Houston-based artist calls Uvalde mural 'most-impactful' of her career

The painting is part of the Healing Uvalde Mural Project in downtown Uvalde, to make sure the 21 victims are never forgotten.

Adam Winkler Image
Thursday, May 25, 2023
Houston-based artist says mural in Uvalde is most impactful of career
In the video above, hear from to the Houston-based artist about what it was to paint a mural of one of the 21 victims killed in the Robb Elementary School shooting.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Anat Ronen is an artist. But even she can't paint a picture of the grief in Uvalde one year after the Robb Elementary School shooting.

"(It's) really such an impossible mixture of pain and horror and love and beauty," Ronen explained to ABC13 on Wednesday. "Just, everything together at once. I can't think of anything remotely that resembles that."

Ronen, who is based in Houston, was among the Texas artists asked by Monica Maldonado to be part of the Healing Uvalde Mural Project. The idea, originating with art professor and Uvalde resident Abel Ortiz - along with Dr. George Meza, was to help heal Uvalde while also memorializing the 19 students and two teachers who lost their lives inside Robb Elementary on May 24, 2022.

During four hot, dry July days in Uvalde, Anat - with an assist from fellow artist Britt Johnson, donated her time and talents to paint the mural of 10-year-old victim Tess Mata.

"These were children, and they deserve something else," Ronen explained while saying how this project, which she calls the most impactful of her career, was different than others. "To leave behind something that is colorful and full of life and death, I felt, was the right thing to do. I hope it provides maybe a nanosecond in a day of a little bit of relief. Because, in the end, it's the horrible reality that is there to stay for the family."

The piece in downtown Uvalde is complete with images of Tess's favorite team, the Astros, and favorite player, Jose Altuve. Ronen worked on the project with several members of the Mata family watching.

However, that was certainly not the last time Tess's father spent time at his late daughter's mural. ABC13 visited with Jerry Mata last August when the Astros hosted Uvalde Strong Day.

"I take out my fold-out chair and stare at the mural whenever I want," Jerry admitted to ABC13 last year. "I pass by on Main Street and see it every day - and I see her smiling. I know she's smiling at me. It feels good, you know?"

The Matas are one of many Uvalde families now with a black hole in their lives. Ronen gave that black hole some color - if only temporarily.

"I wish we weren't talking right now," Anat admitted during the interview. "I wish I didn't have to go and paint that mural. But I'm glad I was a part of it, and I hope those murals help in ending these terrible situations where people do this."

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