Birmingham artist, El Paso native creating exhibit on mass shootings

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — A Birmingham artist who grew up in El Paso, Texas is hoping to spark conversations about mass shootings at an upcoming exhibit.

Larry Thompson is a professor at Samford University and also an artist working with the non-profit group Space One Eleven.

For months, Thompson has been working on a project about mass shootings across the country. This past weekend, it became even more personal. Thompson spent the first 18 years of his life in El Paso.

“In that moment, everything stopped and all you can think of is reaching out to people and making sure they’re OK,” Thompson said.

Thompson went to bed knowing that El Paso would be named in his project. He did not expect to awake to learn of another tragedy elsewhere.

“I went to bed thinking of El Paso and woke up thinking of Dayton, Ohio,” he said.

El Paso and Dayton will be the latest two cities written down on canvas squares for Thompson’s project.

Thompson is creating a life-sized calendar of sorts, that will feature a collection of painted canvas squares for each day of the year.

Squares that represent days with mass shootings will be painted a dark color, while squares that represent days without shootings will be painted a light color.

Thompson said he already has 250 dark colored squares for 2019. As he has researched mass shootings, he’s learned some troubling statistics.

“So far in 2019, all but three Sundays have had a mass shooting,” said Thompson.

He hopes the project will spark conversations about violence taking place across the country.

“We want to promote a conversation because we don’t seem to be able to talk about this. Something happens and we hear that it is too soon to talk about it,” Thompson said.

Images from this past weekend’s shootings in El Paso were especially troubling for Thompson. Through his project he hopes to show that shootings can happen anywhere.

“It happened in my hometown. It happened in a Wal Mart that I’ve been in countless times, that my parents have been in countless times,” he said.

While Thompson’s friends are alright, he knows other families are torn apart. He wants to see change and hopes his art inspires discussion beyond thoughts and prayers.

“That slogan has also just lost it’s meaning, because we say it every time and I think what is missing is the action that should follow,” said he said.

Thompson’s exhibit will be featured at Space One Eleven for the Birmingham Art Walk on Sept. 6.

Eleven other artists will travel to Birmingham the following week for an exhibition called ‘We Dare Defend our Rights: The Gun Show’ on Friday Sept. 13.

The event is between 5:30 and 7 p.m at Space One Eleven in Birmingham.

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