El Paso artists dedicate, reflect on iconic murals honoring Aug. 3 mass shooting victims

El Paso Strong

Photos by photojournalist Johnny Munoz/KTSM 9 News

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — After the Cielo Vista Walmart shooting that transpired on Aug. 3, 2019, many in the community tried to help one another heal and unite from the tragic event.

Some in the local art community grabbed their paintbrushes, spray cans, and took to the streets of the Sun City to create beautiful murals that represent the strength and resiliency of El Paso.

This, in honor of the victims, survivors, and first responders.

Artist Tino Ortega began a series of iconic 3-D balloon murals around town in tribute to the Aug. 3 mass shooting victims and their families.

Photo by photojournalist Johnny Munoz/KTSM 9 News

Ortega said the goal is to have 23 of these murals all over the city, one per victim, “So right now this is number eight for the balloon murals.”

The already existing 3-D balloon murals have popular phrases like “I Heart EP,” “Don’t Be Self Conchas,” “Chuco,” and most recently, “I Heart Arts District,” right outside the Convention Center in Downtown El Paso.

Photo by photojournalist Johnny Munoz/KTSM 9 News

“This one piece, the Community Foundation played a part in collecting and distributing funding to the families victims,” Ortega said. “They were the ones to select this location, so they’re also the ones that funded this piece.”

The murals have received a lot of attention, respect, and have brought many together through hundreds of shared pictures on social media.

“It’s good to honor the victims in a way where we can bring the community together. I didn’t really think of it becoming as big as it has, but to me, it was just my way of contributing a little bit back to the community. Just to see the community’s reaction to it has been tremendous,” Ortega said.

Another iconic mural, and also a historical landmark, is the “El Paso Strong” mural near Cotton Street and Arizona Avenue in Central El Paso.

Photo by photojournalist Johnny Munoz/KTSM 9 News

Artist Gabriel Vasquez created the mural to bring some light from the tragedy, and unite the community with a monumental piece that highlights the Franklin mountains and the El Paso Star.

“It’s definitely brought people together. It’s definitely served as a platform for the city,” Vasquez said. “Aside from bringing our city together a little bit more, I think by coming together helped us heal.”

For the last two years, Vasquez goes to visit the mural near the Aug. 3 anniversary and makes sure it’s touched up.

Photo by photojournalist Johnny Munoz/KTSM 9 News

He said it represents not only unity but hope that the community will continue to support one another through the dark and light moments.

“It’s definitely being there for our community, it’s definitely supporting each other, it’s definitely being a set of arms to catch the next man when he falls, if you can,” Vasquez said.

These murals will remain symbols and beacons of hope for the community, and the artists shared the memory of the victims will remain in their hearts.

“My condolences to all the victims and their families,” Vasquez said.

You can follow these artists on Instagram @oregtino (Tino Ortega) and @darth_grenade (Gabriel Vasquez).

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