The response to the United States' continued battle with gun violence has been anger, sadness, and a consistent call for action from lawmakers. Progress is slow and restrictions remain relatively unchanged. While policymakers debate solutions, gun violence has remained a leading killer throughout the country. Among the activists are families and friends who suffer long after mass media moves to the next tragedy. With little to do but continue to demand change, a recent public art proposal offered another course of action.
The cities of Coral Springs and Parkland, Florida responded to the Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Challenge with a project proposal entitled "Inspiring Community Healing After Gun Violence: The Power of Art". The project will utilize the community to collectively create five public art installations that will be placed throughout both cities on the first anniversary of the shooting, February 14th. The project was initially inspired by the Coral Springs Museum of Arts "Healing with Art" program, which was immediately established following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting to address trauma experienced by community members. Although the artwork itself is still unknown, the community advisory committee selected five artists to participate including Kate Gilmore, David Best, Carl Juste, Steven and William Ladd, and R&R Studios.
Title image: Michael Bloomberg in Coral Springs, Credit by Sharon Aron Baron
Bloomberg Philanthropies began its Public Art Challenge in 2014 in order to advance and fund temporary public art projects that engage their cities. More than 200 cities applied with various proposals that addressed numerous social issues such as environmental sustainability, immigration, and identity. The Public Art Challenge also offers an opportunity for collaboration between municipalities and businesses, celebrates creativity and diverse identities, and supports local artists and economy. Fourteen finalists were chosen with Anchorage, Alaska as the first city to win and Coral Springs announced as the second, both awarded $1 million to complete their projects. More winners will be announced in the upcoming weeks. Founder of the nonprofit, Michael Bloomberg is also chairman for Everytown for Gun Safety and stated that the proposal "was a powerful example of ways public art can bring communities together and draw attention to important issues".
In the following months, the cities will host workshops, discussions, and artist talks throughout surrounding communities in order to develop the art installations. With a supportive art therapy program in place, the project aims to offer solace for families who have lost loved ones, but also inspire the prevention of future tragedies through discussion and art.