news reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in 2021. Leigh comes to San Antonio from the Midwest after spending time at a station in Omaha, NE. After two winters there, she knew it was time to come home to Texas. When Leigh is not at work, she enjoys eating, playing with her dogs and spending time with family.

Gavin Nesbitt is a photojournalist and video editor who joined KSAT in September 2021. He has traveled across the great state of Texas to film, conduct interviews and edit many major news stories, including the White Settlement church shooting, Hurricane Hanna, 2020 presidential campaigns, Texas border coverage and the Spurs.