Nashville art exhibit reflects on children killed in gun violence, interactive experience advocating for change

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) – On the lawn of Merritt Mansion tucked away on Humphreys Street in Nashville you’ll see a long string of orange pieces of fabric on a line in front of the home.

Each piece of fabric represents the 30,000 children who were killed by gun violence since the tragedy in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

It’s a collaboration of nonpartisan displays of art put on by Arts4Impact, C Gallery, and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Nashville showcasing an interactive experience about gun violence.

“Gun violence effects us all. In every community, it affects all of us and this orange fabric that’s here is the literal thread,” said Jacqueline Von Edelberg.

The entire art experience connects pain, loss, and a shared experience of the impact of the gun epidemic across the nation. Curators encourage community members to share experience and even add pieces onto the exhibit.

Von Edelburg is an artist and activist from Chicago. She’s also the executive director of Arts4Impact. She started this work of art days after the Highland Park shooting last year.

“What we’ve done is taken the entire Highland Parks memorial and we’ve brought it here to Nashville to spark an arts memorial,” said Von Edelburg.

Inside of the Merritt Mansion, MOCAN and cëcret by cë gallery present “Up in Arms,” an evocative exhibition that delves into the layered significance of being “up in arms,” co-curated by local gallerists Evan Brown (NKA Gallery) and Clarence Edward (cëcret by cë gallery). The diverse artworks includes paintings, sculptures, photography, and digital art.

Outside of the mansion, a yellow school bus sits on the front lawn decorated in images of Joaquin Oliver, orange pieces of fabrics, and message about the impact of gun violence.

“It’s one of those memorials that represents all victims. It’s not only about a specific place. It started in Highland Park but here we are in Nashville,” said Manuel Oliver, Joaquin’s father.

Manuel and Patricia Oliver lost their son, Joaquin, during the Stoneman Douglas High School school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in 2018. They are now driving this bus to cities impacted by gun violence. Nashville is the group’s 21st stop, it’s called Guac’s Magical Tour.

“He was very funny. Very determined. Very enthusiastic. Very focused, capable to do whatever he has in his head,” said Patricia Oliver as she described her son.

These parents will never get their son back but they’re now on a mission to make sure change happens so no other person has to endure their pain.

”We need to sacrifice part of our free time to make others understand that we are going through this,” said Patricia Oliver.

”It’s more important for people who have not been affected to get involved because you’re the lucky ones than for us to do it. The invitation is for everyone,” said Manuel Oliver.

Curators of the art exhibition said this is a nonpartisan art installation that speaks to the heart of humanity.

“We’re speaking in one voice to say please we are begging you for kind, compassionate, responsible, reasonable gun legislation,” said Von Edelberg.

If you interested in seeing the exhibit, it is open through Saturday, Aug. 12. Guac’s Magical Bus Tour next next stop is in Newtown, Connecticut.

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