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Art therapists working with Uvalde shooting survivors: 'It's OK to be broken, to still make something beautiful'

Art therapists in Austin are crafting a special project involving kids, parents and teachers who have been faced with trauma.

AUSTIN, Texas — After yet another mass shooting in the U.S., many are thinking of the families in Uvalde who are still struggling 10 months after the shooting at Robb Elementary School.

Now, local artists are finding ways to help the community heal. With the tragedies in Uvalde and, more recently, in Nashville, therapists know the long-lasting effects that can come from these shootings.

Art therapists in Austin are crafting a special project involving kids, parents and teachers who have been faced with this trauma – and they're using thousands of tiles to help in the process.

"What a mosaic is [is something that says] it's that it's OK to be broken, to still make something beautiful. And all of these parts come together. These are all of your community stories coming together," said Wanda Montemayor, the program manager of the "Uvalde Love Project."

It's a project art therapist Montemayor wanted to create for anyone affected by the Robb Elementary School shooting.

"Talk therapy really only hits the frontal cortex. So my favorite analogy is that your brain is a house, and you can only be in one room at a time," Montemayor said.

She noted that a lot of kids and teachers didn't get the immediate help they may have needed when it came to working on the mental struggles they were facing.

That's why she has created the "Uvalde Love Project," a mosaic paying homage to the nature and beauty around us.

Montemayor said not only are these students getting help, but teachers and their parents are getting in on the action, seeing changes in their kids in real time.

"One parent was saying, 'My child is now sleeping in their own bed,' which is a huge thing. It's a huge thing," Montemayor said.

Montemayor and her group go down to Uvalde three times a month to create the tiles with kids and to offer group therapy.

Counselor Kami Land said she sees the progress these families are making.

"They can bounce off each other and offer that support. Even well after we're gone, they'll have those connections," Land said.

Whether it's butterflies, tree trunks or rivers, each tile is customized as they work.

"We have 19 small glass mosaic butterflies and then two larger ones to represent the teachers," Montemayor said.

Both Montemayor and Land said they know the town wants to move forward but also to not be left behind.

"Uvalde doesn't want to be remembered as the town that had the school shooting. They want to be remembered as a friendly, kind community that makes great honey," Montemayor said.

She's making sure these tiles can be a part of the journey to help Uvalde heal.

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