Innovation

TOMS is commissioning powerful gun violence murals all across America.

by Rachel Reilich

December 18, 2018
(Image via TOMS/Facebook)

TOMS Shoes is expanding their already considerable philanthropic reach (or should we say footprint?) by commissioning murals across the country—part of a national campaign to end gun violence.

Every day, new paintings appear on brick walls and storefronts, from TOMS headquarters in Venice, CA. to The Workroom, a store in Wichita, KS. The cities may be different—but the message is the same: End Gun Violence Together.

The murals are part of a wider push for stricter background checks—something 90% of Americans support. What better way to resist the NRA’s agenda than with murals, an artform which—quite literally—puts their backs against the wall?

TOMS/Facebook

Conceived by the brand’s Former CEO, Blake Mycoskie, the End Gun Violence campaign was inspired in part by the Thousand Oaks Borderline Bar and Grill shooting, which took place 20 minutes from Mycoskie’s home. Like every American, he had privately grappled with the mounting threat of gun violence for years. But then his wife called him crying, too distraught to drive his four year-old son to school, and something inside shifted. The time for talk was over. He had to do something.

“He just... literally wanted to change his whole life the next day,” says artist Tyler Ramsey, whose “drip-painted” TOMS shoes may just secure his reputation as the Jackson Pollock of kicks. “He made this incredible donation. We’re inspired by the charge.”

The donation is indeed incredible, not only in monetary terms—$5 million—but also in terms of courage. TOMS customers are pretty evenly split across the aisle—50% Democrat, 50% Republican—and gun rights is a notoriously divisive issue. By taking such a vocal stance, does TOMS risk alienating half its consumers?

TOMS/Facebook

“This is a human issue,” Mr. Mycoskie insists. “It’s become political, but ending gun violence is about making a better world, which is what we’ve always been about.”

Making a better world—and making a more beautiful one. Thanks to TOMS, once drab city walls now burst with color and expression. One mural blooms with flowers. Another displays an gorgeously rendered white dove alongside a heart-printed paper crane. Though each mural bears the signature style of the artist, they share one prominent and powerful image: a hand holding up two fingers—a signal for peace.

“Artists have so far flocked to this,” Mr. Ramsey says. “The reception has been fantastic. Right now we’re doing, like, a mad call. We’re looking for all artists that are interested in helping us spread this message and, more importantly, we’re looking for mural space around the country.”

Mr. Ramsey is known for painting only with his fingers, rather than with brushes, which feels appropriate somehow. One can just imagine him, throwing out a peace sign with two paint-smeared fingers, in front of a mural depicting the very same thing.

TOMS/Facebook

Image via TOMS/Facebook

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TOMS is commissioning powerful gun violence murals all across America.