See the full exhibit byNessie Yara at the Parkland library.

By: Jill Fox

Not only is Nessie Yara a local artist, but she is a parent to two Marjory Stoneman Douglas Students. Her daughter was a sophomore in Scott Beigel’s history class the day of the school shooting and her son, who also lost two classmates, graduated in May.

“We were broken. The tragedy really hit home for our family,” said Yara.

As a response to the community’s heartbreak, Yara chose to paint portraits of the victims to honor them. She sees this project as her way to contribute to the children and teachers that were lost so that their lives are positively remembered.

Titled #neverforget, Yara created 17 pieces that are on display in a featured exhibit throughout the month of October at the Parkland library.

“I think the Parkland community will enjoy looking at the way these portraits were depicted. I used vibrant colors and smiles to enhance their youth and innocence,” said Yara.

The Parkland artist describes the method she used as similar to paint-by-numbers, symbolic of the fact that most of the victims were children. She chose colors like red and blue for their hair to bring out youth and life, while being careful not to get too wild on the canvas.

“Portraits are such a sensitive thing. I wanted to be careful not to offend any of the victims’ families.”

Yara describes herself as a figurative artist, meaning that most of her pieces focus on imaginary representations of love and embracing one another. While she doesn’t normally paint portraits, she embraced this project as part of her family’s healing process.

As the daily news about the incident fades, Yara is hoping that the exhibit aids in keeping the conversation about the tragedy going and helping residents to never forget. Ideally, she wanted to generate something positive from a negative situation.

Yara would like people to know that this project was created with much love and the utmost respect for the victims and their families. She has reached out to some of them to share the portraits, but doesn’t want to be intrusive. 

“I feel very blessed for the feedback I have gotten on this project. The art pieces are not for sale. I am hoping to find the right non-for-profit to donate it to.”

If you’re interested in meeting Nessie, she will be holding an artist reception on Saturday, October 6 at 12 p.m. The exhibit runs for the month of October at The Parkland library, 6620 North University Drive.