John Locher / AP
Monday, Sept. 17, 2018 | 2:13 p.m.
Portraits of each of the 58 people killed in last year’s mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip went on display today at the Clark County Government Center.
The Las Vegas Portraits Project was conceived in the days following the Oct. 1 shooting at the Route 91 Harvest festival.
Ellen Abramo and her cousin Kortney Struempf of Nazareth, Pa., began searching for 58 artists to create the portraits, which are on display with white wooden crosses placed at the Las Vegas welcome sign after the shooting.
The exhibit at 500 S. Grand Central Parkway in downtown Las Vegas is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays through Oct. 19. After the exhibit closes, the portraits will be given to the families.
“Our community will never forget the lives lost in the 1 October shooting or those who were injured or have been affected by the tragedy,” Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak said at today’s unveiling of the portraits.
In addition to those killed, more than 800 people were injured when a gunman opened fire on the country music festival crowd from a hotel tower across the street.
“We continue to be touched by the outpouring of compassion and support we have received from people around the world and we hope this exhibit is a source of comfort to those who lost loved ones and support for all those affected,” Sisolak said.
Abramo said artists from around the world expressed interest in the project. They include a shooting survivor and Abramo’s mother, who painted the portrait of victim Kurt von Tillow.
Von Tillow’s wife, Mary Jo, said she immediately liked the idea of the portrait project. “I was so touched by that,” she said.
She said her husband was known as Captain America, a patriot who proudly displayed the stars and stripes whenever he had the chance. His portrait includes the American flag prominently in the background.
“To tell your story about your loved one and have someone paint their portrait and really capture who they are, that’s so important to me that people know who he was,” von Tillow said. “My husband was the most patriotic person I have ever met. Big and Rich and the whole audience at Route 91 sang “God Bless America”...That was a proud American moment for Kurt; we cried.”
“That was moments before he lost his life,” she said. “I truly believe there was a reason for that. When I look at this portrait and the American flag in the background, I think about those last moments with him at Route 91, and I’ll never forget that.”
Von Tillow said she hopes everyone who visits the exhibit gets to know the stories of each of the victims.
“Each one of them has a wonderful story,” she said. “When I read them, I cried because...these people are beautiful people who have families, just like my husband did, who are missing them.”