Edina art exhibit raising awareness about children impacted by gun violence

Edina art exhibit raising awareness about children impacted by gun violence

Edina art exhibit raising awareness about children impacted by gun violence

It’s art with a message.

“My way is to use artists to use creativity to spark social change,” declares Nikki McComb, the co-founder and CEO of ‘Art Is My Weapon,’ a Twin Cities nonprofit. “When you live in a community, and it’s plagued with gun violence, and then you come here, that’s the key.”

In a new exhibit at Nine Mile Gallery in Edina, the group is using 39 pieces made from decommissioned firearms from a buy-back event to raise awareness about the impact of gun violence, especially on children.

McComb says there are two major goals to this showing.

“Getting weapons off the street,” she explains. “Second, making sure there’s an outlet to turn them into something that’s more beautiful than what happened to a person’s loved one.”

The latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control show nationwide, about 4,800 children have been killed by firearms.

Dr. Andrew Kiragu, an ICU pediatrician at Children’s Minnesota, says he’s treated hundreds of kids with gunshot wounds over the last two decades.

He says the numbers are rising.  

“In Minnesota, you are twice as likely to die from a firearm as a child than you are to die from cancer,” Kiragu notes. “Often, I’m filled with an overwhelming sense of sadness. You have a child whose life has changed. For some, it is changed forever.”

Priscilla Brown — who visited the exhibit on Saturday — knows that firsthand.

In 1989, her son, Lamont Smith, was shot and killed during an argument.

He was just 19 years old.

“It actually was a senseless shooting,” Brown recalls. “It involved around the dating of the same girl. It left a trail of pain for me and for his loved ones.”

Brown now works as the director for violence prevention at Urban Ventures, a Minnesota faith-based organization that counsels young people found carrying illegal guns.

“They come to us through the court. These are young people who have not been charged with a violent crime yet,” she explains. “But we know if intervention does not happen now, we know — and the statistics tell us — that they will move to create violent crime.”

The works on display are powerful and visceral.

Some have messages like ‘understanding the impact of gun violence on gun victims, families, and communities’ and ‘promoting responsible gun ownership and safe storage practices.’  

One piece shows a snub-nosed revolver, its barrel sawed away, and a group of red roses in its place.

Another shows disassembled gun parts painted black on a piece of plywood.

Deseria Galloway also came to the gallery to reflect on and share the story of how her son was shot when he was just 15.

“My son must have moved just a couple of inches, because it missed his heart by this much,” she says.

Galloway explains her son, DeNario McGraw, now 36, was shot in the lung by a gang member for urging a friend to leave a dispute.

“My goal, and it should be everybody’s goal, is to get the guns out of hands of youth and out of the hands of the mentally ill, out of the hands of people that are broken,” Galloway says.

She is now the CEO of Wellspring Second Chance Center, a family and individual support group.

She says the exhibit reflects an important idea — for better communication between young people.

“They’re so quick to pick up a weapon, they forget about the communicative part, right?” Galloway explains. “If the weapon wasn’t there, you would be forced to speak and tell us what’s wrong.”

29 artists are participating in the exhibit, some, with their art, reflecting how they or their families were impacted by gun violence.

Saturday’s opening was the second-largest showing since the group began the events in 2016.

“We want it to hit,” McComb says. “We want people to get involved, do something different, help young people make difficult decisions.”

The exhibit will be on display at Nine Mile Gallery in Edina until November 9.

You can find out more about Art Is My Weapon here.