It's tough to offer bullet-ridden free art on Michigan Avenue Special
A well-meaning art student gets a lesson in target marketing on the streets of Chicago when he tries to offer free "ammunition art" to a city riddled with gun-induced crime.
At first they seemed confused. People walking down Michigan Avenue, one of the busiest streets in Chicago, stopped and openly stared. They looked with skepticism at Art Institute of Chicago student Oakley Adams' roll-away table replete with strange-looking, multi-colored objects with spiky points. Then they got closer. Some gasped. Others laughed nervously. But all were a bit wary of the longish-haired thin student with glasses standing next to the black and white printed sign that yelled "Free Art Extravaganza."
So how difficult is it to pawn off an art student's free art on the Magnificent Mile? Very if your art is made out of painted bullets, a fake bazooka and a few 30-30s.
"It's very hard," says Oakley, who is originally from Tennessee. "First people are like 'what the heck is this?' Then they're like afraid, they probably think I'm a terrorist."
Oakley's no terrorist, far from it. Instead he's a pacifist trying to make his generation which he sees as "used to war," a bit unsettled about violence and war by displaying war's ammunition in large installations that he calls "overwhelming." "I want them to be overwhelmed by it to really feel it," he said.
But it's probably not so good to feature "ammunition art," as Oakley calls it in a city that has had its murder rate spike up 60% in the last three months
. It seems Chicagoans are already "overwhelmed," by gun violence that has no end in sight.
While the nation has taken to the streets, some in Chicago, to protest the killing of an unarmed teen-age black boy in Sanford, Florida, dozens upon dozens of young black males who called Chicago home are no more, cut down by a vicious streak of murders. More than 100 people have been killed since January 1 and nearly all of those murders were black men killing each other.
The murder rate in Chicago (which really is just black-on-black crime) is so high it outpaces the national average.
Activists like Father Michael Plfager
, the controversial white priest who has worked for safety and security in Chicago's worst neighborhoods, are yelling, pleading, crying for someone, anyone to listen to them. Police are pulling out all their arsenals from increased raids, arrests and locked-down military tactics but nothing seems to work.
"It's World War 17," one exasperated Chicago resident told Fox News
, who went to "investigate" why the murder rate was so high in the city.
That news report garnered an interesting perspective on the violence. Jesse Waters, a white reporter who went to Chicago's south side to report on the crime said he wasn't afraid for his safety. From the transcript:
WATTERS: It's out of control. I was safe though. I said, 'should I be scared?' And they said, 'we don't shoot white people - you're our biggest customer.'
The police suspect low employment, increase gang activity and fewer drug customers have pushed rival gangs into a turf war that is racking up casualties that could rival any war-torn city. The only problem that stands now is how to stop the violence.
Maybe Oakley and a few of his art students could go to the south side and collect all the ammunition. A sort of "leave the guns, take the ammunition" initiative. Even he knew about the violence, commenting how difficult it was to find the bullets in his native Tennessee but figuring it might be easier on the South side of Chicago. He wasn't trying to be glib - just factual.
Still, the south side of Chicago is not all violence. Children go to school each day, people go to work and households try to live through it. But 2012 is quickly shaping up to be one of the worst homicide years on record, and it's pretty assured that Chicago residents are looking for some sort of reprieve.