Standing Up to Gun Violence
A multidisciplinary initiative at RISD draws attention to the thousands of lives lost in mass shootings since the massacre at Columbine High School 20 years ago.
Artist/educator Scott Lapham 90 PH (far right) launched the One Gun Gone initiative after losing four of his teenage students to gun violence.
Every day brings news of senseless shootings in America—lives lost to gun violence. Last fall, after the 307th incidence of gun violence in the US in 2018 alone, President Rosanne Somerson 76 ID and Associate Provost for Social Equity and Inclusion Matthew Shenoda called for members of the RISD community “to respond in a unique way that would transcend simple statements of values and sympathy.”
On Saturday, April 20—as Americans marked the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School tragedy in Littleton, CO—a multidisciplinary initiative called RISD Stands Against Gun Violence got off the ground at the RISD Museum.
Scott Lapham 90 PH, a Providence-based photographer, arts activist and educator who also spearheads a project called One Gun Gone, invited members of the RISD community to take part in a collaborative installation designed to draw attention to the ongoing problem of gun violence and raise funds to support a gun-buyback program.
Lapham launched One Gun Gone in 2015 after losing four teenagers he had been teaching to gun violence. Working with area youth, he began turning guns into art. The organization’s installation at the museum, Running with Numbers, provided participants with the opportunity to help create two new memorial pieces: Floor Peace and School Days.
“Art-making is part of the process we use to keep ourselves healthy and strengthen our own humanity,” says Lapham. “Visitors to the space joined the conversation and learned about actions they can support legislatively to create safer neighborhoods for us all.”
A related exhibition on view through the end of May at RISD’s gallery space at 20 Washington Place features work responding to gun violence by members of the RISD community—from students (many of whom had not even been born when the Columbine massacre took place) to alumni, faculty and staff members.
Recent graduates Marie Otsuka MFA 18 GD and Carson Evans MFA 18 GD stitched these provocative artworks together into a commanding “digital quilt” that’s being projected outdoors each evening this week (April 22–26) on the exterior walls of 20 Washington Place and the RISD Auditorium at Market Square.
The digital display is also being shown on screens inside a number of other RISD buildings, including 20 Washington Place, the RISD Museum, the Met dining hall and Portfolio Café.
“Though we live at a time when violent acts and rhetoric incite fear and seek to diminish our common human experience,” says Somerson, “at RISD we are building on the potential of human experience. I am proud of the ways in which our community has come together to create a collective response to this critical social issue.”
—Simone Solondz / photos by Jo Sittenfeld MFA 08 PH
In a fall semester Industrial Design studio, students took a holistic approach to addressing an urgent public health issue.
During a visit to campus in mid April, poet and indigenous rights activist Allison Adelle Hedge Coke inspired students to address urgent social and environmental issues.
In delivering the RISD Museum's 2018 Gail Silver Memorial Lecture, MoMA curator Paola Antonelli speaks about “broken nature.”