Aaron Yealdhall could not sleep last Thursday.
“I was torn up inside with a feeling of needing to do something about this tragedy in Annapolis,” the artist and musician said.
He was in the middle of a graphics job when he saw the news break about the murder of five Capital Gazette staffers in their office on Bestgate Road last week.
“I am sure I was like a lot of people. Frozen. Stunned,” Yealdhall said. “You want to do something, but you’re not sure what you should do, could do. What you should feel.”
His inspired rush yielded a design — using the phrase “Press on” — that has already garnered $20,000 for the charity set up to assist Capital Gazette families from T-shirt and sticker sales.
The arts community in Annapolis stepped up in the wake of the quintuple murder; a Laurel man with a long-standing grudge against the newspaper has been charged.
Other fundraising efforts are underway, including one on Sunday at the Crooked Crab Brewing Company in Odenton. Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley met Tuesday with arts and community leaders to begin planning a concert event to raise money for the Capital Gazette Families Fund.
A solo August art show planned for 49 West Coffeehouse Winebar and Gallery in August has been converted to a benefit. Now 20 artists will donate works to be sold, with proceeds going to the fund.
Yealdhall’s design pushes a message of defiance in support of press freedom. When the news broke, he set his art job aside and frantically brainstormed, sketching as he went.
After the design came together, Yealdhall — who also plays in the band Skribe — didn’t show it to anyone at first. The first people that laid eyes on it encouraged him: “Hey, put that on a T-shirt.”
Jimi Davies, a local artist/musician and full time booster of happenings in Annapolis, did one better. He had it tattooed on his leg Saturday.
“It was a brilliant sentiment,” Davies said. “You see all towns say ‘strong’ afterwards. Maybe you don’t feel strong. The next day, I read Aaron’s explanation of how he came up with it, why he came up with it. It was touching, blew me away.”
Davies posted it online, and someone commented it would make a good tattoo.
“I said, ‘That’s a really good idea,’ and I called Joe Nasatka at Orange Tattoo and said I am coming over now,” Davies said.
“I was not surprised to see Jimi be the one to do it. He loves Annapolis,” said Nasatka, a tattoo artist for 22 years. He said the only real challenge was Davies wanted it to look distressed.
At the same time, Yealdhall put his design online and, within a day, there were 500 orders.
He figured there would soon be some effort to raise money for the victims of the Capital Gazette murders, unaware a GoFundMe page had been started and the Families Fund was already getting underway.
Knowing he could not handle the volume of orders, Yealdhall reached out. Three area printers are on board to volunteer printing time; a fourth called him Tuesday. Ink has been donated, and an outfit on the West Coast donated a few hundred blank stickers to be printed.
On Monday, he contacted the Capital Gazette Families Fund, created under the auspices of the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County, and got the ball rolling. By Tuesday, more than 1,000 T-shirt orders had been placed.
The shirts began printing Tuesday and will continue through the weekend. They hope to start shipping by Monday.
Several T-shirts — printed in red, white and blue — were worn by officials in the Annapolis Fourth of July parade on Wednesday. Buttons with the design were also handed out.
At the Crooked Crab Brewing Company, 8251 Telegraph Road, a fundraiser has been organized with the blog and Capital Gazette column Naptown Pint on Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Several companies have donated raffle and auction items, and all proceeds, plus $1 from every pint sold, will go to the Capital Gazette Families Fund.
The art show at 49 West, called “Love Annapolis,” opens Aug. 5.
T-shirts and stickers are available through a Shopify page for Press On Annapolis.
For more information or to donate to the Capital Gazette Families Fund, go to www.cfaac.org.