'Art Can Heal': After Garlic Festival Shooting, Gilroy Community Paints Through Its Grief

Colin Diep, 8, paints at a fundraiser on Aug. 5, 2019, for survivors of the Garlic Festival shooting. (Sruti Mamidanna/KQED)

Paintbrushes in hand, blank canvases at the ready, and plates dotted with splashes of acrylic paint in hues of aqua, sea green, purple, yellow and more, a group of all ages gathered for an evening of art and healing a week after three people were killed in a mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival.

Organized by local artist and Gilroy native, Ignacio “Nacho” Moya, attendees tried their hand at replicating or interpreting his painting of a garlic bulb, an important crop and symbol to the community, wrapped in a ribbon reading, “Gilroy Strong.”

“This paint party is for you guys to have fun, relax and enjoy and stay very positive,” Moya, 37, told about 70 people who gathered at a local pizzeria last Monday for the sold-out fundraiser. “This is going to be very therapeutic for us. Art can heal, art can help you.”

Proceeds raised from the event will go to survivors, he said.

Ignacio "Nacho" Moya in his Gilroy studio on Aug. 5, 2019. Moya said his Mexican heritage, the community of Gilroy, where he grew up, and world events influence his artwork. He is wearing a T-shirt bearing artwork he created for a banner at a vigil the day after the July 28 shooting at the Garlic Festival.
Ignacio "Nacho" Moya in his Gilroy studio on Aug. 5, 2019. Moya said his Mexican heritage, the community of Gilroy, where he grew up, and world events influence his artwork. He is wearing a T-shirt bearing artwork he created for a banner at a vigil the day after the July 28 shooting at the Garlic Festival. (Sruti Mamidanna/KQED)

Moya, who grew up in Gilroy and now owns a local art studio, said he got the idea for a fundraiser after painting a banner with two garlic bulbs — in the shape of a heart — for a vigil the day after the shooting, which left three people, including two children, dead.

The warm and emotional response he received to the artwork, including one person who Moya recalled saying, “you're healing the community through art,” showed him he had a part to play in the local recovery.

Ignacio Moya, a local Gilroy artist, hosted a paint party to raise money for survivors of the Garlic Festival shooting on Aug. 5, 2019, at a Gilroy pizzeria.
Ignacio Moya, a Gilroy artist, hosted a painting party on Aug. 5, 2019, at a Gilroy pizzeria to raise money for survivors of the Garlic Festival shooting. (Sruti Mamidanna/KQED)

Gilroy Garlic Festival Shooting
Loading

Many of the party’s attendees said the activity was helping them.

Gilroy resident and combat veteran Jose Delgado, 72, created his own variation of Moya’s garlic bulb, adding in strokes of white paint, he said, to symbolize angels carrying children up to heaven, and blue, to represent water as life.

The garlic festival shooting triggered flashbacks to his service in the Vietnam War, said Delgado, who suffers from PTSD. Delgado said he experienced cold sweats and trouble sleeping shortly after the July 28 attack.

“I released a lot by doing that painting. I felt relieved and I felt sad also that people were lost,” he said after the painting party. “Every time I look at the picture, it's like a burst of release ... calmness.”

Jose Delgado, 71, paints at an Aug. 5, 2019, fundraiser for survivors of the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting. (Sruti Mamidanna/KQED)

Related Coverage
Loading

Another attendee, Liz Pieterouiski, 61, said she has been thinking a lot about the shooting: Her backyard faces Christmas Hill Park, the site of the Garlic Festival. Friends attending the festival had camped in her yard during the three-day fest and her grandson was volunteering at the event when the gunman launched his attack.

“I’ve lived here for 25 years and never had any problems or anything," she said. "Then something like this. It kind of takes a toll.”

The gunshots, which she first thought were fireworks, linger.

“The sounds of the bullets always ring through my ears,” she said. “I remember it vividly.”

The evening fundraiser, which she attended with her daughter, provided her some relaxation and therapy, she said.

Though it was hard to forget that the reason they were there was because a tragedy happened in their hometown, “we all had a great time, just the community coming together,” Pieterouiski said.

Brothers Colin Diep, 8, and Ethan, 10, try their hand at painting the garlic bulb, an important symbol of Gilroy, at a fundraiser for survivors of the shooting on Aug. 5, 2019, in Gilroy.
Brothers Colin Diep (left), 8, and Ethan, 10, try their hand at painting the garlic bulb, an important symbol of Gilroy, at an Aug. 5, 2019, fundraiser for survivors of the shooting. (Sruti Mamidanna/KQED)

Two young brothers — Ethan and Colin Diep —were among the crowd of many long-time residents of the South Bay community who attended. Their mother Eloise Diep said both boys had been scared after the shooting. Eight-year-old Colin’s fears had lingered longer, she said, with him wanting to keep a baseball bat for protection.

The boys had been to Moya’s previous painting parties and liked them, said Eloise Diep. They seemed to be enjoying themselves at the fundraiser, too, getting high fives from Moya when he checked out their work.

“I think that my painting turned out good,” Ethan, 10, said. “I’m happy to be here because I love painting.”

"We came out to support, because we want to give back to our community," said Janet Headley Krulee, whose family has been in the area since the 1900s.
"We came out to support because we want to give back to our community," said Janet Headley Krulee, who joined the Aug. 5, 2019, fundraiser for survivors of the Garlic Festival shooting. (Sruti Mamidanna/KQED)

Community support was another big theme of the evening.

“Gilroy is more than a hometown to most of us. It's where our friends are, it's where our families are, it's where we have every single memory of our lives,” said Janet Headley Krulee, whose family has been in the area since the 1900s. “We want our community to know, and people that were there and affected by this to know, that we’re behind them.”

Moya, who has also donated proceeds from the sales of T-shirts bearing his "Gilroy Strong" design, said he is considering offering other classes around art and healing.

KQED News' Sruti Mamidanna contributed to this report. Have questions, comments, tips for the reporter? You can reach her at mleitsinger@kqed.org

Sponsored

Volume
KQED Live
Live Stream
LATEST NEWSCAST
KQED
NPR
Live Stream information currently unavailable.
Share
LATEST NEWSCAST
KQED
NPR
KQED Live

Live Stream

Live Stream information currently unavailable.