Dear supporters,

I just wanted to update you and let you know that the 49 portraits are on display now through June 14th at City Hall in Orlando, with a reception on June 3rd. It was through your generous donations that this exhibit was possible. The portraits will be given to the families through the Orlando United Assistance Center, an organization that was formed to help these families. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your essential contribution to the project.

The public reception is schedule for:

Saturday, June 3, 2017 from 4:30 – 6:30pm
Terrace Gallery
400 S Orange Ave, Orlando, Florida 32801



Works of art: Interim registrar creates watercolor portraits with meaning

Rosemary Segreti, the interim registrar at the University of Georgia was recently profile regarding her painting as part of the 49 Portraits Project.

Photo by Dorothy Kozlowski


… One of Segreti’s most recent paintings is part of the 49 Portraits Project, a national group of artists who are creating portraits of the 49 victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, in June. Begun by an Armstrong State University art instructor, the goal of the project is to hold an exhibit of the portraits and ultimately give them to the families of those who were killed.

“When I opened up the picture of all the 49 victims, I zeroed in on this one guy, Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez,” Segreti said. “I just looked at his eyes and thought this seems like a really sweet guy. My wife prompted me to do the portrait, but I thought this sounded like a really cool thing to do for the families of the victims.”

Painting Fernandez’s portrait was an honor, Segreti said, and she hopes it can provide his family with some bit of comfort after such a devastating event …

The entire article can be found here:  http://columns.uga.edu/news/article/interim-registrar-creates-watercolor-portraits-with-meaning/

Portrait Project Aims to ‘Send Love into the World’

Honoring Orlando Victims: Portrait Project Aims to ‘Send Love into the World’

by India Westbrook

University of West Georgia Art Professor Erin Dixon and UWG alumna Justine Aldridge are two of 49 artists who were selected to participate in a project honoring the Orlando Pulse night club shooting victims who lost their lives on June 12.


The project, dubbed 49 Portraits, was created by Mia Merlin, an art professor at Armstrong State University, who was inspired by a similar project that was done for the victims of the June 17, 2015 Charleston Emanuel AME Church shooting.

The full article can be found by visiting:

Local artist joins project to honor Pulse nightclub victims

LOUISA COUNTY, Va. (NEWSPLEX) — A local artist is one of dozens of artists across the country participating in a project to honor victims of the June shootings at the Pulse nightclub shootings in Orlando.

It’s called the 49 Portraits Project, and it was started by Georgia art professor Mia Merlin, who teaches at Armstrong State University in Savannah.

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

“I thought it was the perfect response,” said Merlin.

When she reached out to fellow artists with the idea for the project to honor the Pulse victims, the response was overwhelming.

“I could feel there was a need being met by the call for artists to do this,” she said. “That they were yearning to do something like this.”

Louisa County resident Sharon Shapiro was one of the artists who answered Merlin’s call. She says she wanted to do something to keep the victims’ memories alive.

“The shooting was in the news for about a week constantly, and then I felt like people kind of stopped talking about it,” she said. “I was glad that it was being brought back up and that we’re not going to forget. It’s activism through memory is how I see this project.”

Shapiro painted a watercolor portrait of Martin Benitez Torres, a 33-year-old student who lived in Puerto Rico and who was visiting family in Orlando when he was shot and killed.

She read online accounts and found a video he took of himself at a family member’s house just hours before he died. She says she was captivated by his smile, but painting a portrait of a young man whose life was cut short through violence was “emotionally difficult,” she said.

“It just made me so sad, but it also made me glad that I could do something, some small something to cherish the life of this person and to commemorate him,” she said.

All 49 portraits will be shown in Orlando in the spring, and then given to each victim’s family.

Merlin says those families are just now discovering the project through the Facebook page, and Shapiro hopes Martin Torres’ family will find comfort from her painting.

“I hope that it gives them the sense that there are good people out there and there are people who were touched by this outside their family and who are lifting them up in their thoughts and their feelings,” she said. “We never want this to happen again.”

Credit: http://www.newsplex.com/content/news/Local-artist-joins-project-to-honor-Pulse-nightclub-victims-394590631.html

Armstrong Art Professor Honors Orlando’s Pulse Victims

(September 8, 2016) – After the Pulse nightclub attack in Orlando that left 49 dead in June, Mia Merlin, a full-time lecturer of Art Appreciation and Foundations, felt helpless in the face of yet another national tragedy.

“It was so horrifying, so traumatic, that I was trying to figure out as an individual and as an artist, what I have to contribute to help in some way,” says Merlin, who holds a M.F.A. in Painting and Drawing from Georgia State University. “I wanted to do something.”

Merlin was aware of a recent project at a Charleston, S.C., gallery, in which portraits of the victims of the 2015 Emanuel AME church shooting were rendered by nine artists who donated their time and talent. The pieces were presented to the victims’ families after an emotional unveiling and month-long exhibit. Unable to participate in that project, she wondered if she might be able to coordinate a similar memorial for the families of the Orlando victims.

“My personal passion and vision is about art becoming more of a part of people’s lives,” she says. “I teach in my classes that one of the functions of art is to help people feel their feelings. It helps people grieve, it helps people come together.”

Merlin shared her impassioned vision for the “49 Portraits Project” in a Facebook prompt. The call was open to artistic styles and interpretations; her only request was that there would be an image likeness to the fallen individuals. Merlin asked her friends, family and colleagues, largely based in her hometown of Atlanta, to share the post widely.

The response was overwhelming. From notable master pastelists to tattooists from across the country, celebrated artists responded in droves, all but begging to be a part of the project. Currently, there is a waiting list.

“The caliber of the work is so high,” notes Merlin. “The portraits are stunning. There is a lot of time, heart and skill put into them.”

Nearly all of the portraits are completed with the remaining few to come soon. Merlin herself contributed a canvas of 30-year-old U.S. Army Capt. Antonio Devan Brown, “a gentle soul,” depicted in soft oil brush strokes. The portrait hangs in Armstrong’s Fine Art Gallery through mid-September, and she hopes it will soon relocate to Orlando.

Merlin is in talks with Orlando’s mayor to organize an exhibit in City Hall, followed by a gifting ceremony for the victims’ families.

“This has created an experience so heartening,” notes Merlin. “I like that art can transcend the politicization of tragedy and loss.”

Credit: https://www.armstrong.edu/news-events/spotlight/49-portraits-project-armstrong-art-professor-honors-orlandos-pulse-victims