SAN ANTONIO – Artist Uvalde Abel Ortiz says the community immediately accepted him when he arrived in Coyote Country 17 years ago.
“This is what they all have in common is that huge heart that makes Uvalde what it is, and that’s why I had to put love in the window because that’s my experience with this community,” says Ortiz. “When I came here, I was welcomed with open arms. They hugged me. ”
They also accepted iconography in his art which captures the events and issues affecting his people. The huge painting of a heart inside a sun, with two arms coming out of it with bags of food and drink in each hand. It illustrates the influx of Haitian migrants who crossed the border last year. She also has a giant portrait of her mother’s passport photo since she arrived in the United States.
“How do I respond to these things that happen in my culture, bordering on my experience as an immigrant,” says Ortiz. “From having failed the first grade to assimilation to the dominant culture and at the beginning to feel that I belong”.
Ortiz runs Art Lab Contemporary Art Space in downtown Uvalde and is also a professor at Southwest Texas Junior College.
Art is his life, art allowed him to heal. He hopes his 21 mural project to honor the 21 lives killed at Robb Elementary will allow Uvalde to heal. His kids once went to Robb’s and his friends have kids who go there. That’s how small this community is.
“My own student lost her daughter and so we are all connected in that sense. Once the media leaves, the pain remains. We need to have those chances of healing, whether it’s the murals or the mental health professionals who walk in, “says Ortiz.” All that has to be an ongoing process. ”
Ortiz says art has already brought this community together. She started a monthly art selling festival called Second Friday and hosted blank canvas nights in her family-friendly gallery. Basically, he made art accessible to this community that never had it.
“This is why we need it, we need it to heal and that the healings will be long term, not short term,” says Ortiz.
Ortiz says he has 20 artists from all over Texas who have agreed to help him with this project, but says it won’t start until he receives blessings from all 21 affected families.
“Again, wounds resurfacing. They won’t heal easily, but by knowing this community and their resilience, “says Ortiz.” That’s the word I would use to describe this community is resilience, and that gives them strength in general. ”