In an art metals class at Washington Park High School in Racine, students are making rings out of spent gun shell casings. Friday was National Gun Violence Awareness Day, and art specialist Stephen Quirke had challenged his students last month to come up with a way they could take a stand against gun violence.
Quirke and his students have become increasingly frustrated with gun violence affecting their families and community, and decided they would dedicate a class project to the cause. The students got to work, selecting materials and setting prices on a jewelry line.
“Everything has been a child’s decision,” said Quirke. “I have gotten to just sit back and watch the beauty of it all.”
They first sold their artwork at Washington Park High School’s Academy Showcase, and most recently on Friday at a community rally for National Gun Violence Awareness Day in Racine’s Monument Square.
Quirke said there’s a table in his own classroom that represents four students he has lost to gun violence: “We’re tired of people in our class, people we know either suffering from the effects of gun violence or losing someone from gun violence.”
After Nakeyda Haymer, the Wisconsin State Lead for the Voices of Black Mothers United spoke at the school, Quirke says his students were inspired to donate sales from their jewelry to the organization. Now all sale proceeds are going to the Woodson Center initiate of mothers who have lost children to violence or addiction and seek to honor their children’s lives by creating safer communities.
Quirke’s students create their own jewelry designs using donated gun shell casings. One student called the jewelry-making process her meditation and a way to achieve a sense of calm.
“There’s innovation happening on a whim,” said Quirke. “Kids have the ability to change the world, and if we tap into that we can see what can happen.”