Thursday, September 13, 2018

The 49 Mural Roundtable Meeting

Mural artist Michael Pilato came to Orlando from Happy Valley, PA shortly after the Pulse Nightclub massacre to create a mural as tribute to the 49 who were murdered on the evening of June 12, 2016. He introduced the idea of the World Mural project which would have murals around the world in places that had experienced tragedy. He attended my 49 portrait creation project at Falcon Bar and from that he imagined a group of artists working together to bring the mural to life. For his mural to be a success he needed public awareness so this round table was formed to get people on board to help with his vision. 

 Besides the painted mural he wanted a viewer to be able to point their smart phone at an individual and a 3d rendering would appear of the person walking off the surface and telling their story. Several people from a computer graphics company in Vancouver were at the meeting to explain how this tech might work. I tried on a headset and was able to walk around in a recreation of a civil war battleground. I walked up to the end of a cannon and looked down inside the barrel. It was possible to walk around soldiers as they prepared to fire the cannon. Such interactive tech is inspiring but in the end the mural just needed old fashioned brush and paint to be created.

Chimene Pindar Hurst first asked Michael to
create a mural in Orlando. Chimene's father took on he roll of keeping the round table committee on track. Michael's mural partner, Yurly Karabash arrived and the mural really started to take shape. I contributed 4 portraits of victims, recreating the portraits I had done on the evening that the 49 portraits were created. In the restructuring of the mural, all 4 of my contributions were painted over and replicas were painted in other sections sort of in my style.

Besides my small contribution to the mural, I also was hired by Michael to create several renderings that showed a new vision for Lake Beauty right next to
Orlando Regional Medical Center where all survivors who had been shot were taken and treated on that fateful night. The medical center is just a few blocks north of the Pulse Nightclub and because of that some lives could be saved. I went to the lake and drew the setting on location and then returned to the studio to make the changes to the setting that Michael envisioned. 49 plaques had been placed around a fountain already in the victims honor. the trouble with this otherwise peaceful lake is that it is right next to the very busy Orange Avenue.

Michael imagined a series of arching walls covered in greenery. Misters would soak the air cooling the area around the fountain. At night lights hidden in the greenery would light up with all the colors of the rainbow. The mist would soften the lights at night. A lower level path path was imagined that would literally be below the lake surface in spots with water cascading over the clear Plexiglas walls. Colorful plaques were imagined across the lake and a tiny gnome village might appear among the knees of a cypress tree. Catacombs could be created on a round peninsula that just out into the lake. Lake Beauty is already a peaceful and serene place despite the incessant sound of traffic. Each new suggestion was intended to make it even more of a place for reflection and healing. The project was pitched to the hospital and nothing ever became of it. Susan Stauffer Beckmann is the public relations person for the mural. It was propped up for a day on June 12, 2017 at Lake Eola for people to see. Rather than being painted on a wall, it is painted on sections of marine grade board so it can be installed anywhere. It was installed on the side of a bar in Thornton Park for a while, but that is not intended as it's permanent home.

What went up as a temporary memorial at Pulse. Resembles the curving wall design envisioned for lake Beauty. Only instead of being covered in foliage it is covered with thousands of photos from the community response after Pulse happened.

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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