This idea is born from the experience 5 years ago in Las Vegas, Nevada from the Route 91 Harvest Festival Concert shooting massacre that took 58 lives and wounded nearly 500 others on October 1st, 2017. The chaotic mayhem that gripped the metropolitan area throughout the night changed the city forever and destroyed countless lives. A local landscape architect had the vision to create a pop up memorial site of significance in a place of prominence so that the community could gather, grieve, share their emotions and stories and honor those lost. That simple concept became a remarkable, substantial garden built on donated land from the City of Las Vegas in the downtown arts district. It became a permanent site of 58 individual trees, walking paths, waterfalls, totems and a centerpiece of a large, mature Tree of Life display in a large raised heart-shaped garden bed. Thousands of clay art tiles were painted by the public at massive outdoor and indoor venues to adorn the park's walled surfaces and fence lines.
Shortly after the shootings in Las Vegas, our pottery-painting studio All Fired Up was contacted to donate tiles and assist with the painting project for the garden. Our studio's expertise in large scale events at elementary schools and church sites equipped us with the organized and methodical way to process hundreds and hundreds of guests. Many wanted to be a part of the First Friday paint night - the first one to be held - just 5 nights after the shootings occurred. The downtown site became a makeshift art studio and nearly 800 tiles were painted in a 6 hour event that was planned to last only a few. The public painted at tables and chairs and on the ground. When the rental company came for the lights and chairs and tables, people painted on the streets, on the curbs, under streetlights and parking lots, on pallets they found and on top of overturned trash cans. It was complete chaos from an events execution standpoint, but it was simply a beautiful evening of love, patience, peace, community, creativity and artistic expressions of emotions and reverence.
It was our absolute honor to process these messages of love and remembrance for those lost and for those battling for their lives in local hospitals. Our studio has been in business since 1998 as a small "mom and pop" micro storefront and this was the most significant work we had ever taken on in our entire history. It stands to this day as the most important art we have ever fired in our kilns. As we moved through the following weeks and months, we hosted painting sites for the general public, for first responders, for medical teams and for anyone that wanted to be a part. Out of state victim's families participated at studios like ours and they were mailed to Las Vegas. We belong to a wonderful national association for the ceramics industry that connects us to peers all over the country with studios like ours. The support from those peers and the long distance caretaking of that artwork insured all the tiles were in Las Vegas to be joined with the local tiles for installation downtown at the Healing Garden. The site has become a permanent destination of the downtown landscape and serves many every day that visit from near and far.
We have gathered a tight-knit circle of other like-minded studio owner artists and are bringing all the materials needed to Uvalde to create the gift of a memorial tile mural for this community. It is our vision for your city leaders to install the tiles in a prominent place for public visitation and future reflection and reverence so the tragedy and the lives lost are never forgotten.
We are all donating our time and talent... however in doing so, we are leaving our storefronts to staff which must be paid, or in some cases, we must close up shop while away and that is lost revenue. Glazing and firing of the tiles afterward is an expense to cover for the studios in the San Antonio area that are stepping up to help. We are all small business owners - the true "mom and pop" sized micro businesses coming out of Covid a former shell of what we used to look like. It is, indeed, a stretch for us all to commit to this undertaking in a post-Covid business climate. We are all committed to the significant impact a project like this will make to the community of Uvalde and it's citizens. The children shot at Robb Elementary and their teachers should never be forgotten and our simple small business niche in the ceramic tile painting world can be that beautiful solution for a lasting memorial. If so inclined, please support our efforts in Uvalde by visiting and supporting our GOfundme campaign: CLICK HERE TO DONATE
-Gail Schomisch of All Fired Up Las Vegas allfireduplv.com
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