On June 12, 2016, 49 people at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando, Florida, were killed in a mass shooting and 53 were reported as injured. Pulse was a popular gay nightclub.
In the days following the attack, artist James Nocito began drawing portraits of those whose lives were taken. “It was a way of privately working through the sadness, anger and helplessness I was feeling,” said Nocito. The result was “Orlando 49,” a traveling memorial commemorating the 49 men and women who were killed. It has been shown in San Diego, California; Hattiesburg, Mississippi; Kansas City, Kansas; Salt Lake City, Utah; Norwalk, Connecticut; and now, Akron, Ohio.
The installation can be viewed in the “ORLANDO” booth at the Akron Pride Festival on Sat., Aug. 25, at Hardesty Park, 1615 W. Market St., 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
In addition to the art, three survivors from the Pulse Nightclub shooting are participating in the March for Equality, beginning at 11 a.m. at 807 W. Market St., in the heart of Akron’s Highland Square. The march travels to Hardesty Park where the festival begins. The survivors will address the crowd from the main stage and have a presence at the ORLANDO booth.
Donations will be accepted at the booth to benefit “Inspiration Orlando,” a mural underway in Florida by the Public Art Academy created to document and honor lives lost, and those injured, as well as to reinforce the goodness of humanity. The painting will depict the 49 victims and survivors, as well as victims of other hate crimes. The well-known primary artist, Michael Pilato, said the mural will represent tragedy to triumph, tragedy to art.
In an address from the White House to the nation after the tragedy, President Obama said, “We know enough to say this was an act of terror, an act of hate,” (as reported by WGN9 TV Chicago).
Akron Pride Festival organizer, Julie Pryseski, shared, “We are proud to bring the Orlando 49 art installation to the greater Akron community.”