As a native El Pasoan, m y h e a r t i s b r e a k i n g this weekend. On Saturday, an angry person opened fire in a busy Walmart in my hometown. There was then a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio thirteen hours later. People were injured, people are missing, and people died.
I am not going to talk about politics (don’t @ me). This is an art blog. I am going to talk about art.
As first responders rush to help victims and businesses open their doors to those in need, I want to remind you all that the artists also have a critical role in the healing of a community in the face of tragedy. I am not just talking about personal therapy either; I’m talking about tangible make-the-world-better-we-need-your-talent help.
I want to talk about some ways I have seen artists step up this weekend. I am proud to be an El Pasoan, and I have also found that I a m s o p r o u d to be a part of the creative community.
C A T H A R T I C E M P A T H Y
I was so moved when I saw this image circulating social media. It is a depiction of our beloved city’s mascots (Amigo Man - City of El Paso; Chico the Chihuahua - El Paso Chihuahuas; and Paydirt Pete - The University of Texas at El Paso) mourning. This image represents a broken people mourning their lost in a way that I believe is much more profound than anything that could be articulated in words. I can guarantee you this illustration will have its place in El Paso canon for decades to come.
T H E R E I S S T R E N G T H I N N U M B E R S
El Paso and Dayton are large cities at populations of 840,758 and 140,371, respectively. But when disaster strikes, the largest world becomes small. It is no small debt that we owe the artists that spring into action to provide a way for us to immediately show solidarity - yes, I am talking solidarity in the form of social media image templates. We live in a brave new world, and this is our culture’s flag in the yard and colored ribbon wearing (please do not misinterpret this as me saying there isn’t room for those expressions of solidarity as well). It is a small way for everyone to know who is crying with us and whom we can also be praying for.
D O N A T I O N S
Within hours I saw funeral homes and other professionals offering their services for free. Blood donation centers had so many donors they had to turn people away or ask them to book appointments for giving. Across the country people were ready to lend a hand and a shoulder to cry on. Local creatives at Viva La Mocha designed and sold these shirts with 100% of the proceeds going to help the victims. In the process, they also raised awareness for a local nonprofit where monetary donations can be made directly. As of the writing of this article, less than 24 hours later, the shirt is no longer live on their website. The speed with which this shirt sold out is a testament to the magnitude of support abounding. I don’t work in a directly applicable industry, and I have a medical condition that prevents me from donating blood, but I can buy a t-shirt. I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to donate monetarily, and I will wear this shirt with the intention of sparking a conversation with anyone who will listen to me talk about the issues impacting the border region.
Never say you are “just an artist”. Art matters, and art can heal. Has a piece of art ever helped you cope with a hard season? I want to hear about it; please share in the comments. I could use with some heartwarming stories.
I am with you, Dayton.
I love you, El Paso.
B Y : B R I T T N E Y E S P I N O Z A