At the time this story went to print, Minneapolis recorded 73 homicides. Gun violence has seen a sharp increase from 2020, including multiple children either killed or injured by gunfire in Minneapolis. On the evening of Tuesday, Sept. 21 at Jackson Square, James Brenner, Northeast artist and sculptor, held one of his most important community iron pours. The event, “Transformation in Iron,” was done in collaboration with two organizations, Art is My Weapon and Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center.
The event focused on transforming guns into art and bringing attention to the number of families affected by gun violence in the Twin Cities. Ward 1 Council Member Kevin Reich welcomed members of the community to the event. “Fire brings people together. It’s a primal thing. That’s really being tapped into by the community group and artists here. The artists could easily fabricate this at their studio but instead they want to share their gift and a make it something the community does together. We’re not just forging work, we’re forging community —and forging community for a purpose. We are taking on very serious issues as a community and a country around safety and who we are among each other as people,” said Reich.
Between the large furnace and moldings to be cast during the pour was a three-panel wall of artwork led by another prominent member of the Northeast arts community, Peyton Scott Russell. “I am incredibly grateful and appreciative that I was invited to contribute a small voice to this incredibly painful cause. Just sad we had to come together under these circumstances but we’re making art, healing and coming together to hopefully make a difference,” said Peyton. He gave a brief description of the work created on the panels and the two aerosol artists who worked alongside him, Tom Jay and Jordan Hamilton.
“We wanted to do a theme that talked about transformation. There are three panels that split the word “transformation” into three parts. Trans-form-ation. First part is warm tones and reds symbolizing pain struggle violence guns (Jordan Hamilton). The center is an abstract form swirling things together in the confusion (Peyton). It bleeds out into cool tones; greens, blues, some yellows that talk about new growth and plant life (Tom Jay). From guns to trees is the background theme,” Peyton explained.
Nikki McComb, executive director of ArtisMyWeapon.org spoke to the event-goers. “We collect many different weapons, often times in partnership with the police department, the mayor, the City of Minneapolis to decommission them and pass them out to artists that are a part of my organization that create different parts of art, raising the awareness of the issue of gun violence and the victims and survivors.”
McComb introduced Monica Jones. Mother of Da’Qwan Jones-Morris, a 17-year-old star athlete who was killed November 6, 2019 by gunshot wound. “My son was taken away from me and my family and it impacted the whole community due to gun violence. I’m honored to be in a space where I can find healing amongst people who I now consider family and close friends. This has been a journey for me and my family. I don’t know how I’ve made it this far. Thankful for opportunities like this being in a space with people that continue to give support. If you have a gun, lock it up. My son could still be alive today if the person made the choice to lock up their gun and it wouldn’t got in the hands of another. Please keep your homes safe and your community safe.”
Brenner was presented with a decommissioned gun before the pour. “While the coal and iron are charging, we are going to be putting a gun above the furnace that will be destroyed and part of the cast. We’re casting components of the shovel tonight that we’ll be using to plant trees at the actual sites of these occurrences [of gun violence]. The tree is a symbol of regeneration and regrowth,” he said.
Below: James Brenner, in collaboration with Art Is My Weapon and Chicago Avenue Fire Arts, held a community iron pour event, “Transformation in Iron” at Jackson Square in NE Minneapolis on Tuesday, Sept. 21. A decommissioned gun was destroyed above the furnace. (Photos by Mike Madison)