March 15, 2017
Senior Art Thesis on Gun Violence: “91 of Us” to take place on National Mall
(Washington, D.C.) Studio art major Caileigh Nerney was taken aback when she heard on a podcast that on average 91 people a day are killed with guns — that’s two to three times more than the deadliest mass shootings in the U.S.
She researched and discovered that of those 91 people, 57 commit suicide with a firearm, 32 die from gun-related homicide, and two die from firearm accidents. These numbers add up to more than 30,000 deaths a year.
Nerney will educate others about this travesty and the need to prevent gun violence through her senior thesis project, “91 of US.” The event will take place on Saturday, March 18, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the National Mall between 7th and 4th streets. Her thesis project is a kind of performance art focused on social engagement — a form of living, interactive art that seeks to raise awareness and engage the community.
“It may never be possible to eradicate this number [of human lives lost], but to save even a few of these people everyday would be worth the effort,” Nerney says on her GoFundMe page for the project. “These are 91 children, neighbors, siblings, parents, and friends, It’s 91 Americans. It’s 91 of Us. I hope that once we see the number that way, we will all be compelled to help participate in lowering it.”
Nerney’s project will create a space for open, fact-based, bipartisan conversation. It will include 91 empty chairs representing each person who will die in the U.S. from gun violence every day this year. Nerney is also welcoming to her event individuals and groups who can address issues of safe gun storage, gun violence prevention, gang violence prevention, domestic violence prevention, safe gun storage, and mental health awareness and support, so viewers of her project can learn how to take action to help lower the number of gun-related deaths.
In addition to planning the event on the Mall, she has created a social media marketing campaign using the hashtag #91ofUS to make a larger, and more enduring social impact. The hashtag is being used to encourage people to help educate their friends, and to help people contact congressional representatives about this tragic problem.
The group of 91 people will be assembled on the pathways of the National Mall so that visitors to the Mall will be encouraged to walk through the exhibit instead of around it. For the past six months, Nerney has worked closely with the National Park Service and U.S. Park Police to secure permission for her exhibit.
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