'49 Portraits' honors 49 Pulse shooting victims in Orlando

Hanging now at Orlando City Hall are 49 portraits of 49 smiling faces

By Matt Petrillo - Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - Hanging now at Orlando City Hall are 49 portraits of 49 smiling faces, some with whimsical expressions, and even a selfie of victims from the Pulse shooting.

The "49 Portraits" project is an artistic memorial thought up by Georgia art professor Mia Merlin.

"There's something about art that can communicate that's very powerful and often underestimated," she said.

Merlin put out a call to artists across the country to help. Only one of them actually lives in Orlando.

Merlin said she was inspired by a similar portrait project following the June 2015 shootings at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Most of the victims have one portrait. But Brenda Lee Marquel McCool, of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, has two. She raised 12 kids, beat cancer twice and was dancing at Pulse with her son when the mass shooting happened June 12. The curator thought with all those kids, she could use two portraits.

It runs now through June 14. Afterward, the portraits will be given to victims' families.

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