Pedro Reyes believes art should address social issues like gun violence, even when they’re difficult and controversial. Reyes addresses the issue of gun violence by using guns themselves. His first project began in 2007 in the Mexican city of Culiacan. As part of a campaign to curb shootings, the city collected 1,527 guns. He used them to create art. “Those 1,527 guns were melted and made into the same number of shovels,” he says. “So for every gun now, there’s a shovel. And with every shovel, we planted a tree.”
A new exhibition of the work is on display at the University of South Florida’s Contemporary Art Museum. It’s called “Disarm,” and consists of guns that have been turned into musical instruments. A few years ago, a government agency in Mexico gave Reyes 6,700 guns that had been confiscated from criminal gangs and rendered inoperable. Since then, he’s been turning them into electric guitars, violins, flutes and percussion instruments.