An art exhibit opening soon in Las Vegas is intended to memorialize the victims of last year’s deadly shooting and and aid in their families’ healing process.
The Las Vegas Portraits Project (LVPP) will feature portraits of the 58 victims of the Oct. 1 shooting in a monthlong exhibit that will run Sept. 17-Oct. 19 at the Clark County Government Center.
It’s among a series of events being planned as part of “Vegas Strong Day,” the anniversary of the shooting.
Christiana Duarte of Torrance, Calif., painted by Kortney Goodman Struempf of Marietta, Ga. (Courtesy of Las Vegas Portraits Project)
“The portraits are intended to be gifts for the families of the victims to let them know that their loved ones are not forgotten,” co-creator Ellen Abramo told Fox News.
Fifty-eight people lost their lives during the Route 91 Harvest Festival, an outdoor country music event, when the gunman unleashed shots from his room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel and casino.
Abramo, along with cousin Kortney Struempf, both artists, “started out with the idea of trying to build a bridge of hope.”
Kurt von Tillow of Cameron Park, Calif. by Virginia Culbertson of Edgefield, S.C. (Courtesy of Las Vegas Portraits Project)
“LVPP’s main goal was to have 58 different artists create 58 portraits of the victims of the LV massacre,” Struempf told Fox News. “Our second goal was for the families to be the recipients of the portraits after they were completed.”
The artists volunteered their time and materials for each art piece.
The cousins felt “compelled” to do the project after seeing people die in “such a sensless manner,” Struempf said.
“My mind was wondering what if that had happened to us?”
“I had also just taken two of our daughters to a country music concert in Allentown [Pa.] with some friends in late August. It was an outside venue, too, like Route 91,” Abramo said. “It was our third year attending in a row. Like many of the victims, we had attended the concert again and again. My mind was wondering, ‘What if that had happened to us?'”
Abramo’s father died two months before the Vegas tragedy, so she was still grieving. She wanted to lend her heart and hand to honor her late father, who was “also one to assist in the midst of tragedy.” Her father had spent a month counseling victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Communicating across state lines for LVPP, Struempf lives in Georgia, while Abramo lives in Pennsylvania. Both have contributed portraits to the project, in a process they describe as having “lasting effects.”
When the world found out about their project, “applications just began coming in organically from all over the U.S. and beyond,” Abramo said.
Jordan McIldoon of Maple Ridge, B.C., Canada by Amanda Roth of Redondo Beach, Calif., a survivor of the massacre. (Courtesy of Las Vegas Portraits Project)
She said overseas artists from Canada, Australia, South Africa, Greece and Peru also contributed.
The artists were able to select the person whom they felt the most drawn to, Struempf said, adding that the art pieces are “timeless, cherished and done with love” by the artists.
“Painting/drawing a portrait becomes intimate, as you are looking at their face, every curve, color change, tilt of the eye, lift of the lip or any other facial expression,” she said. “You know their face almost as well as your own when you have completed the portrait. Being drawn to a person … allows the artist to truly capture the person’s light.”
After the exhibit, the portraits will be repackaged and sent to the families of the victims, they said.
“We feel that in times of tragedy like the shooting in Las Vegas, it’s important for people to know there is still good in the world; there are still people who care,” Abramo said.
“It was about making sure that the 58 fallen are never forgotten.”
Struempf said that the project is not “self-serving,” and not about the money or fame, as “no money was exchanged hands” in the process.
“It was about making sure that the 58 fallen are never forgotten,” she said.