Reframing How We Talk About Guns
“We do know that tough gun laws work in other developed countries.” But in the US unity of opinion on gun laws never materialized,” writes Timothy Dumas for Greenwich Magazine. “Two Fairfield County women, Mary Himes of Greenwich and Helen Klisser During of Weston” “want to reframe how we talk about guns” and are “using art to encourage discussion about gun safety.” “Klisser During is the New Zealand- born daughter of Dutch parents who founded a popular artisanal bakery based in Auckland” (Vogel’s).
Himes and Klisser During “have created #UNLOAD: Arts Trigger a Conversation, a vigorous little foundation that puts on art exhibits, plays, dance and spoken word performances, poetry slams, and children’s art workshops, among other events.”
“Our hope is that by bringing the conversation into the realm of the arts, we are providing a more welcoming space, less for debate than for conversations and listening,” said Himes.
“There’s a silent majority of Americans who are gun owners, possibly Republican or Independent, who have felt for a long time that they are not welcome in the conversation that the gun safety people are having. We need people to feel heard,” said Himes.
“After Sandy Hook, “where in 2012 twenty children and six adults were murdered by a lone gunman,” Himes joined the board of CT Against Gun Violence, an advocacy group that has played a role in getting legislators to pass new gun laws.”
While “Connecticut seemed particularly fertile for #UNLOAD, given its history of gun manufacture and (alas) gun massacre, not to mention its love of the arts”, Himes did not have any “professional expertise in the area of exhibits.” That’s when she knew “Helen During would be the perfect partner.”
“It’s a very serious show,” Klisser During said. “But you won’t leave weeping. You’ll leave feeling you have a voice.”
“A key point about the exhibit is that 40 percent of the artists are gun owners and forty percent have been impacted by gun violence,” said Himes.
Several pieces of the show “are constructed with decommissioned guns.”
“In “Epitaph,” artist Paul Villinski has taken an old shotgun and attached aluminum butterflies to it.” “Guns fundamentally do one thing: destroy life—take something away. Art does the opposite,” reads the artist’s statement that accompanies the piece.
“Until recently, young voices had gone mostly unheard. #UNLOAD has taken care to include children’s voices, through art workshops conducted by artist Jahmane West and artist-visual literacy specialist Darcy Hicks.”
“I think stories are really critical to what we’re doing,” said Himes. “People aren’t persuaded by facts, right? People are persuaded by narrative—and then you weave in the facts.”
“Among the spoken-word events that Helen and Mary have in mind are a night of storytelling modelled on the Moth Radio Hour, bringing together, for example, a gun owner, an ex-gang member, an emergency room doctor to tell their true gun stories.” “They plan as well to hold grassroots events in people’s homes.”
“Painters painting, writers writing, people speaking—these are ways, through the arts, of just loosening up that knot. Because, at the moment, we are in a knot,” Klisser During said.
“If you’re a sailor, if you pull too tight on a knot and you keep pulling on it, it’s never going to undo. You have to loosen both sides of the knot, right? Somehow you have to gently loosen it, and I think the arts can do that. They have that magic.”
Article Source: Greenwich Magazine, Timothy Dumas, October 2018
Image Source: Twitter- Fairfield Quick