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RACINE — Park High School’s latest art project is fueled by art educator, Stephen Quirke, and his student’s anger, fear and sadness in relation to gun violence.

Using shell casings from guns, students enrolled in the Art Metals course are creating a case for change by constructing and selling rings with proceeds benefitting Voices of Black Mothers United.

gun violence Park students use shell casings to make jewelry
Mr. Quirke discusses the potential prices of rings with his students during class on June 1. – Credit: Emma Widmar

“The amount of students that I’ve either lost to gun violence or that I’ve heard stories of how they’ve had to deal with gun violence,” is what led Quirke to start a conversation with his students about the ongoing crisis.

He had an idea and his students are executing the vision.

“It’s not anti-gun. It’s not pro-gun. It’s anti-gun violence against our youth,” explains Quirke about the project. “Youth need to stop shooting each other or youth need to stop being shot”

Racine Police Department’s school officer, Felicia Frieri-Gaines, provided insight about bringing shell casings from bullets into the school, administration at the school supported the idea, and a local gun range donated the materials needed.

Gun violence impacts youth

In 2023, per the Gun Violence Archive, in the United States, children between the ages of 0 years old to 11 years old were subject to 113 deaths. 642 teens between the ages of 12 years old and 17 years old have also been killed this year due to gun violence.

These numbers are ever-changing, but for this year, they won’t decrease, those hundreds of lives will forever be lost because of gun violence.

These numbers impact real people, and real students, and create real traumas in the Racine community.

gun violence Park students use shell casings to make jewelry
Mr. Quirke assists a student with the ring making process. – Credit: Emma Widmar

Vaughn struggles with gun violence

Ari Vaughn, an artist who is a junior at Park, knows firsthand what it is like to be impacted by gun violence.

When the project first started, Vaughn says “I didn’t like it. I literally I didn’t like that. It was complicated for me,” because of the trauma associated with the topic.

“I was just sad, but I have joy because we’re raising money,” says Vaughn.

gun violence Park students use shell casings to make jewelry
Students at Park High School are creating rings with spent shell casings from bullets. The idea is to raise funds and awareness about gun violence. – Credit: Emma Widmar

Vaughn told the Racine County Eye that she was a witness to the shooting involving Alexis Fischer. She’s also had friends die due to senseless gun violence throughout her life.

“It was so fresh. It all happened this year,” explains the art student.

She got on board with the project and turned her pain into a passion that will create a conversation about gun violence that will bring much-needed change to our community.

“Once I actually sat down and took the time to learn about it, it was something that I like to do,” says Ari about creating the unique jewelry. Since the start, she has created about 100 rings.

“It was therapeutic for me getting to make them, seeing how other people and the reactions, when they figured out that we made up from something so little (in size),” says the student.

While their materials may be little in size, what was once enclosed in each casing is powerful enough to permanently take a life.

gun violence Park students use shell casings to make jewelry
The shell casings were donated by a local gun range to help benefit the project that is raising funds for Voices of Black Mothers United. – Credit: Emma Widmar

Rings for sale

Rings range in style, size, design, color, and price, starting at $5 and ranging up to $35 per ring.

gun violence Park students use shell casings to make jewelry
Ari and Mr. Quirke show off rings that are available in the Orange Exclusive line. – Credit: Emma Widmar

Two collections that stand out are the Orange Exclusive line and the Ari’s Eye line.

The orange rings represent what Quirke describes as messages such as “don’t shoot me” and “put the guns down” all while being a symbol of gun violence awareness.

Ari’s Eye Line highlights her dedication to the project.

Not all rings contain shell casings, but all rings will give back, remind people about gun violence in our community, and showcase how the youth in Racine can be a source of change. 

Rings are available for purchase tomorrow at Racine’s community rally for gun violence awareness at Monument Square from noon to 2 p.m.

Can’t make it? Email with questions or inquiries about the project.

gun violence Park students use shell casings to make jewelry
A collection called “Ari’s Eye Line” highlights Ari Vaughn’s story of being a witness of gun violence. – Credit: Emma Widmar
gun violence Park students use shell casings to make jewelry
Rings are available for purchase. They range in size, price, color, and design, but all rings come with the reminder that gun violence is a problem facing youth in the United States. – Credit: Emma Widmar


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