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In Los Angeles, Transforming Guns Into Art

A community coalition is melting down guns and turning them into statues.

A statue made from liquefied guns. See more pictures of Violence Prevention Coalition's statues.

While the city may be better known for sunny skies and traffic-clogged freeways, Los Angeles's underbelly is defined by its gun problem. Everyday, firearms kill about three people in Los Angeles County. So it was particularly promising when, last Mother's Day, more than 2,700 weapons were turned in during a gun buy-back event, when citizens could exchange guns for a grocery store gift certificate with no questions asked.

"Every gun represents two lives saved," says Kaile Shilling, director of the Violence Prevention Coalition, which organized the event: the life of the victim and the life of the criminal. Now, the VPC is melting those guns down and reworking them into statues to commemorate the work of local leaders who take a stand against violence with their "Angel of Peace Award." "When you hold the statue, you literally have lives in your hand," Shilling says.

VPC staff are particularly proud of the way the local community embraced the project. La Fonderie, a local metalworking studio, offered to forge the statues. The gang prevention nonprofit Homies Unidos provided youth volunteers to participate in the metalsmithing process during a multi-week mentorship program.

"Every time the kids would come in, they'd bring other kids," says Hector Calderon, a graffiti artist and metalsmith at La Fonderie who coordinated the youth program. Athina Cuevas, a 21-year-old intern at Homie Unidos, says she helps out because she "believes in a world without violence."

The gun statues will be completed in the next few weeks.

Photo by Zak Stone

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