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Live mural tackles national gun violence at Isabella Stewart Gardner

Local artists and museumgoers gathered at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Monday to honor Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy.

The voice of Martin Luther King Jr. reverberated throughout the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s courtyard as excerpts of his speeches played as part of the museum’s 2019 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. The Civil Rights Movement leader’s legacy was honored Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Attendees engaged in discussions about progress as artists put King’s words to jazz music and explored the spectrum of views on guns in America in an installation.

Rhea Vedro, director of community engagement at the museum, said the organizers aimed to address contemporary subjects at the Day of Service.

“The museum does take a stance around diversity, access and inclusion,” Vedro said. “We want to be a museum for all people that’s relevant to our time and does grapple with difficult issues.”

On the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, the ISG admitted the public for free and held community service projects and performances throughout the day.

French artist JR presented a performance piece titled, “JR X TIME.” The live video-mural, created by JR in collaboration with TIME Magazine, is a cross-country traveling art installation that illustrates gun violence and views toward guns in America.

“JR X TIME” showcases 245 Americans and their views on gun control translated into a multimedia illustration. Uniting the First and Second Amendment, it showcases the accounts of mothers and hunters, U.S. Representatives and shooting survivors.

Adrian Kombe, a mechanical engineering student at Northeastern University, attended the ISG’s Day of Service and said he thought the mural effectively honored the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

“The audience members were able to create discourse amongst each other about something that is usually feigned away from,” Kombe said. “I think it’s important to commemorate MLK by allowing access to education in museums throughout the country.”

Anita Knopov, a fourth-year medical student at the Boston University School of Medicine, said she is interested in educating herself about racial disparity related to gun violence and that this interest attracted her to ISG’s event along with a desire to be involved with the issue.

“One of the things to be involved with is to go to the talks that are usually public and are available to people, and learn in that sense,” Knopov said.

In 2017, nearly 40,000 people were fatally shot, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of the deaths caused by firearms in 2017, 60 percent, or approximately 24,000 of the almost 40,000, were a result of suicide, according to data from the CDC.

BU students can take the first steps in advocacy and policy change by getting involved on their own campus, Knopov said.

“The School of Public Health holds a lot of different events in terms of advocacy-oriented events,” Knopov said. “If you’re not interested in research, there are still ways to communicate with policy makers and to learn what kind of issues are worth communicating.”

Vedro said the ISG pulls people from polarized situations together through a variety of events throughout the year. Previous ones included a memorial for Freddie Gray and Code Listen, a musical performance that told and reflected on intertwining stories of police, teens and mothers of victims of homicide.

The Day of Service is an initiative to continue Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy by allowing the voices of different communities to be heard and for the public to listen and learn, Vedro said.

Michael Ulrich, an assistant professor at the BU School of Public Health, has conducted research on gun violence and spoke on a panel for an SPH community forum on gun violence March 2018.

“[Gun violence] is going to be fixed by bringing people who have been the perpetrators or victims of gun violence together,” Ulrich said, “putting people who have different views and different experiences in the same room and learning from each other is going to be a critical way to address this issue.”

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