ArtPrize: Piece aims to start mass shooting discussion

ArtPrize piece focuses on gun violence

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - As the massacre in Las Vegas continues to dominate the headlines, one piece at ArtPrize is having a little more of an impact on visitors now. 

Two thousand miles away couldn't feel any closer for Valerie Mann. 

"I just put my head in my hands," the Michigan artist said  as she shared her reaction to the Las Vegas shooting. "I'm glad I wasn't here Monday. I'm really glad I wasn't here to talk to people because I couldn't have done it." 

Talking would have been difficult because that meant, Mann had more work to do. 

"Initially it was coming from a real place of anger and strong opinion," Mann said. "But once I started doing the research, it really came from a place of a lot deeper knowledge." 

Mann has spent the last couple weeks at Art Prize displaying her latest work, described as beautiful and horrible all at once. 

Beautiful ball gowns stand on the second floor of the City Water building. The dresses are covered in guns used by mass shooters in recent U.S. history. 

"At one point I thought I didn't have the stomach to finish this project," Mann said as she stood beside her piece. 

Guns used in: Newtown, Aurora, Charleston, Orlando, and Dallas are sewn on to bright colorful dresses. 

"I didn't want to make a piece that was gonna hit people over the head. I wanted one that they would stop and think about," she said. 

"We're we're such a divided country, right? But I think the second we believe that, the second we stop talking about difficult things, is when we've lost the battle. I wanted to make a piece where it gets people talking." 

Talk, something Mann says, given the circumstances, will be difficult in the days ahead.

"I've been pretty good at holding it together," she said. "But I don’t think that’s going to be like that this week. I think it’s going to be a lot of people sharing tears together."

The Gun Show is displayed on the second floor of the City Water Building. Mann says this piece has been two years in the making and she will continue to add to it. 

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