From weapons to art

Pillsbury United Communities and the City of Minneapolis are hosting two gun buyback events Aug. 27 at Minneapolis fire stations to encourage residents to turn in guns in exchange for Visa gift cards.

The guns will be decommissioned and given to artists to create pieces exploring the impact of gun violence in the community. The events will be held at Fire Station 14 in North Minneapolis and Station 17 in South Minneapolis.

The artwork will be part of a campaign called “Art is My Weapon: A Minnesota Installation of Guns in the Hands of Artists.” A call for artists will be posted at ArtIsMyWeapon.org.

Pillsbury United Communities recently hosted the national “Guns in the Hands of Artists” exhibit.

Some of the artwork will be on display throughout the community and eventually will be offered for sale.

Chanda Smith Baker, president and CEO of Pillsbury United Communities, lost a cousin to gun violence.

“This issue is personal for me, and unfortunately it is personal for many across our community,” Smith Baker said in a prepared statement. “There are too many Minnesotans losing their lives to street violence, suicide, domestic violence and accidental shootings.”

The community needs to stop looking away from the problem, she said.

“We are unwilling to look the other way, believing that there’s nothing we can do — but rather we will continue to do our part to make our community safer,” she said. “We have a public health crisis with gun violence. It affects all of us, and we all must be part of the solution.”

Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau said artists would make the problem more personal.

“Some may see a 60-second story on the news and move on, but the effects of gun violence are devastating and everlasting. What I like about this initiative is it is deeply personal and it brings attention and emotion to a societal issue that really affects us all,” Harteau said. “The current cycle of gun violence requires a community solution and this will be more than a conversation starter.”

As of Aug. 15, there have been 226 shooting victims this year in the city — up nearly 47 percent from the same period last year, according to Minneapolis police statistics.

Mayor Betsy Hodges said the “Art is My Weapon” project could be an important way to spark dialogue about the scourge of gun violence.

“The arts are where we come together as a city and as a people: it is where we show interest in each other, where the best of us shows up. The arts are also where we can have a transformative effect on the conversation in Minneapolis and across America about gun violence and the need to end it,” Hodges said. “I am very excited that we can creatively use the tool of a gun buyback to fuel this vital conversation through the arts.”

People who drop off guns at the gun buyback events can do so anonymously. They will get a $25–$300 Visa gift cards, depending on the type of gun they turn into authorities.

 

Gun buyback events

When: Saturday, Aug. 27, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.

Where: Fire Station 14, 2002 Lowry Ave. N.; Fire Station 17, 330 E. 38th St.

More info: puc-mn.org/art-my-weapon