Symbols and icons communicate powerful messages, and for contemporary artist Lin Evola-Smidt, ‘peace’ is the most important.
As the founder of the Peace Angel Project and the Art of Peace Charitable Trust, Lin has been making the world a better place by transforming various types of street weapons into inspiring icons of peace. During the 2017 TedxFultonStreetSalon, Lin revealed that she has more weapons than any other private individual, owning approximately 12,000 handgun, rifles, knives, cannons, and nuclear weapon casings. These are in addition to one hundred barrels of melted weapons in the form of decommissioned stainless steel.
Lin founded the Peace Angel Project in 1992 while living in San Francisco, Los Angeles. During this time, L.A. murder rates were amongst the highest in the country, and she wondered what world her eight-year-old son would inherit. She told The Christian Science Monitor: “I’d been an artist since the first time I opened my eyes, but I wanted more at that moment than to just create a piece of art.”
“I wanted people to make a shift within themselves.”
During a podcast with See Change Magazine, she explained: “We [The Peace Angel Project] take physical weapons and transform them into something that breathes air back into society.” For Lin, that ‘something’ is sculptures in the form of ‘peace angels’. Through their erection, Lin provides hope for a better future while also permanently taking weapons off the street. “They will never harm anyone again,” she said.
To obtain the materials for her art, Lin collaborates with local enforcement to take weapons that have been confiscated during seizures and criminal investigations. Then, working in collaboration with metal management companies, the weapons are melted down for use.
Lin’s most famous sculpture is the Renaissance Angel, a 13-foot sculpture housed in the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.
“That Peace Angel, once brought from California, served as a symbol of peace in front of Nino’s restaurant the entire time Nino and his family fed the firemen, police officers, and rescue workers, 24 hours a day,” she recalled. While it was erected, its base collected signatures and words of encouragement left by those who had gathered there.
At another point in her career, Lin was also invited by South African Nobel Peace Laureates Archbishop Emeritus Desmond M. Tutu and former President Nelson Mandela to unveil the ‘Spirit of Africa’ Angel in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Additionally, an 11-foot Jerusalem Peace Angel created from decommissioned, Israeli and Palestinian nuclear weapons is currently in the works.
Lin is also planning two six-story sculptures to be erected in Los Angeles and New York.
According to a press release, the planned New York Renaissance Peace Angel is named in reference to the Renaissance in art history, referring to humanity’s renaissance over weapons of destruction. A ‘labyrinth’ will be incorporated around the monument, showing a timeline of dates and occurrences related to gun violence. It will also include etched figures of loved ones and those who have passed due to gun violence, such as longtime peace activist Yoko Ono and husband John Lennon.
The California Peace Angel will feature a female angel holding three children with her left arm, while her right is held up in symbolic protection of gesture and life. The base will hold thirty-six life-sized sculptures of “Humanitarians who have done ‘Extreme Good’ during this time in human history.”
As tragic events unfold, Lin continues to collaborate with communities in need of hope. Most recently, in the wake of New Zealand’s Christchurch mosque shootings, she’s been in talks with Police Commissioner Mike Bush to collect weapons seized or voluntarily surrendered to be used as materials for a New Zealand monument.
Hear her inspiring story below!
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