A Latter-day Saint artist known for painting portraits of missionaries who died while serving recently felt called to take on a new project—memorializing the 21 victims of the Uvalde school shooting. On May 24, 2022, 19 children between the ages of 9 and 11 and two teachers were slain by a lone gunman.
“It just broke my heart,” JR Johansen of Huntsville, Utah, told KSL News. “I thought, oh if I just weren’t so busy. I would love to paint a portrait for their parents because I believe it would bring them comfort.”
The idea stayed on Johansen’s mind until his brother and sister-in-law reached out. They just so happened to be on a leadership assignment for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Uvalde. They asked Johansen if he would consider painting a portrait of each of the victims. When the call came, Johansen knew he had to follow the prompting.
“I said well, you’re the answer because I’ve been wanting to do it and didn’t know how I would do it with the schedule I have,” Johansen said.
The first portraits were completed in August and by January 2023, Johansen arrived at the Salt Lake City International Airport with all the finished paintings. When he arrived in Uvalde, the loved ones of the victims came to pick up the portraits.
“It looks beautiful. I love it,” said Evadulia Orta, mother of 10-year-old Rojelio Torres. “It shows me him. This is how I saw him. I’m going to put him in my living room and see him every day.”
You can watch the feature from KSL below.