The Manhole Cover Project: A Gun Legacy

Public installation: audio testimonies and smelted gun metal sculptures

1996

Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT

The Manhole Cover Project is a large-scale installation consists of sculpture, sound, and text in response to the problem of gun violence in the city of Hartford, Connecticut, in the 1990s.  

For the project the artist melted down 11,194 guns that were confiscated by Connecticut law enforcement between January 1, 1992 and July 31, 1996, and recorded testimonies from residents who had been impacted by the use of these weapons. McCallum created 228 manhole* covers with the melted material and emblazoned emblazoning two declarations: Samuel Colt’s Latin motto, “Vincit Qui Patitur" * and “Made from 172 LBS of Your Confiscated Guns, CT Police 1996”.       

Some of the manhole covers were installed on public roads at sites of recorded gun violence, and others were installed accompanied by audio testimony from survivors in front of the Wadsworth Atheneum, a prominent art museum in Hartford.   

The Manhole Project was first exhibited in 1996 in the public courtyard of the Wadsworth Atheneum, as a counterpoint to a decorative arts exhibition at the museum that was titled “Sam and Elizabeth: The Legend of Colt’s Empire.”  The museum exhibit memorialized the inventor of the Colt 45 firearm and his family in the galleries, presenting their vast collection of guns, paintings, sculpture, and decorative art. But outside the museum, The Manhole Cover Project addressed the issue of contemporary gun violence through sculpture and sound. 

Click here to read a review essay of the project by James Rondeau

* translation: “He Who Suffers Conquers” or “He Who Perseveres is Victorious” 

** A manhole cover is a removable plate, forming the lid over the opening of a manhole, to prevent anyone or anything from falling in and getting hurt

Exhibitions

Smelting: A Gun Legacy

Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, Hartford - New Orleans

2014

A special live performance by Bradley McCallum in conjunction with “Guns in the Hands of Artists,” an official Prospect 3+ exhibition at Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, New Orleans

Bearing Witness: Work by Bradley McCallum & Jacqueline Tarry

, Baltimore, MD

2010

The Manhole Cover Project was included in McCallum's mid-career survey in Baltimore, MD, and installed in the Phoenix Shot Tower, a National Historic Monument.

Press

  • 2000

    • Kevin Lynch, “Melted Guns, Ghostly Silk Yield Wrenching Art, Capital Times [Madison, WI] , May 24, 2000
  • Acknowledgements

    The Manhole Cover Project was developed in collaboration with The Childhood Injury Prevention Center of the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT. The exhibition was curated by James Rondeau 

    The project could not have been realized without the dedication and commitment of the following individuals:  Andrea Miller-Keller, William Hosley, and curators at the Wadsworth Atheneum, Emily Hall Tremaine (Curator of Contemporary Art), Elizabeth Kornhauser (Acting Chief Curator), Karen Blanchfield (Assistant Curator of American Decorative Arts), Richard Koopman (Curator of American Decorative Arts), Linda Friedlaender (Cigna Senior Associate Curator of Education), and Sarah Hirzel (Administrative Assistant, Department of Contemporary Art). 

    Thanks also to  Rita Decker, Donna Feinstein, Sandra Hale, Bill Halverson, Claire Holman, David Johnson, Bill MacDonand, Kathryn Marsan, Rosina Menna, Fritz Morsches, Amanda Olcheske, Joseph Steffan, Jacqueline Tarry, Survivors of Homicide, Inc., Connecticut Coalition Against Gun Violence.   And our student Interns:  Nashia Baskerville, Myrton Bewry, Chevoughn Augustin, David Robles, Josue Evilla.   

    With gratitude and special thanks to J. Anderson (former Visual Arts Curator at Real Art Ways)