In the Loop
Alumni News : Jul 21, 2016

Love wins: SAAH alumna Kelly O'Brien creates viral artwork

By Natalie Calvo

Kelly O’Brien, BFA ’14, created a viral work of art to honor the 49 people who died in the horrific Pulse night club shooting.

Her design features the faces of the 49 victims together in the shape of a rainbow colored heart. Underneath the heart, O’Brien wrote “LOVE WINS.”

“I started it for myself and for my friends,” O’Brien said. “I felt like there was literally nothing I could do. Thinking about each one of them made me want to start drawing. I drew each person on a different layer and once I drew a few I had to draw them all. I wanted to show support in the only way I know how.”

Her work has been shared by over 12,000 people on Facebook. Her original post has received 18,000 likes and over 800 commenters have shared support for her work.

“I drew this because I wanted to remember the 49 beautiful people who died two weeks ago in my hometown,” O’Brien wrote on her post. “Who died in a place that was meant to signify acceptance and safety. I urge you to read their names and the words loved ones have written and said about them. To my friends who lost someone, I'm so sorry. We will never forget, and as time will prove, love will win if we continue to educate, to unite, to remain vigilant, and of course, to love.”

After the attack, O’Brien checked to see if her friends from the area were safe. She began to hear of friends of friends who had been inside of the club. She felt helpless being so far away, she said.

She posted it on Facebook right before going to work. Two hours later she checked her phone between customers and had 800 shares.

“I didn’t even know the people who were reacting to it,” she said. “By the end of the day I had thousands of reactions.” is selling T-shirts with her design on them for about $25. A percentage of the sales is being donated to the Orlando Fund to aid the families of Pulse victims.

O’Brien is currently working as a caricature artist in California and has plans to work for a company in Japan next year.

O’Brien majored in drawing at UF and had minors in business and art history. Her works have been showcased across Gainesville at the Reitz Union Gallery, The Wooly, UF Health Shands Hospital and other galleries. She has also showcased her work in Seoul, South Korea.