LONGMONT -- The murals that Longmont artist Gamma Acosta paints on his uncle's vacant building at Third Avenue and Lashley Street are often temporary. At some point, a fresh coat of paint turns the wall back into a blank canvas.
But Acosta's most recent piece -- a 6-foot by 24-foot mural that pays tribute to the victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut -- is being preserved.
The mural depicts six broken crayons, their shattered bits and pieces mingling together. Acosta added a small red heart on one side.
"It's open to interpretations. People are gonna see a lot of deeper things than I realized," he said.
After the mural went up -- one day after the Connecticut shooting -- an anonymous art collector contacted Acosta about saving the piece, which is painted on a wall of wooden paneling.
On Monday, Acosta and a few friends carefully cut out and detached the mural. The art collector has agreed to replace the wall, Acosta said. In the five and a half years that Acosta has painted murals on his uncle's building, this was the first time he'd cut out a piece, rather than painting over it.
The day before the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, Acosta and a friend discussed painting over the Denver Broncos mural that was previously on the wall. After news of a gunman killing two people Dec. 11 at a mall outside Portland, Ore., they planned a piece to address recent shootings.
"We discussed doing a concept to address all the shootings because we're basically of the opinion that they're not going to end. They're gonna keep going," Acosta said. "And the shooting (in Connecticut) happened the next day."
The day after Adam Lanza killed 26 at the school, Acosta spent several hours painting his new mural.
"I was thinking of what reminded me of elementary school, and I thought of crayons. A few minutes later, I thought of broken crayons," he said.
Reaction to the piece has been mixed.
On Dec. 17, a friend posted a picture of the mural on Reddit, a user-generated social news website. As of Monday afternoon, it had been viewed more than 443,000 times. Comments on the piece were divided. Some felt it was inappropriate and too soon; others found it real and beautiful. On Monday afternoon, 54 percent of users who voted on the submission voted it "up," or favored it.
Acosta has also received phone calls about the work.
One Connecticut resident called and offered supportive feedback. Another man from Austria chewed out Acosta for self-promotion in the face of a tragedy. Acosta noted that he did not sign this piece, unlike most of his others. He did, however, write Gamma Gallery in the bottom corner of the mural, along with his phone number.
"The intent was to get people to think about it, and not from a political standpoint, gun control or anything like that. ... We can't become complacent about this stuff or it's not gonna stop," he said.
Magdalena Wegrzyn can be reached at 303-684-5274 and email@example.com.