Traveling art exhibit honors gun violence victims


Courtesy Jordan Sparrow

“Unforgotten,” a traveling outdoor art exhibit that memorializes victims of gun violence in Illinois, was curated by FCB Chicago Advertising Agency in partnership with the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence and was unveiled April 10 outside St. James Cathedral, 65 E. Huron St. 

By Metro Reporter

FCB Chicago Advertising Agency has reached out to the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence to create a traveling outdoor art exhibit that memorializes victims of gun violence from Illinois.

Jordan Sparrow, an art director at FCB and the art director of the new exhibit, said FCB does pro bono campaigns every year to raise awareness of issues that its staff is passionate about. Sparrow said the agency decided to start a campaign to raise awareness of gun violence because innocent lives are snuffed out in Chicago by gun violence almost every day. 

“[We wanted to] come up with a new way to stop people in their tracks and understand that [gun violence] truly is a problem,” Sparrow said.

The public exhibit, “Unforgotten,” opened to the public April 10 outside St. James Cathedral, 65 E. Huron St., and consists of eight statues that replicate the exact height, weight and build of the victims they portray. Each statue is adorned with the victim’s clothing, giving them an eerie, lifelike quality. None of the statues have faces, only a nametag, said Colleen Daley, executive director of ICHV. 

Blair Holt, Jitka Vesell, Ryanne Mace, Hadiya Pendleton, Terrell Bosley, Porshe’ Foster, Thomas Vandenberk and Michael Bailey are depicted in the exhibit, and all of the victims have their own story, Daley said. She said she hopes people will look further into each victim’s story after visiting the exhibit and remember that gun violence victims are more than just statistics. 

Sparrow said once his agency decided to do a gun violence campaign, it reached out to ICHV to connect with the victims’ families.

He said he first met the victims’ family members when the exhibit opened to the public outside of St. James Cathedral. 

“I stood off to the side and watched it unfold,” he said. “I didn’t want to interfere with the families’ reactions to the exhibit. Afterwards, they sought me out and were all very appreciative about how I chose to memorialize their loved ones.” 

Daley said some visitors expressed their disapproval, after the statues were put on display. 

“Some people said the exhibit was jarring, and that’s the point,” Daley said. “Gun violence is jarring. That is the reality of it.” 

Ebony Ambrose, the mother of Kevin Ambrose, a former Columbia student who was shot and killed near the 47th Street Green Line train stop, said she does not think the exhibit represents gun violence victims in a positive light. 

“I want my son to be remembered for his happiness and ambition,” Ambrose said. “I don’t want him to be remembered as a victim because to me, that’s unfair to him. What was the point of his 19-year-old life [if] the only thing he is remembered for is his death.” 

Ambrose said while memorials can honor victims, family members have to think carefully about  how they choose to memorialize loved ones. 

“When streets and parks are named after victims, all people remember is that those people were victims of gun violence,” she said. 

Daley said the victims depicted in the exhibit were chosen because all of their families are active in her organization and openly speak out against gun violence. 

She said her organization is securing the exhibit’s next location, which she hopes is at the University of Illinois’ Chicago campus. She said the exhibit will be featured at colleges because many lives have been taken by guns on university campuses. Eventually, she said she wants the exhibit to travel the state of Illinois because gun violence is a problem for the entire region.

“The exhibit is not just about the eight victims on display,” Daley said. “The exhibit is about all victims of gun violence, and we encourage everyone that has been affected by gun violence to share their story with us and others.”