Presented by Fairfield University Art Museum in partnership with #UNLOAD and Guns In The Hands of Artists Foundation — this exhibition is part of a nationwide initiative to generate conversation about guns and gun violence.
Each piece in the exhibition was created using decommissioned guns, taken off the streets of New Orleans via the city’s gun buyback program, and distributed to internationally-known artists. Painters, glass artists, sculptors, photographers, video artists, poets, and other artists used the decommissioned firearms to create works of art that address the complex issue of guns and gun violence. The exhibition will open on Friday, June 1 and run through October 13, 2018 in the museum’s Walsh Gallery.
The show originated in the mid-1990s in New Orleans, where a spiking murder rate led artist Brian Borrello to conceive of the first iteration of Guns in the Hands of Artists exhibition, by bringing the discussion over the role of guns and gun violence in our society into the realm of art; art as the language for dialogue and possibly change without the often partisan politics that surround the issue.
Borrello and gallery owner Jonathan Ferrara mounted this exhibition at Positive Space The Gallery in September 1996, in the Lower Garden District of New Orleans. A one-month run of the exhibition attracted national attention, including a feature article in The New York Times by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Rick Bragg, and a segment on ABC News’ Good Morning America.
Since 1996, Guns in the Hands of Artists has been re-activated in galleries, art centers, and gun trade shows in Washington, D.C. and Portland, Oregon, and the project has inspired similar efforts in other cities nationwide. The exhibition has traveled to The Aspen Institute in Colorado, Washington University in St. Louis, Art Basel Miami Beach, Minneapolis with Pillsbury United Communities, and Washington D.C. at the New America Foundation and in the rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building.
“As an artist, activist and social entrepreneur, I asked myself, ‘What can I do to address this issue that pervades our society?’” said Ferrara. “Putting together this exhibition is my way of doing something. It’s my goal to use art and the creative process to facilitate new, frank dialogue about gun violence and guns in our society.”
The exhibition will continue to generate dialogue about guns and gun violence, initiated in New Orleans, over two decades ago. Guns in the Hands of Artists, will offer the opportunity to continue this national conversation with a focus on Connecticut’s response to the challenges posed by the threat of gun violence, and the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.
The museum plans a full slate of programs in conjunction with this exhibition, beginning with an opening night reception and panel discussion moderated by Helen Klisser During, co-founder and artistic director of #UNLOAD, with several of the exhibiting artists including Paul Villinski, Bradley McCallum and guest curator Jonathan Ferrara, on “Art Making for Social Change,” Thursday, May 31st at 5 p.m. in the Quick Center’s Wien Experimental Theatre.
Additional programming is in the final stages, and will be updated at fairfield.edu/unload.
The Walsh Gallery of the Fairfield University Art Museum is located in the Quick Center for the Arts on the campus of Fairfield University, 200 Barlow Road, Fairfield, Connecticut. It is open to the public Wednesday through Saturday, 12-4 p.m., when classes are in session. Admission is free. Please consult the museum website for details and summer hours.