Where tragedy strikes, love oftentimes pours out to sustain a grieving community. In Orlando, a muralist known for his work around Baltimore is bringing that love in a literal way to a wall across from Pulse nightclub, where 49 people were killed and 53 wounded on June 12 in our country’s worst-ever modern mass shooting.
Michael Owen’s LOVE murals are a staple piece of public art seen in variations around Baltimore. He has painted them in 20 neighborhoods, from Mt. Washington in the north to Brooklyn in the south, from Gwynns Falls Leakin Park in the west to Armistead Gardens in the east, and 16 other neighborhoods in between. Each one shows four hands with fingers shaped to spell out the word “LOVE,” is unique to its neighborhood and has a slightly different design.
Owen graduated from MICA and lives in Baltimore, where he collaborates with Baltimore Love Project Executive Director Scott Burkholder to bring his murals to life around the city. But before moving here, he lived in several other places, including Orlando. He told Orlando Weekly several days ago that he attended Dr. Philips High School in the southwest area of the city.
“I wanted to do something because I felt defensive of my second home — my family still lives here,” he told reporter Monivette Cordeiro. He noted that the mural at the gay nightclub would serve to stand against intolerance. “The LOVE hands as silhouettes mean the hands can be anybody’s — man or woman, black or white, gay or straight,” he said. “Love is for all these people.”
According to the Baltimore LOVE Project’s Facebook page, the City of Orlando and Einstein’s Bagels, which has a location that houses the wall for the mural, approved Owen’s LOVE installation proposal earlier this month. Owen wrote that his design, which is four months in the making, features 49 orange blossoms – the state flower of Florida – around the LOVE silhouette.
Within two weeks, the project raked in $3,000 in donations to help fund the working costs. Owen started painting his design on the wall on Orange Avenue this past Sunday, and is still busily at work down there this week.
To get an idea for his working process, you can watch this time lapse for his mural in the Hamilton neighborhood.
We’ll keep readers posted on the finished project, which we are excited to see. Baltimore should be proud to know Owen is bringing the Love Project to his family’s home city. He is creating a reminder there that even amid tragedy, love has strong roots.
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