An art installation created by Pulse Nightclub shooting survivors, first responders and family members, The Orlando Traveling Memorial ( OTM ), will make its first stop at the Center on Halsted Oct. 12-Nov. 23.
The genesis for this installation coming to Chicago began when Angie Wines was in Orlando and heard OTM founder and artist Colleen Ardaman being interviewed on the local public radio station.
"Colleen was talking about the debut and installation in the mayor's building in June 2018," said Wines.
"We met and right away connected over the beautiful journey, and understanding of giving more people the opportunity to grieve and share as well, as how to handle adversity and tragedy and move forward with positive solutions and attitudes," said Ardaman.
Wines is now OTM's Midwest travel coordinator.
Ardaman wanted the installation to travel because many people were hurting across the country and she thought they would want to see these works of art.
"Adversity and tragedy will continue to happen in the journey of humankind," said Ardaman. "How we respond to this greatly impacts our community; it starts with us."
Before OTM came to fruition, Ardaman was asked to paint a building in downtown Orlando commemorating the Pulse Massacre, but that did not appeal to her. Ardaman said she wanted the scope of this project to be bigger than her vision. She was also concerned that the building facade would fade over time or be painted over.
"I wanted to use painting to provide art therapy to the survivors, first responders and family members," said Ardaman.
OTM is a full-time private volunteer project and has been in the works for two years. It is made up of photographs of the 49 people who were murdered that were hand draw on light-weight metal sheets and painted in black, shades of gray and white. The survivors and family members were guided in their painting by experienced artists in small private sessions over many months.
"Eventually we were able to open up our portrait painting sessions to the public and city officials, and all were invited to complete the last of the portraits," said Ardaman. "The Orlando Opera performed while citizens painted. Pulse families returned to paint portraits for their friends in Puerto Rico who lost loved ones."
According to Ardaman, since the project began, the response has been overwhelmingly positive for Pulse families, both biological and chosen. She said participants were thankful they were able to participate in something to memorialize their loved ones.
"We did not know what to expect when we started, but we found that at first they were quiet and listened attentively as to how to paint, and after concentrating on their artwork and getting into the zone of painting they would laugh, experience joy and tell us beautiful stories about their special angel," said Ardaman.
Many first responder entities, including police, fire, paramedics, hospital staff and local officials, asked to participate which is how the "I am a handprint" campaign began.
"The handprint campaign brought much healing to the community," said Ardaman. "As we visited the different buildings and departments, those involved were thankful to put their handprint into something that was positive, and register a better memory for them to overcome their acute traumatic experience."
OTM also has the prayer of St. Francis and memorials for the singer Christina Grimmie, who was killed at the Plaza Theater in June 2016, and toddler Lane Graves, who was killed by an alligator at Walt Disney World shortly after the Pulse murders. Ardaman said that Grimmie's father Bud was thankful to be able to honor his daughter by painting her portrait.
"All of these deaths all had a huge effect on our community," said Ardaman. "We learned. There will never be 'closure' for many, but instead, healing through art and time."
The next stop on the tour will be Amundsen High School in Lincoln Square.
"Cities, museums, churches and groups are welcome to donate and sponsor the OTM to bring it to their communities to remember to act with love," said Ardaman. "Come join something greater than yourself and bigger than all its parts. We welcome your support of Orlando Traveling Memorial as we raise funds to keep this vision a reality."
To donate, visit www.fracturedatlas.org/site/fiscal/profile .