Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Orlando One Year Later

The Orange County Regional History Center has mounted an exhibit entitled "One Year Later" that showcases a fraction of the items collected from the various memorial sites around Orlando in the aftermath of the Pulse Nightclub shooting tragedy that took 49 lives. The exhibition commemorates one year of pain, grief, loss, love, fear, resilience, coping and community. The exhibit recalls the heroes in our community who banded together in defiance of hate, who support all those who continue to live through the nightmare, remembering those murdered and holding the victims families in our hearts.

I sketched on the final day of the exhibition install. Museum staff were putting up the final vinyl lettering on the walls and making sure everything was in its place. Over 5000 items were collected from memorial sites. This exhibit encapsulated the shear volume of what was left. Rather than showing just one rosary, there are twenty, instead of one t-shirt there is an entire wall. One wall is covered with a sampling of the hundreds of paintings i have done at vigils and fundraisers since that fateful day last June 12th. Also on display are the original paintings and sketches done by local artists in one evening of the 49 victims of the attack. I hosted the evening and felt it was important to do the work in one evening since all 49 lives were taken in one night of terror.

Above the Angel Action Wings, built from PVC and white fabric, there was a quote... "I don't have money to give, but I can spread love and I can spread hope. I was waiting for the opportunity to use the one thing I do have, which is the skill to sew, I can sew like the wind." Jeannie Haskett, a theater seamstress and Angel Action Wings volunteer, to the Miami Herald.

I made my way through the exhibit reading every panel, circling the huge room counter clockwise. At the entrance there was a long platform with artificial grass covered in candles, rainbow pinwheels and flowers. The pinwheels spun in the breeze, recreating in a a memorial site in a ghostly way. The room is organized into sections, each honoring members of the Orlando community. There was a wall for first responders, a wall showed the worldwide response and outpouring of love after the tragedy. There were lines of prayer flags, and a floating wall of stars decorated with rainbows and messages of hope. An Ikea couch was covered in messages as well as the water cooler that was filled daily by church volunteers for people who were visiting the Pulse memorial site. In the corner of the room was a gorgeous dress made from a rainbow of hearts. In a secluded alcove, were the 49 crosses that were left at the Orlando Regional Medical Center. All the crosses grouped together in the tight space, left me feeling overwhelmed by the loss.

There was an opening for the families of victims and survivors. It was incredibly well attended. Probably over 500 people attended the opening night. This was an opportunity for families to get out and see items left in honor of their loved ones for the first time. There were 20 therapist at the opening wearing bright yellow shirts that said, Feeling sad? Lets talk. With so many therapists, it must have been difficult to grieve in peace, let alone move around the exhibit. One therapist handed out stress balls any time there were tears. There were also 11 therapy dogs on hand who performed their jobs with honor.

In my sketch, Whitney Broadaway is putting up vinyl lettering that encourages viewers to use #OrlandoOneCollection when posting information about the show online. Her baby bump proves that new life begins as tragedy ends, just as baby Cory Connell was named for his heroic uncle who died at Pulse. A large interactive area encourages people to write notes on a six foot square sheet of paper with permanent markers. Messages of hope and condolences are added every day. The exhibit runs from June 12th to June 17th when it has to come down for a wedding ceremony. This is an incredible, moving and inspiring exhibit, and I encourage anyone who feels they are a part of the Orlando community to get down there to experience it. The museum is open from 10AM to 7PM each day and admission is free.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at analogartistdigitalworld@gmail.com

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