AUSTIN (KXAN) — In the three months before the new school year started Tuesday in Uvalde, artists from across the state flocked to the community to paint a large, colorful mural in honor of every victim killed during the May school shooting. Two artists based in Austin joined in the project to help create some of these 21 distinct paintings.

Ruben Esquivel and Carmen Rangel worked together on the mural of Lexi Rubio, which depicts the smiling 10 year old in a hat surrounded by sunflowers and butterflies. It’s located on the back of the office building where the girl’s mother works.

“There’s a lot of Lexi in there,” Esquivel said Wednesday. “She’s a proud Libra, so you see that Libra constellation in the top. [There are] five butterflies because she loved butterflies, one for each sibling, and then she also loved sunflowers.”

The Rubio family visited the site and checked in regularly on the mural’s progress. The artists said they ended up adding a pi symbol to the lower corner after Rubio’s father suggested it to represent her love of math.

“I wanted to give back or do something, and I feel like the only thing that I can do, the best thing that I know how to do, is to create for them and to give them a piece of art that can help them in the healing process,” Rangel said. “Obviously, it can’t take away any of the pain, and it can’t bring it any of the victims back. But it’s a great way for the community to connect with them and still feel their energy.”

Ruben Esquivel and Carmen Rangel completed a mural of Lexi Rubio, one of the students killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde. (KXAN photo/Jala Washington)

Esquivel completed a separate mural of Jayce Luevanos. He painted the grinning boy on a bright yellow background holding a mug in his hands because his family told him he loved making coffee for them. A Spongebob cartoon peers over Luevanos’ left shoulder while a green paper plane flies above him with the words “I love you” written on it to depict the love letters he used to write them.

Esquivel had Luevanos’ parents and siblings sign their names onto the bottom of the mural, and they even picked up spray-paint cans themselves at times to help complete the work.

“I literally poured everything I had into that piece,” Esquivel said. “I wanted it to look just like Jayce, or as close as possible. I wanted his family to be able to be there and look at this piece and feel like they could reach out and touch him, talk to him and feel his presence in the space. It’s something that I think that has connected me and Jayce’s family forever.”

Ruben Esquivel painted a mural of Jayce Luevanos, one of the students killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde. (KXAN photo/Jala Washington)

Abel Ortiz, an associate art professor at Southwest Texas Junior College in Uvalde, said the idea came to him the day after the Robb Elementary School shooting to paint individual portraits throughout the community to honor the 19 students and two teachers killed. His art collector friend, Dr. George Meza, helped him moved forward with the effort that they ended up calling the Healing Uvalde Mural Project.

They also brought on Monica Maldonado, founder of MAS Cultura in Austin, to serve as project manager, and she helped to recruit more artists to ultimately pull off this ambitious feat.

“It is like it just happened yesterday for this community and so the murals hopefully provide that sense of comfort,” Ortiz said. “I know it’s already working. It was working before we even finished the murals, as some of the parents actually drive every morning and say good morning to the to the child.”

Ortiz took on the task of painting a mural for a family friend killed in the shooting, nine-year-old Ellie Garcia. He said her father told him it’s now his favorite spot to drive by every morning.

“Hopefully, people will see Ellie’s mural, and, like the mural says, live like Ellie,” Ortiz said. “She was full of life and active in every sport and really just an amazing child.”

He said fundraising efforts will begin soon to help preserve the murals for years to come. Work is also happening to create a map and a website that will allow people to more easily find the paintings when they visit Uvalde.

He hopes people will feel encouraged to come and see the vast collection of public artwork because it not only serves as a reminder for who these families lost, but also ensures that the students and teachers are never forgotten.