The material in a new pop-up art gallery in downtown Oakland is heavy -- with exhibits built from steel and wood from over 700 confiscated and dismantled guns. The "Art of Peace" exhibition, a collaboration between the Alameda County District Attorney's Office and the Robby Poblete Foundation, debuted Wednesday as part of an effort to end gun violence.
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley said she hopes the project can spark dialogue about big issues, like school shootings, including the 2012 shooting at Oikos University in Oakland that left seven dead.
"We had 2,136 (firearms) just since 2012 to 2016 that were used in crimes in Alameda County on cases that were prosecuted," O'Malley said. "Of those, almost 100 were assault weapons. So we know we have a flow of guns in this county that needs to stop."
O'Malley said that in the past her office incinerated confiscated firearms, but it decided instead to make both an environmental and social statement with the help of journalist Pati Navalta Poblete.
Poblete said she was inspired to create "Art of Peace" after having lost her 23-year-old son, Robby, to a shooting in 2014. For two years after the shooting, Poblete said she couldn't get out of bed due to her grief. But eventually she decided to dedicate herself to reducing gun violence. As executive director of the Robby Poblete Foundation, she's collaborating with the DA's office on the exhibition.
"I didn't want the message to be about confiscation and destruction," Poblete said. "I wanted it to be about transformation and awareness and hope and inspiration, because we need that. And art is the perfect medium to change the heart, and with that, to change the mind."