Orlando artist helps families of Pulse shooting victims with painting

UPDATE: In the original version of this story, it stated that the Vitugs will give 100 percent of the proceeds to Equality Florida. They have since changed the organization they will be working with to OneOrlando Fund.

Orlando is known for being home of the “Happiest Place on Earth”, the perfect destination for a magical getaway to create memories that will last a lifetime with loved ones. At least it was, until gunman Omar Mateen entered the gay nightclub, Pulse, on Sunday, June 12 and massacred 49 innocent people and injured 53 others. Now, Orlando is known for being the home of one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history.

It was hatred and ignorance that brought on such a tragedy, but it is love and respect that is bringing people together in a time of national mourning. More specifically, bringing the Orlando community closer together.

Alexa Vitug, a Florida Atlantic University graduate, Two Seventy model and Orlando-grown artist, is one of those community members looking to make a change. Along with her brother, Cameron, she is producing shirts featuring her original art and the saying, “One heart. One pulse.”, to raise money for the families of the victims lost that tragic night.

Going for $20 each, 100 percent of the proceeds will go to the OneOrlando Fund – an organization solely dedicated to raising money for the victims – and according to Cameron Vitug’s Facebook, they have already raised $7,000.

Alexa’s watercolor painting featuring key elements of Orlando. | Courtesy of Alexa Vitug

“I knew of Pulse before the shooting because it was known not only as a LGBT club, but it welcomes everyone for a fun time,” said Alexa Vitug. Her strong tie to the city doesn’t come from simply growing up there. When her father passed away when Alexa was just 8-years old, the community was there for her.

“This community, for three months, every night, brought my family a dinner and came together to support us in a time of need,” she said. “This community is one heart and one pulse and has been here for us in our darkest times.”

Her brother also lost a friend and had another badly injured the night of the shooting.

So, in the wake of the tragedy, the former studio art major and her family got to work. While her mom and a friend came up with the slogan, the siblings began on the art.

Courtesy of Alexa Vitug
Courtesy of Alexa Vitug

“We started off by choosing monuments in Orlando that mean the most to our community. I then sketched out a skyline and honestly let the watercolor do its magic,” she explained. “The colors I chose were mainly pinks and purples – purple being the color of Orlando. I made the Orlando Eye rainbow because I was truly inspired by them changing the colors to rainbow after the tragedy.”

The piece also includes the Disney castle, the SunTrust building in downtown Orlando and palm trees trailing off into a heart beat.

So far the Facebook posts related to their efforts have been shared over 400 times, and they are garnering interest from people in other states and countries. Local hospitals and the Orlando Fire Department have expressed interest in putting the print on their own shirts, and the Vitugs have been in touch with people at the Orlando mayor’s office to be a part of a book featuring the work of local artist that will help victims during the grieving process.

As of right now, T-shirts and men’s and women’s tank tops are available on Etsy for U.S. residents. Along with being available online, they will make an appearance at South Orlando Crossfit tomorrow, June 18. They are accepting a minimum donation of $20 or “whatever your heart desires.”

“This is way bigger than us,” said Vitug. “I could have never have imagined such a tremendous response and willingness from the community to help. The love and unity in our city has never been more beautiful.”