The mural outside of Pulse nightclub was seen first by the public on the one-year anniversary of the shooting that left 49 dead and many more wounded.
The project was and continues to be a labor of love for a group of artists that joined forces about a year ago.
Long time Orlando resident Chimene Hurst called her friend mural artist Michael Pilato shortly after the shooting.
Pilato is known around the world for his elaborate murals including his “Inspiration” mural in State College, PA and his “Inspiration: Lycoming County” mural in Williamsport, PA.
His mural in Williamsport includes a section of space dedicated for Pilato to add more content as he sees fit.
“I add to that section when tragedies happen around the world,” said Pilato.
On June 12, 2016 he packed his set of brushes and paint and got to work.
“I painted the state bird of Florida which is the mockingbird and that bird is holding onto 49 orange blossoms,” said Pilato.
When Hurst reached out to Pilato about creating a mural in Orlando he contemplated the idea for some time but a sign solidified his decision.
“When my daughter Skye passed away at 19 a few years ago a hawk visited me,” said Pilato.
A tattoo of a hawk is now inked on his hand below his thumb and pointer finger.
“When I paint she’s always with me,” said Pilato.
Pilato says a hawk flew over him while he was thinking about whether or not to pick up his life and move indefinitely to Orlando and start the project.
“To me that was a message,” said Pilato.
Pilato summoned artist Yuriy Karabash to partner with him on the project.
The two are both known for their work with Fibonacci style art.
The centuries old technique uses mathematics to draw attention to certain spots in paintings giving the viewer a unique experience. Leonardi Davinci was known to use it in his work.
“We use it with storytelling,” said Pilato.
The small crew rented an open office space above Anthony’s Pizza on Colonial Drive in Orlando to work out of.
That’s where the journey began to humanize the tragedy through the understanding of personal stories of pain, loss and heroic positive response, according to their website.
The team slowly began to take form and grew into what they now call Inspiration Orlando.
They reached out to family and friends of the victims and met with survivors for advice and guidance on what story the mural should tell.
“It’s really for them,” said Pilato.
Every victim is represented within a rainbow heart. Survivors as well as family members and community leaders are also featured throughout. CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, slain Orlando Police Officer Debra Clayton and Commissioner Patty Sheehan are part of the mural as well as countless other figures woven into an elaborate story line.
Before the piece debuted at Pulse, family members and friends were welcomed into the studio to become part of the work. They added painted handprints to their loved one’s likeness.
“We’re trying to say never forget the love,” said Pilato.
The mural stands 12 feet tall and 36 feet wide but is not the final version of the permanent piece.
“It’s a rough draft,” said Pilato.
Even the rough draft or what they call the “study mural” will have a unique element suitable for a tech hungry community. The mural includes elements of augmented reality using an app called Geogram.
Two levels of experience will be available to users as they experience the physical art installations including viewing videos created by the team.Users can record videos to share their memories and feelings, or they can upload existing video footage of lost loved ones to be tagged at a mural location.
“Birds will fly off it eventually. People will become animated and talk to you,” said Pilato.
According to their website, the Geogram app amplifies the mural and extends its reach by enabling users to leave personal videos at the on-site location of the work using their smartphone or tablet device.
Hurst who was the person who encouraged the project in its infancy is now the Assistant Director Curriculum Development.
She is creating lesson plans and educational tools to be used alongside the app and the mural for students of all ages.
Pilato says they don’t plan to finish the final mural for at least a year. Where the mural will live permanently is also a mystery for now.
“We have to see how fast things get moving,” said Pilato.
The study mural is expected to be at Pulse nightclub until 3:00 pm Monday and then will be moved to Lake Eola for the vigil.