Artist Wyland, Westglades Middle students paint mural to honor victims of Parkland shooting

PARKLAND, FLA. (WSVN) - An artist painted a mural alongside several eighth-graders to honor the 17 lives lost in the Parkland massacre.

An advanced art class filled with eighth-graders at Westglades Middle School got their aprons on and their supplies out to paint the mural, Thursday morning.

Renowned marine life artist, known as Wyland, was on hand to help with the project.

The mural will be part of the school’s memorial garden in honor of those who were killed in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14.

“I think the whole world saw this tragedy and really felt it deeply so, it effected me,” Wyland said.

“I feel like what happened was really heartbreaking and we’re all trying to heal from that, and a lot of the teachers were really close with two of the students that were at Douglas because most of them just left,” said art teacher Debra Golding. “They were here in middle school.”

One of the students Golding was referring to was Gina Montalto. She was one of the 17 victims.

Her little brother is a student at Westglades. Her parents were on campus Thursday to watch the mural come together.

“Our daughter Gina was, I’m going to go out on a limb and say a very talented artist,” said Gina’s father Tony Montalto. “And she loved her art classes with Mrs. Golding and she would have loved using art this way to help heal our community.”

That goal resonates with Wyland, who accepted the invitation to help paint the mural after Golding reached out to his foundation.

“It’s the most meaningful thing, and to paint it at a place that has had this tragedy, I think amplifies how important art is to communities, to schools, art that really celebrates life,” Wyland said.

Students who were out to paint Thursday said they recognize how unique this experience is.

When asked how working on the mural makes her feel, eighth-grader Leah Dubreuze said, “Special in a way to be a part of it.”

The art piece is underway in the school’s courtyard with Wyland taking the lead and students stepping up.

Wyland told 7News that he has painted with more than a million kids in 50 states and 100 countries, but he said this one is different.

“This one means so much to so many, so I’m going to do my best to make it the best mural that I’ve ever painted,” Wyland said. “I know that they’ll never forget this, and I know I never will either.”

Seventeen sea turtles have been implemented in the mural to honor each victim.

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