The gift of a wall: How one Uvalde business owner is trying to help his community

“At night it looks so good; the colors just look so good. So I’m very proud of that,” Richard Flores said about the wall he donated for a community mural after the 2022 shooting at Robb Elementary School.

By Victoria Greenhaw & Laura RiceMay 22, 2024 2:58 pm, ,

Around Uvalde today, there are 21 murals – one for each of the 19 students and two teachers killed two years ago in the shooting at Robb Elementary. Those murals feature the faces of each person killed, alongside some of their favorite things.

But there were other murals painted in the aftermath of the shooting – some directly involved the community.

» MORE: ‘Art does persuade the heart’: The message Abel Ortiz wants to send with the Uvalde mural project

“We had something like eight survivors and their parents come and help with the painting,” said Richard Flores, who owns Richard’s Refrigeration and Air Conditioning. The building is less than half a mile from Robb Elementary.

He remembers when he heard about the call for places to paint.

“There was two artists out of Austin that came with a grant that Abel Ortiz, who is the professor with the art … I get emotional,” Flores said. “I called Abel up and I said, ‘Abel, I’ve got a wall.’ And that fence used to be over here. And he said, ‘Yeah but the fence.’ And I said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll move the fence. I’ll get the fence moved. And I’ll paint the wall and then you can have it and do whatever you want.”

By August of that year, Flores had artists and community members set up alongside his building, armed with dozens and dozens of bottles of spray paint.

The purpose of this mural was to provide a creative outlet for a community seeking healing.

“I had some friends that lost children. So it’s just about giving back,” Flores said.

The mural is a daily reminder of that.

But there’s nothing somber in its tone. It’s colorful, with butterflies and sports logos; a big green dinosaur, a mint chocolate chip ice cream cone; a sunflower and a unicorn.

Flores said people are always coming by to see it.

“I mean every other week, weekend – usually weekends in the summer. It’s more because they go to look at all the other murals,” Flores said.

And he’s added lights to make sure people can appreciate it whenever they visit.

“At night it looks so good; the colors just look so good. So I’m very proud of that,” he said.

A team of students at Texas State University are working with Professor Eraldo “Dino” Chiecchi to continue to tell the stories of Uvalde. Here are their reflections on the project.

A photo of Victoria GreenhawVictoria Greenhaw
Age: 19
Major: Digital Media Innovation
Hometown: Denison, Texas
Graduation: Fall 2026

The Uvalde trip I took with Professor Dino Chiecchi and my peers was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. At first, I was nervous to have this opportunity but then, as I was going through this process, I realized that I have grown so much as a person and as a student. I really could not have accomplished what I have without the vulnerability of the individuals that were willing to speak with us. The people who were on the team made this experience rewarding. Having the emotional support system was amazing. I am proud of everyone and the work we have accomplished.

A photo of Eraldo Chiecchi.Eraldo “Dino” Chiecchi, MFA
Texas State University
Multimedia journalism professor
Uvalde reporting project coordinator
Hometown: El Paso, Texas

This is the second time our journalism students visited Uvalde, Texas, to report on this senseless tragedy – the worst days of the lives of so many people. Our students reported these difficult stories on the mass killing of 19 students and two teachers with grace, empathy and with the respect the victims deserved. Parents of the victims commented to me immediately after the interviews and elsewhere just how well prepared the students were to interview them – even more than some national media. As a result, family members were candid telling the stories. Students and I talked a great deal about vicarious trauma – a real thing among journalists and others who deal with tragedy. Students talked at length, especially on the drive back home. We visited Uvalde on two different days and conducted one interview in Austin. At the end of the project, students produced quality journalism – stories, video and audio pieces, and exceptional photography.

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