Matthew Rosen, Marjory Stoneman Douglas alumn, paints a gun awareness mural

When I was just a toddler, my family moved to Coral Springs, FL… where I was raised for the remainder of my entire childhood. I started my education at Maplewood Elementary… then moved on to Coral Springs Middle school…  and eventually I, known at the time as Matthew Rosen, graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in 1995.

Coral Springs is an ideal place to raise a family. In the 80’s, it was a young, growing community in South Florida, not far from Fort Lauderdale and the beach. Schools were good, and parks were abundant. Many of my afternoons were spent playing home run derby, tennis, or basketball on a friend’s driveway. And after we got all hot and sweaty, we just jumped in the pool. 

After high school, I drove about 3 hours north to continue my education at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. UCF now boasts the largest student body in the country, but it was just beginning to grow it’s campus when I was there. By my junior year in 1998, I had really started to gravitate toward the arts and began painting. I was on my way toward getting a degree in Advertising and Public Relations, but my new passion for art was a transformation of sorts… and, I had found my identity. 

Fast forward to February 14, 2018. The Parkland shooting really hit Matthew Rosen, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas alumn, in the gut.

You’d never think something like that could happen in the place you grew up… but it did. Perhaps, that’s what makes America so numb to the gun problem in our country. People don’t think it can happen to them, until it does. And unfortunately, the odds suggest it’s likely to occur. With my parents still living just minutes away from Douglas High School, It was a shocking development, and unleashed grave concern for their safety and for those around them. 

Matthew Rosen (Marjory Stoneman Douglas alumn) paints a gun awareness mural
Matthew Rosen (Marjory Stoneman Douglas alumn) painted this gun awareness mural after the Parkland shooting.

Later that summer, I registered for my first Artists of the Wall event in Rogers Park. Ongoing since 1993, the annual art festival takes place every Father’s Day weekend.  It’s inclusive to everyone of all ages in my local community on the north side of Chi-town along Lake Michigan. 

With the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas still on my mind… and having a strong opinion about the gun problem in our country, I decided to make a statement. I painted a weather forecast for America.

It showed a perfect 76 degree partly sunny day with bright blue skies… and, a 20% chance of gunfire. Because… let’s face it. That’s America.

I had even done some research, which found there were mass shootings in our country on approximately 20% of the days in 2018 so far, prior to Father’s Day weekend.

I remember the afternoon I was painting… it was a gorgeous day with everyone out and about along the lakefront. They were all watching the collection of artists in action. A group of seniors had approached me, and asked what it meant. After a simple explanation, they had their “Ah ha” moment and agreed with my outlook.

I was very proud of my artistic accomplishment from that summer. My first mural! I’d skate by it, on my longboard, on a regular basis. Every time I went to the beach., I was always hoping to see people stop, and think, and take pics. More importantly, I wanted them to not take their beautiful afternoon for granted. Because, in America, it can all end rather quickly without a warning.