Artists turn guns into works of art in Public Functionary's latest exhibit


At a talk at Pillsbury United Communities, gallery owner Jonathan Ferrara's hands slowly wrap around the trigger of a gun mounted on a metal semicircle. He looms over the weapon, his finger tracing the circular structure that attaches to the bottom of the gun. The gun is unloaded, and seems to be glued into place. 

The sculpture, a piece called Open Carry by artist Brian Borrello, sends the message that violence is a never-ending cycle that often returns to the perpetrator.

In an effort to stop that cycle and start a nonpartisan dialogue about guns, Ferrara worked with the city of New Orleans and the police department there to buy back and decommission 186 guns. Using them as a jumping-off point for creativity, he had over 30 diverse, nationally recognized artists create pieces for a gallery show, titled "Guns in the Hands of Artists." 

Ferrara and Borrello organized the first exhibition of the project in New Orleans in 1996. Now, still going strong, the show is traveling on a three-year national tour. It's visiting Minneapolis during a time of deep unrest over gun usage and violence. After spending nearly a month at Pillsbury United Communities, "Guns in the Hands of Artists" opens at Public Functionary this Friday, June 3.

Ferrara is aware of the continued pervasiveness of gun violence, so he wants to spark non-polarized discussions in as many places as possible.

"It’s somewhat disarming to be in a room full of guns and have a conversation," he says, describing the way in which art can sometimes remove a sense of political dogmatism and encourage open conversations.


During its time at Pillsbury, the show successfully created this type of conversation at a lunch hosted by the Gabby Gifford Foundation. "I attend church in the North community. . . We have left church on at least two occasions to see crime victims and gun victims still laying on the streets where the crimes were being investigated," said one participant of that discussion on how gun violence affected her day-to-day life. "They hadn’t cleared the bodies yet. It’s real, it’s personal."

The show’s opening at Public Functionary on Friday will boast a fuller display of artwork, and a safe forum for further conversations. Jonathan Ferrara will be there on opening night from 6-9 p.m. to present and describe the artwork. After the Minneapolis showing, the exhibition will be heading to Washington D.C.  IF YOU GO:

"Guns in the Hands of Artists"

Public Functionary

6 to 9 p.m. Friday, June 3

Through June 19

1400 12th Ave. NE, Minneapolis