- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 16, 2014

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Artists began picking through an array of stocks, barrels, revolver cylinders, trigger assemblies and other firearm parts spread across the floor of a New Orleans gallery Wednesday to mark the beginning of a project that will turn the weaponry into art.

City officials and artists gathered for the launch of the “Guns in the Hands of Artists” project said they hoped the result will provoke thought and civil discussion about dealing with the gun violence that plagues New Orleans and other cities.

“I’m so disheartened, when we talk about gun violence, when we talk about any type of responsibility about gun ownership that it devolves into emotion and silliness in many cases,” said City Council member Stacey Head.

Gallery owner Jonathan Ferrara said the program has its roots in similar projects that have taken place in New Orleans and other cities since 1996.

Thirty-one artists are expected to take part in the program, which will use remnants of 186 guns turned over to New Orleans police in a buyback program. Officer Earl Johnson said the guns had been burned and cut up to render them useless.

“It looks like there was some trepidation about putting guns in the hands of artists,” joked Deborah Luster, one of the artists involved in the project.

Luster, whose mother was shot to death in 1988, later became a photographer, earning notice of her work taking pictures of inmates at Louisiana prisons. Standing over the pile of weapons, she said she was unsure how she will use the pieces she selects but that they would likely become a part of some type of sculpture.

Results of the artists’ efforts are to be on display at Jonathan Ferrara Gallery from Oct. 3 through Jan. 15 and will coincide with Prospect.3, a city-wide display of art that takes place every two years in New Orleans.