What started as one Bryan art teacher’s way to show love to the El Paso community following an Aug. 3 mass shooting at a Walmart has turned into a statewide initiative.
The #MarigoldsforElPaso project is the brainchild of Jane Long Intermediate School art teacher Ariel Kellogg. Her idea was to allow art teachers throughout the state to work with their students to generate artwork centered around the marigold flower. All of that art will be sent to the El Paso school district for display.
The artwork will be part of an installation of marigolds put together by the school district in collaboration with the city of El Paso, according to a Facebook post from the district.
The reason for the marigold, she said, is because of the flower’s cultural importance in Latin and Hispanic cultures, said Kellogg, a fourth-generation Mexican American.
“The marigold is the traditional flower, from like Aztec time, used as a guide to our past loved ones to come back home,” she said, noting Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is marked on Nov. 1-2. “It kind of helps ... guide them back home to celebrate their loved ones. It’s like an in remembrance.”
According to a post on the El Paso ISD Fine Arts Facebook page, the flower is known for its scent and color and is laid at the graves or around offerings, especially during Día de los Muertos.
When Kellogg first had the idea, she said, she was not expecting it to reach across the state. It was just an idea she had after reading the names and biographies of the victims of the shooting, which targeted the city’s Hispanic population and left 22 people dead and 24 injured.
“It really got to me, so I thought, there’s got to be something we can do,” Kellogg said.
When she tried to share her idea with other teachers, she said, she was nervous no one else would want to participate.
“I just thought, I can do something, even if it’s just me,” she said.
After she reached out to other teachers in the area, though, the Texas Art Educators Association shared it on their social media platform.
A&M Consolidated High School art teacher Jami Bevans is the TAEA president-elect and one of the first teachers outside of Kellogg to get involved with the initiative. Her art club students are creating three large paintings to send to El Paso.
“I got on board mainly because I wanted to support her as one of our fellow teachers and because I think it’s important for the kids to understand that art is a very powerful tool,” Bevans said. “It’s a powerful tool for healing. It’s a powerful tool for communication. It’s a powerful tool for expressing the emotion.”
Because of the distance between the Brazos Valley and El Paso, Bevans said, the students can feel disconnected from the tragedy unless they know someone who lives in or near the city.
“The hope is that this artwork will show El Paso students that they’re not alone; that they have the support of Texas and other students in Texas,” she said.
Before starting on the project, Kellogg explained to the students what the project was for and where their paintings would be going, which in turn motivated them to want to do a good job because it was for other people to enjoy.
“We’re doing something kind for a different town that needs it,” said Abigail Castillo, one of Kellogg’s fifth-grade art students.
Castillo’s classmate Angela Rico called it special to get to do a project like this for other students who might have lost family members.
While Kellogg’s fifth-grade students are creating artwork in class, their families will have the chance to get involved later this month during a Lobo Art Gives Back event, where they will also write encouraging notes for the students who might be afraid to go to school.
All of the participating teachers were instructed to mail their artwork to El Paso by Sept. 20, which is five days after Hispanic Heritage Month begins on Sept. 15.