This Is Not A Gun is a socially engaged artwork whose purpose is to utilize collective creative activism to open space for healing and cultivate an increased awareness around racial profiling, police brutality, and societal trauma in America.
A sandwich is not a gun. A hairbrush is not a gun. A wallet is not a gun. Since the year 2000, United States police have “mistaken” at least 38 distinct objects as guns during shootings of a majority of young black American men. None of the victims were armed.
This Is Not a Gun engages with the public through community driven workshops hosted by artists, activists, healers, and mindfulness collaborators. Together, participants shape these mistaken-as-gun objects in clay, giving presence to their form, the human-rights violations, and racism prevalent in America today. This Is Not A Gun endeavors to carve out time and space for a community to site these issues - the injustices inflicted at the hands of law and order - within our own bodies and stories. The collective labor we offer is in deference to and an act of respect towards those directly carrying these burdens. Each workshop upholds a nonjudgemental space for sharing amongst anyone who participates, and conversation is catalyzed from making and feeling.
This project strives to broaden a national conversation around race equity and accountability. Though this project was initiated in the studio of Cara Levine, a white Jewish American, every objective of this project is designed in collaboration with POC artists, activists, and healers deeply invested in race equity work. Levine seeks constant guidance from mentors, friends, and allies, who have come together as an informal advisory board, for help on how to maintain best practices, and believe in nuanced, vulnerable conversation. The advisory board includes: Eliza Myrie, artist, Eka Ekong, healer and founder of WOKE Magazine, Shamell Bell, dance activist, co-founder BLM, Amanda Eicher and Jade Thacker.
These events create opportunity for white people to assume accountability for their privilege and recognize the divided racial realities in America. Moreover, we encourage white people to educate other white people on the intricacies and pervasiveness of racism and privilege in order to become better allies to those affected.
This Is Not a Gun began in December of 2016 when multimedia artist Cara Levine encountered a list of ubiquitous objects that were “mistaken” as guns by police officers in shootings of unarmed, majority black people. This list includes a sandwich, bible, hairbrush, wrench, wallet, etc. Levine felt the need to meticulously carve each object from wood as an act of prayer, respect, and remembrance. It quickly became apparent that this work could catalyze greater engagement in issues around racism and gun violence. Levine began teaming up with artists, activists, and mindfulness collaborators across the country, to host public events where these objects are formed in clay and safe and supported dialogue around race takes place. Levine has had the privilege to partner with amazing leaders in their own fields. For information about the co-leaders, click into the archived event pages.
The expansion of this project from Levine’s studio would not exist without the key support from, social practice artist, activist, and educator Amanda Eicher, as the first co-host and cultural producer Jade Thacker, through envisioning, writing and production expertise.
Moving forward, Ekaette Ekong is leading the Healing Arts vision for TINAG as Cara Levine continues to steer the Visual Arts wing of the project. Together, we are hoping to complete the longterm vision (below) of this project!
TINAG seeks to create a nationwide collaboration to bring awareness to racism. We offer/engage local communities to download our digital toolkit and host this workshop in your school, community center, or backyard. By March 2020 we hope to produce over 1,000 handmade ceramic objects and exhibit them together as a single artwork made my many individuals. Each object acts a representation of the power that artwork has to soften us around deep emotional work.