Powerful Public Participatory Art Installation Addressing Gun Violence Open To the Public in Freedom Plaza Through May 20

WASHINGTON, May 10, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — Striking new work from the acclaimed visual artist behind the Covid flags on the Mall opened to the public today at Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C. Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg launched her latest work “alienable right to life,” at a moving opening ceremony, where Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, Representative Jamie Raskin, and Chaplain Denise Reid, Moms Demand Action Maryland joined the artist in calling for freedom from gun violence, and noting the importance of public participatory art work that can create opportunities to personalize and spark meaningful conversations around an issue that affects one in three Americans.

“America’s greatness comes not from waving the flag but from caring for each person, each life it represents,” said Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg. “For ten days, in our nation’s capital, this is a space for mourning those we have lost, facing our fears, and considering how better to balance the rights we cherish.” 

The dramatic appearance of a 34-foot by 24-foot American flag, with the Declaration of Independence towering behind it, will surprise viewers along Pennsylvania Avenue. As visitors draw near, the subject of gun violence will become apparent as they realize the flag is created from the names of mass shooting victims, beginning with those who died at Columbine High School. This year marks the 25th anniversary of that tragic day. Year after year, more names of places — Parkland, Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, Highland Park — tragically become synonyms for senseless and yet preventable deaths. Additional elements are an original poem addressing all victims of gun violence, and an 8 x 13 circular mural for visitors to share personal stories. On the inside circle of the mural will be an American flag where visitors may add the names of loved ones lost to gun violence, mirroring the larger installation. On the exterior, visitors can add their own stories and their wishes for freedom from fear of gun violence.

“Today, in America, gun violence is the number one killer of teens and children,” Speaker Emerita Pelosi said. “The magnitude of the loss and suffering in our communities is nearly unimaginable. But as Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg’s stunning visual reminds us, the arts are a powerful force to bring us together. May this moving display serve as a beacon of hope and resilience for our entire nation, as we continue our fight to end the bloodshed.”

In recent decades, the U.S. has increasingly unfettered gun access based on the interpretation of the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment as being an individual, rather than a collective right. This new installation incorporates the original founding document, the Declaration of Independence, which begins with the ‘unalienable’ right to life. This art is a plea for more reasoned approaches and a better balancing of rights.

“We’ve lost more Americans to gun violence at home than we lost in the Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War, and the Iraq War combined,” said Congressman Jamie Raskin. “This is the endless war at home, and Suzanne Firstenberg’s astonishing new installation is a haunting portrait of our seemingly intractable national condition. Firstenberg’s powerful art asks us whether we have the will to break the gun industry’s stranglehold on our politics to pass common sense gun reform measures backed by the vast majority of Americans.”

While the installation’s massive American flag is created from the names of 1,039 mass shooting victims, victims from other types of gun violence–accidental shootings, domestic violence, suicide–are honored in an original poem on the artwork’s side panel.

“A senseless act of violence took my precious child from me, and senseless acts of gun violence continue to plague our communities,” said Chaplain Denise Reid. “How far to the sky would this flag need to be to include all the names of those needlessly lost? As this art beautifully conveys, the Declaration of Independence clearly expressed 248 years ago that everybody has the right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. These are our basic, fundamental, human rights, and a person shall not be deprived of their life. We must prioritize public safety.”

Firstenberg is known for the landmark “In America: Remember” exhibition which blanketed 20 acres of the National Mall with 701,000 white flags, each one honoring someone in America who had died from COVID-19. The exhibit physically manifested the magnitude of loss. The largest art installation on the Mall since the AIDS quilt, it transformed the Mall into a national place of mourning for 17 days. Twenty thousand people dedicated flags to loved ones lost. With “alienable right to life,” she employs the power of public art to inspire change and challenge societal attitudes.

Additional art installation information:

  • alienable right to life will run ten days from May 10 through May 20, 2024.
  • The public can participate: During the installation visitors can share personal stories, incorporating them in the mural, or they can lay flowers, notes and mementos.
  • For those who cannot visit in May, they can share their stories on social media using the hashtags #EndGunViolence, #PublicArt, #KeepGoing 
  • Programming will occur at the art installation, more information at https://www.suzannefirstenberg.com/alienable-right-to-life
  • The art installation can travel or be replicated physically or through projection in other cities wishing to commemorate those lost to gun violence.
  • Press materials/photos available here
  • Link to public webcam here 

alienable right to life is a privately funded art project of the America Remembers Fund, made possible with a team of collaborators and volunteers including the National Park Service & the DowntownDC Business Improvement District (BID). 

SOURCE America Remembers Fund

Originally published at https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/speaker-emerita-nancy-pelosi-rep-jamie-raskin-and-gun-violence-prevention-advocate-denise-reid-join-suzanne-brennan-firstenbergs-call-for-freedom-from-gun-violence-at-the-opening-ceremony-for-her-alienable-right-to-life-art-302142596.html
Images courtesy of https://pixabay.com

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