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Creating visual conversations around gun violence

'A Memorial for Past and Potential Gun Violence Victims' was put together to bring awareness to gun violence in America through art at UA

Rasool Patterson | The Daily Wildcat A tracing of a gun violence victim that was displayed for A Memorial for Past and Potential Gun Victims at the Lionel Rombach Gallery. The project was created by studio art students at the University of Arizona, Martin Krafft and Elena Makansi.

Two University of Arizona students aspired to bring the community closer by talking about gun violence through an interactive art exhibit held on campus.

“A Memorial for Past and Potential Gun Victims” was held in the Lionel Rombach Gallery, accross from the Center for Creative Photography, and ran from from Sept. 5 until Sept. 13. The exhibit aimed to bring awareness to the consequences of gun violence in America through art, according to the creators. 

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The wall of artwork that was displayed as part of the Memorial for Past and Potential Gun Victims at the Lionel Rombach Gallery. Participants were able to trace faces of submitted photos to show how anyone can be affected by gun violence.


Co-curated by Elena Makansi and Martin Krafft, two graduate students in the College of Fine Arts, the exhibit utilized “creative ways to develop empathy and community,” according to Krafft. 

The exhibit invited anyone from the community to trace photographs of people who lost their lives to gun violence. Participants had the option to hang their tracings up on a wall in the gallery for other attendees to see.

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“The act of using your hands to trace [a victim’s] face is very intimate,” Makansi said. “It helps get people out of their comfort zone and put themselves in that situation.” 

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Bella Varela traces a photo as part of Memorial for Past and Potential Gun Victims at the Lionel Rombach Gallery. This project brought light to gun violence by having participants trace photos of past or potential gun victims.

Participants were also presented with the option to trace photos of themselves or loved ones and hang those tracings on the wall with the victims. They were then asked to write a reflection on the experience. 

According to Makansi, the aim was for participants to gain a “greater understanding to see how they’d feel if it were their family” that experienced a loss due to gun violence. 

The exhibit was a continuation of the collaborative, interactive vigil “Who Will Be Next? A Memorial for Victims of the Next Mass Shooting,” a vigil that Snowflakes, the group that Makansi and Krafft founded, held with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and March For Our Lives.

“[‘A Memorial for Past and Potential Gun Violence Victims’] is more of a performance piece that acts as a vigil for the victims,” Makansi said. 

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Another objective behind the exhibit was to make artists and non-artists alike feel welcome at an art gallery, according to Krafft.

Gun art
Colin M Traced Joseph Childrey who was shot and killed in a mugging a week after his daughter was born as part of the memorial for past and potential gun victims at the Lionel Rombach Gallery. The project was organized by Martin Krafft and Elena Makansi, studio art students at the University of Arizona.

“We wanted to challenge the idea of who makes and owns art and invite anyone to come play a role in the work,” Krafft said. “Art is for everybody. We wanted to recognize that non-art people can be apart of something artistic, too.”

Both Krafft and Makansi saw more than 50 people attend each session and said they look forward to continue their work in the arts.

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