pencils not pistols: Iranian artists in Cincinnati


Christ Church Cathedral in Cincinnati has a modern and timely outdoor mural stressing education over violence.  Pencils where pistols might be.

“We have been so worn down by the sheer number of guns and the tidal wave of violence that we’ve begun to think that nothing can be done,” said Rev. Gail Greenwell. Greenwell says the display [is] an attempt to get people to stop and think about the gun violence plaguing the city, inspiring them to take action.

In a commitment to gun violence prevention in the city, the church has dedicated time and resources to gun buy back programs and victims funeral services locally. The congregation prays the names of those lost to gun violence on a weekly basis and reaches out to partner with organizations that look to put an end to countless deaths as a result of guns.

“The mission of public art is always to stimulate a conversation and encourage the individual to struggle with the meaning of the image,” says Dean Gail Greenwell. “The juxtaposition of an image that looks like a gun but is actually a pencil is the artist inviting us to imagine what might be different if weapons were transformed into something quite different.”

Renowned social-change artists and Iranian brothers Icy and Sot created the art now hanging on the outside walls of the cathedral. The image shown being installed above measures 20′ x 24′.

Since 2006, Icy and Sot have contributed to Iranian and international urban art culture through striking stencil work depicting human rights, ecological justice, and social and political issues. Their work appears on walls and in galleries throughout Iran, Germany, China, Norway, and the United States. They transcend their histories of artistic and political censorship by using public art to envision a world freed from borders, war, and gun violence. Originally from Tabriz, Iran, the brothers now reside in Brooklyn, New York.

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