Getting firearms off the streets and into galleries might not, at first, sound like the correct order of operations, but Art of Peace, a free show opening July 23 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, aims to raise awareness about gun violence by turning tools of destruction and loss into raw artistic materials.
The show is a three-way collaboration between the arts center, the Robby Poblete Foundation and United Playaz—two local organizations that help organize gun buybacks, violence prevention and youth development programs. But instead of simply destroying the weapons (a December 2018 buyback program collected 244 guns), Art of Peace creates opportunities for artists, many personally affected by gun violence, to amplify messages of healing and remembrance.
While incidents like the Parkland and Sandy Hook mass shootings draw national public attention to issues of gun control and gun violence, the resulting conversations often ignore the day-to-day experience of gun violence in urban neighborhoods. Art of Peace was born out of such tragedy: In 2014, 23-year-old Robby Poblete was killed by gun violence in Vallejo. His mother, Pati Navalta Poblete, founded the Robby Poblete Foundation in his honor. A 2018 exhibition in downtown Oakland—a collaboration between the Robby Poblete Foundation and the Alameda County District Attorney's Office, commissioned artists to create artworks out of 700 confiscated and dismantled guns.
In this installment of the project in YBCA’s second floor gallery space, the artists include Kevin Byall, Clody Cates and Gaige Qualmann, Nick Fullerton, Tanya Herrera, Darrel Hunger, Barbara Bryn Klare, Labor and Love (Natasha McCray-Zolp and Shameel Ali), Made in Constantine (Constantine Zlatev), Tsungwei Moo and John Ton. —Sarah Hotchkiss