‘This Loss We Carry’: Lynchburg Art Exhibit Draws Attention to Gunshot Epidemic and Its Impacts | Local News


A wall in the Dillard Lobby Gallery at Lynchburg University’s Dillard Fine Arts Center is covered in panels made up of 1,176 colorful origami boxes, each representing a life lost or forever altered by gunfire in Virginia during a period six months.

One of three spring exhibitions at the Daura Museum of Art, “This Loss We Carry: Art Revealing the Gunfire Epidemic,” which is on view until March 10, is part of a national movement, the Soul Box Project, started by Portland-based artist. Leslie Lee after the 2017 Las Vegas concert shooting that killed 59 people and injured hundreds more.

Soul Boxes are made by people across the country in memory of the women, children and men who die or are injured by gunfire. The origami paper boxes are submitted to the Soul Box Project organization, where they are made into exhibition panels that can be displayed in art galleries across the United States upon request.

Since its debut, over 200,000 Soul Boxes have been made by individuals across the United States. Some feature images of victims; some have dates or titles such as “son” or “brother”. Others have messages calling for better gun regulation. All the boxes, whatever their message, represent a real human life taken or forever changed by gunfire.

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Individual boxes that make up the “Soul Box” art exhibit at Lynchburg University, as seen on Wednesday, February 2, 2022.

Photo by Kendall Warner, The News & Advance

When Lee saw a news alert pop up on her phone that a mass shooting had taken place at a major concert several years ago, she brushed it off, having no desire to watch any more. bad news. Then she reconsidered her answer.

“I pushed him away, and then later when I found out what had happened, I was so appalled at the massacre itself, but I was also appalled at my willingness to push him away for my comfort. personal. I just thought, ‘Wow. If that’s what we’re all doing in this country, that’s never going to change,” Lee said.

Thus, the ceramic sculptor and painter launched the Soul Box project, to which she now devotes herself full-time.

The term “gunfire” is used by the project rather than “gun violence” because it includes those who die by suicide, are involved in accidents, or are injured but not killed by firearms, Lee explained.

“That’s one of the reasons why we make it very clear in language that this project is about representing all victims,” ​​she said.

Soul Box Exhibition 7

Although Lee hasn’t felt the effects of the shooting outbreak in her personal life, she said she cares about the issue and that the shootings are having a negative effect.

When the Daura Museum of Art heard about these Soul Box exhibits, Laura Cole, the museum’s coordinator for academic and public engagement, said the museum team decided to bring an exhibit that brought the issue down to home focusing on the lives lost to gun violence in Virginia. .

The Soul Box Project pulled data specific to Virginia from gunviolencearchive.org, where it tracks national statistics on gunshot outbreaks. Using statistics from a six-month period, with data taken from December 16, the Daura Museum of Art panels were assembled.

It can be easy to feel disconnected from the effects of gun violence when listening to or reading numbers rattled off a list – but a visual representation of those statistics has a much deeper power, bringing those numbers home and putting into perspective. Suddenly, data is no longer just numbers. They are real people, real lives, as Lee and Cole observed.

“It’s a very powerful visual that, it’s not just the numbers, but it’s also the number of people who have come together to make these boxes. The number of people who are affected by this in addition to being killed or harmed, they are also affected by being linked or adjacent to these incidents,” Cole said. “I think it’s also a great visualization of the power of community. The power of partnership.

The activity of creating Soul Boxes can heal many who have felt the effects of the gunfire outbreak, Lee said.

“It has surprised me over the years how powerful folding a soul box for someone is. We have survivors who have told us that it makes such a difference knowing that person is going to be recognised, not forgotten, counted and included in these exhibits that come across the country.

The exposure has become more timely than ever, Cole noted, with a marked increase in gun violence in Lynchburg over the past two years.

This is not the first exhibition at the Daura Museum of Art to address social issues. Last fall, for example, the institution hosted exhibits sharing photographic materials on domestic violence and hand-drawn portraits of individuals who lost their lives to drug addiction.

“It’s sort of an extension of our efforts to really look at some relevant social issues that need to be talked about, and art can be a great way to facilitate that discussion,” Cole said.

The shots have a much greater impact than the number of deaths they cause. It can leave countless people injured, disabled and severely traumatized.

“His [the Soul Box Project is] no division,” Lee said. “Grief is grief whether you are pro-gun or anti-gun. If you’ve lost someone to a gunshot, your grief is the same, and that’s what comes out of this exhibit.

Lee said she hopes this exhibit can become the visual thread that connects organizations and individual activists as they work towards the common goal of mitigating and solving the problem of gunshot wounds and fatalities that could be avoided. The Soul Box Project strives to inspire more organizations to request or create Soul Box exhibits.

“You need something that is accessible; it is engaging; that reaches people in a way they can tolerate, so they don’t turn it around like I did in 2017,” Lee said of the exhibits.

Admission to the Daura Museum of Art exhibition is free and open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.

A Soul Box workshop will be held at the museum from 6-8 p.m. on March 3, led by the Shawn Moss Wellness and Growth Foundation, an organization dedicated to educating and uplifting others “to reduce the negative impact of armed violence” in local communities. The workshop will be free and open to the public.

Soul Box workshops can also be coordinated for groups, clubs and classes by appointment. The material will be provided.


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