Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Inspiration Mural.

In July of 2016, shortly after the horrific Pulse Nightclub shooting, Michael Pilato began his work to create the inspiration mural. Yuri Karabash his assistant joined him shortly after. Chimene Pindar Hurst, a Thornton Park resident was instrumental in bringing this creative team to Orlando. Chimene's husband John was a college friend of Michael's so it was a creative reunion. A second floor studio was donated above Anthony's Pizza on the corner of Mills and Colonial. Local residents rallied to repair and furnish the place which needed lots of work. Michael recalled waking up one night to find a rat breathing in his face. He punched the rat and wet back to bed.

Michael attended my 49 portraits night in which local artists painted and sketched portraits of the Pulse victims in one evening. That night inspired Michael to want to use local talent to paint portraits on the mural he was creating. Some of the artists from my project painted portraits onto Michael's mural. Those portraits float above the surface in rainbow colored hearts. I painted 4 faces, several of which had to be moved and thus repainted. The mural was in a constant state of flux and is still a work in progress.

On June 12, the mural which is made from a series of marine grade boards was assembled for the first time and exhibited at the Pulse nightclub at the 2AM and 10AM events. The boards were mounted on large sheets of plywood and supported by 2 by 4s that were nailed into triangular braces. "Raising the mural into place was like a barn raising." said Chimene. After the Pulse event was over, the entire mural had to be moved again to go to Lake Eola where it would go on display during the evening's candlelight vigil. I was asked to sit at the Albin Polasek Museum table to help promote "Summer of Love: Reflections on Pulse at the Albin Polasek Museum (633 Osceloa Avenue Winter Park Fl 32789). That show which opened in May is running for five months.

There were concerns that the mural supports might become a hazard if people tripped on them. If the huge wall fell it could cause damage. It rained all afternoon and when I got to Lake Eola Vigil, I was pleased to see that despite the concerns, the mural stood tall on the walkway to the right of the Disney band shell.  Crowds of people walked past and took cell phone photos. The crowds got thicker despite the rain. I worked under my umbrella, trying to keep my tablet dry. Pam Schwartz, the History Center curator and some of her staff stopped to say hello and she was kind enough to hold the umbrella as I finished the sketch. We joked about how I had to leave out so many details from the mural because I had to work fast.

Beside me the Kimball sisters, Casadie 14, Delanie 11, Emmalie 10, and Fynnlie 7, were handing out paper hearts colored with crayons to resemble rainbows. These young girls had lost their father before the Pulse attack and thus they know what loss feels like. They were “Spreading love, because there’s too much hate in the world.” They had 2000 hand made hearts to pass out and when done they will have handed out over 20,000 hearts. Passers by accepted the hearts with thanks. There was visible love in the crowd. People hugged and couples caressed hands. The crowd wasn't as thick as the vigil a year ago, rain likely chased some away. But the memories are still fresh. There is a storm on the horizon. That will not keep Orlando down. we answer hate with love. Pulse themed buses were parked around the vigil possibly to block potential hate mongers. Connections in the community grow stronger and we all hope for a better world. It isn't a 1960's ideal, but something we need to work hard for.

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

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