In a series of cellphone photos, there’s one that stood out to parents Bryan and Cindy Muehlberger of their daughter Gracie, who died during the Saugus High School shooting in November 2019.
The collection is of the 15-year-old posing in front of a famous pink mural with colorful angel wings on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles by world-renowned artist Colette Miller. But that special one captures Gracie in midair as she jumps, perfectly framing her between the wings.
“It looks like the wings are connected to her and she’s flying,” said Bryan. “It was just sentimental; now she’s an angel in heaven, and it really touched us.”
To honor Gracie and all that she stood for, Miller visited the high school Saturday and brought to the campus its own pair of angel wings.
On one of the walls near the school’s entrance, Miller covered a white wall with soft pink brush strokes and in the center were wings akin to those on Melrose Avenue.
“When they (the Muehlbergers) reached out, I think I cried,” said Miller. “I saw the picture. They requested these colors, and I think it’s perfect. Gracie symbolizes, to me, this innocent, young girl in pink, you know, carefree and really not afraid of anything — just like how she’s jumping.”
On a corner of the wall a poem written by Gracie will also be added, which reads:
“You only have one life to live, so why not live it great, real and fill it with memories and experiences.”
The new mural will join a collection of others painted across the world, including in Kenya, Australia, England, Japan and Mexico, as part of Miller’s “The Global Angel Wings Project,” which she started in 2012. The project aims to remind people “that we are the angels on earth and to be like that here, now, even though we all have our own baggage because humans are complex,” she said.
Adjacent to the angel wings mural, a Spongebob Squarepants mural is expected to soon cover another wall in honor of Dominic Blackwell, who also died during the school shooting and was known to be a big fan of the Nickelodeon animated series.
These murals will be “something lively and interactive that brings joy,” said Bryan.
“People love getting pictures and I think this is just such an interactive way to do it,” he said. “I think it’ll be healing for all the kids to be able to interact and remember in a good way and not the negative stuff associated with the whole situation.”
The mural comes ahead of other efforts by the Muehlberger and Blackwell families to append Central Park’s name to “Central Park — In Memoriam of Gracie Muehlberger and Dominic Blackwell” and add a memorial somewhere within the park. The Santa Clarita City Council approved in late August the park name addition and is expected to soon revisit details on a potential memorial. The Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency is also expected to consider approving appending the park name.
To find out more about Miller’s work, visit colettemiller.com, and learn about the family’s GracieStrong Foundation, visit graciestrong.org.