Sparking the Gun Debate

By Jonathan Ferrara, Special for  USDR

Can artists and writers help us see guns in different  light?

In 1996, art gallery owner Jonathan Ferrara and artist Brian Borrello organized an exhibition in New Orleans – transforming guns removed from the city’s streets into original works of art.  The persistence of violent gun crime in New Orleans — and with mass shootings across America — led Ferrara to reprise the project in October, 2014 at his eponymous gallery. With the cooperation of the New Orleans Police Department, Ferrara obtained 186 guns by way of the department’s gun buy-back program.  Over 30 painters, sculptors, poets, and filmmakers, many of whom are gun owners and/or have firsthand experience with gun violence, were challenged to create new works using these guns.  Artists include Mel Chin, Skylar Fein, Peter Sarkisian, Ron Bechet, Bradley McCallum, and Deborah Luster who lost her mother to gun  violence.

Two decades after the initial exhibition was launched, Ferrara has released a provocative new book, Guns in the Hands of Artists (Ink Shares), which features thought-provoking artwork and conversation-starting essays from people such as United States Senator Tim Kaine, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Richard Ford, Aspen Institute CEO Walter Isaacson, Grammy Award-winning rapper Lupe Fiasco, and shooting victim and Congresswoman Gabielle Giffords, and dozens of  others.

The book ignites a new conversation, bringing the discussion into the realm of art; without the often partisan and polarized politics that surround the issue. “Viewing gun violence through the lens of art, art becomes the language for dialogue and possible change,” says Ferrara. “Art is a mirror for life and this exhibition and book hold that mirror up to our society to look at this critical  issue.”

“Guns in the Hands of Artists is required reading for anyone looking to shift the American gun violence discussion from one rooted in debate, to one striving for solutions,” says Dan Gross, President, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun  Violence.

Ferrara concludes: “The aim of the exhibition and the book is to stimulate discussion by using art as a catalyst for change, so that we may encourage new thoughts and actions.  What I have witnessed thus far gives me hope – the artwork has an effect on people, connecting with them directly, inspiring and impacting fresh emotions in the way that only art can  initiate.”

SOURCE Jonathan  Ferrara

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