Wednesday morning at 5:47am my colleague Mike sent me an email telling me to buy a Citizen… so with some trepidation when I left for work I stopped off for a copy and saw the front page story about a mural of a gun. The gun was composed of childish symbols of love, like crayons and musical instruments, designed by an artist working with local children. http://www.ottawacitizen.com/entertainment/Mural+under+fire/5196355/story.html
I scanned the article quickly, praying that it wasn’t one of “ours” and found to my relief that it was not part of the funding program, Paint It Up!, that we manage. But after my initial relief that the program would not likely be under fire, again, I paused to think about what else we can draw out of this story.
What meaning we can draw from a mural in which the artist is trying to incorporate “love symbols and drawings into the silhouette of a weapon in order to render the weapon unusable, non-functional” ?
Although I personally find the mural concept in incredibly bad taste, it does point to living conditions that are far more violent than most people associate with childhood in Ottawa.
There was a murder last week in the neighbourhood of the mural and people who live there tell me that in the summer they hear gun shots every week or so. How many people living in Ottawa can even imagine that there are children growing up in Ottawa in neighbourhoods marked by that level of violence? Where it makes sense for them to work with an artist on an image of a gun?
There is lots of statistical evidence that Canada is a country in which the divide between rich and poor is getting bigger and starker. I’ve never seen any data crunched on safety, but I am convinced that we are also a place in which there is a growing divide between safe and not safe. Although we can rejoice in the overall drop in crime rates for Canada and for Ottawa, our work in not done when there are children hearing gun shots at night.