Today’s Solutions: January 29, 2023

The city of Culiacán, Mexico has been described as a mausoleum mixed with an amusement park. Death in the city is seen everywhere, from the giant marble crosses towering over cemetery walls to the roadside shrines paying homage to the recently departed. Culiacán is home to one of the most notorious Mexican gangs, the Sinaloa Cartel, responsible for, among many things, flooding the streets of Chicago with south-of-the-border drugs. Pedro Reyes, sculptor and visual artist, took the guns from Culiacán and turned them into tools used to transform the city, not into a giant cemetery, but into a greener, happier place to live.
In 2007 Reyes started the Palas por Pistolas (“Shovels for Guns”) project. The project asked residents of Culiacán to turn in their guns in to authorities in exchange for coupons that could be used to purchase household electronics and appliances. The project received 1,527 weapons from Culiacán, which Reyes melted down to make 1,527 shovels, and used them to plant 1,527 trees. Palas por Pistolas started in response to the gun violence in Mexico, but the problem has only gotten worse. In the past 6 years more than 50,000 people have died in Mexico as a result of gun violence. This motivated Reyes to start another project, this time using guns that were seized from criminals in the border city of Juárez, Mexico.
Reyes’ latest project,a collaboration with Mexico City musicians and media studio Cocolab called Disarm, turns decommissioned guns into a mechanized symphony. “I believe that the purpose of art is to come up with ways to transform the most negative instincts into creative instincts,” Reyes says in his Creators Project video. Shotguns, pistols, and rifles were cut up and welded together to make an array of musical instruments, from drum kits to xylophones. Musicians then sampled the sounds each instrument made and put the samples into audio production software to bring all the pieces together, creating the symphony sound they desired. A team of developers at Cocolab then coded a program and mechanized the instruments so they can play the symphony by themselves, without any humans.
While Pedro Reyes is making art out of guns from south of the border, one group of Philadelphia artists is repurposing guns into wearable pieces of art.In 2012 the city of Philadelphia confiscated 3,400 guns from criminals. That same year Peter Thum, entrepreneur and humanitarian, founded Liberty United with a simple mission, to reduce gun violence in the US. Liberty United takes guns confiscated by police, or donated via gun buyback programs, melts them down and turns them into bracelets, rings and necklaces. Each piece of jewelry has the serial number of the gun it used to be, the name Liberty United, and the words “remade in America,” engraved into it.
You can find out more about Pedro Reyes and his art installments on his website, or buy a piece of Liberty United jewelry on theirs.
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