paint by number
Kalamazoo artist uses year-long project to start conversation about mass shootings
"It's definitely not an easy subject," local Michigan artist Keith Pitts said.

Pitts spoke with MLive from his home studio, located in his basement, while his son played video games upstairs and his daughter visited a friend down the street.

"It is a reality that faces us and —worse than just facing us as adults — that faces our children," he said.
Mass Shooting
noun. Four or more shot and/or killed in a single event [incident], at the same general time and location not including the shooter.
Mass shootings inspired Pitts to take on the large-scale project. Using the Kalamazoo Artistic Development Initiative grant he received through the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo, Pitts launched his endeavor to create small paintings he calls "markers" — one for each mass shooting that occurs in the United States through the entirety of 2022.

Pitts tracks information as it is added to the national Gun Violence Archive website, which records mass shootings in America soon after they are confirmed.
675 people dead
The national Gun Violence Archive keeps track of all uses of gun violence across America. Over the course of 2022, 648 mass shootings occurred in the United States of America injuring 2,703 and killing 675 people in the process.

Scroll over each state for individual statistics
Pitts begins the process of creating a "marker" for each mass shooting incident by taking an eight-by-eight-inch canvas and covering it with a watery red paint. Next, he sets a timer for eight minutes and layers on a waxy white encaustic paint until the timer is up.

"Eight minutes is the average time that it takes … for the authorities to show up on site," Pitts said, as he explained why he paints for exactly eight minutes.

After the waxy layer dries, he takes stencils and carves into the white paint the number of people injured, as well as how many died.

"I think that it happens so much, we have begun to accept it as normal," Pitts said. "There is a whitewashing, I feel, that goes on with it. They are trying to make it not seem as horrific, I guess, not seem as big of a problem as it really is."
"I cannot help but put myself in the position of the parents. You cannot bring a child back. "
As of March 4, 2022, Pitts had made 73 paintings.

"This is not about me as an artist," Pitts said. "I am very aware that the only reason I'm doing this is because other people have had a really horrific day, or they have lost their lives."

Pitts wants this project to be the start of a conversation of prevention, and to use his art as a launching point for a safe space to talk about the trauma and hurt mass shootings cause in the lives of everyone involved.

"There are enormous amounts of people that are affected by this, and I do not want this to ever be seen as anything except a recording of the of the data that's being presented and an opportunity to create a space where our conversation can start," he said.

If you would like to see more or follow along on the project, Pitts posts each piece to his Instagram account, @eewhiteart42. The Gun Violence Archive can be found here.

Pitts expects to unveil the finished product in Kalamazoo in July 2023.