Congressman Ritchie Torres (D-NY, 15th District) visited Riverdale Country School to view “You Know the Drill,” a student art project that pays tribute to dozens of victims of gun violence, many of them from New York. “These students are sending a powerful message that the names of the victims of gun violence will never be forgotten,” said Rep. Torres. “There is nothing normal about living in a world where mothers and grandmothers are burying their children. The United States is the only wealthy country in the world that has an epidemic of gun violence and mass shootings. The young people here are going to break the cycle of gun violence in this country.”
“You Know the Drill” is the latest project created by students in Riverdale’s Projects in Contemporary Art (PICA) class – a studio art course created by Nicky Enright. Each year, PICA students respond to various social issues through art. Previous topics have included banned books, mass incarceration, and teens’ use of technology.
This year’s installation, developed in collaboration with the Soul Box Project, a Portland-based initiative that raises awareness about gun violence in the US, is a poignant reminder of the impact of gun violence on individuals and communities.
During the event, Head of School Dominic A.A. Randolph expressed his gratitude toward Rep. Torres for his work in Congress on behalf of gun safety, saying, “I want to thank Representative Torres for his brave work around gun violence, especially in regard to the safety of our young people in schools.” Mr. Randolph also cited the PICA course as demonstrating a unique alignment with Riverdale’s mission to change the world for the good. “This project is superb at highlighting what’s happening, not just in the nation but also in our immediate area with gun violence, and not only with the victims’ lives but also on the psyche of our students.”
Bennett Gorman ’25, one of the student artists, explained, “The purpose of this project is not to force our opinions upon others but instead to provide the necessary facts so viewers can form their own perspectives. Our project proposes no direct solution, but it does offer our community inspiration to take the first step down any path they believe will provide justice for the victims of gun violence and create a future without it.”
Also speaking at the event was Beverly Emers, a Soul Box Project board member, community liaison at BronxArtSpace, and survivor of gun violence. “As a mother, I fear for my son’s life walking down the street,” said Ms. Emmers. “It’s important that we do not get desensitized to this issue, and it’s important that we do something. I’m glad that Representative Torres joined us in solidarity.”
PICA teacher Mr. Enright added his thoughts, saying, “This year alone, by May, there had already been 200 mass shootings in the United States. That’s more than one mass shooting per day. We don’t want to become numb to the violence. We don’t want it to be normalized. Art is one way to face things that we don’t want to face.”
While at Riverdale, Rep. Torres also toured the Hill Campus Maker Space, visited a Middle School science lab, and viewed the 6th grade History Borough Project, taking special note of the students’ representation of the Bronx.
In a few days, “You Know the Drill” will move to its new permanent home: Rep. Torres’ district office in the Bronx. There, it will serve as a reminder of the importance of art and of taking action against gun violence.