The recently opened SPACE Gallery exhibition Unloaded
is a challenging and provocative exploration of the historic resonance and current implications of the use of guns in our culture. Organized by Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Art at Carnegie Mellon University Susanne Slavick, Unloaded
features work from local, national, and international artists across a wide variety of media, including sculpture, paint on canvas, video, and photography, that tackles the multitude of different perspectives on gun violence today.
Now, two weeks into the exhibition’s run, Slavick has partnered with social justice groups including CeaseFirePA, as well as Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP), Greater Pittsburgh Coalition Against Violence (CAV), and Mothers with a Voice, for “Disarming Violence,” an event that merges the incendiary work of Unloaded
with the actual outreach of activist organizations. Slavick sees this event as an opportunity to start a discussion about gun violence using two different types of communication methods, art and activism, where each message becomes stronger through their collision.
“Art has always been a way to shape individual and collective consciousness. It can condemn or celebrate, obfuscate or illuminate, exhort and exhilarate. It can help us understand realities emotionally and intellectually, sometimes from a distance and sometimes from and in the thick of it,” said Slavick. “As an organizer, I try to bring together people who are investigating and working toward solving issues of concern to me. Altogether, these efforts are my form of activism. But it takes many activists to bring both incremental and profound change."
The event will be held at 6 p.m. on March 4 at SPACE Gallery, and will include talks from the leaders of the organizations listed above, as well as ways in which attendees can get involved with the organizations in their fight against gun violence. Rob Conroy, director of organizing for CeaseFirePA, feels that events in which they can connect with communities in non-traditional ways, like through an art exhibit, provide an unique opportunity for activism outreach.
“At CeaseFirePA, we are always looking for opportunities to further community-based conversation that can inspire people to take action to make their communities safer,” said Conroy. “An exhibit addressing the plague of gun violence that brings together multiple artists, each with his/her own perspective on the issue, from across the country and across the globe, is bound to make people think twice about what’s happening in our communities -- and thus, more likely to want to work together to change it -- and that’s important. “
This event happens in Pittsburgh after a year in which the city’s gun violence reached frightening proportions. The city of Pittsburgh’s gun-related homicide rate jumped from an average of 50 murders a year to 71 in 2014, with a particularly high spike in the impoverished neighborhoods of the Monongahela Valley. For artists and activists like Slavick and Conroy, the importance of addressing and working to challenge the gun-related violence in Pittsburgh is more important than ever.
“Pittsburgh is full of people who regularly fight for better/safer communities and to eradicate gun violence, but many of them -- and the groups with which they work -- exist in pockets that do not always intersect as readily or effectively as they could,” said Conroy. “Although we at CeaseFirePA have been working with more than 100 of these groups over the last few years to heighten awareness and forge both a local and statewide coalition of engaged and active citizens, there is always room for more unification and more action. Exhibits like Unloaded
are one way to affect that.”
For more information about "Disarming Violence," visit the Facebook event page here
. (812 Liberty Ave., Downtown, SPACE Gallery