Peralta Community College District's Only Student-Run Publication
Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

    Art for peace

    by Alice Robinson

    Laney student Tsungwei Moo with a sculpture of her now-deceased boyfriend, Ricardo Distin, who was shot and killed in 2017. (Photos by Nicole Lovett)

    Tsungwei Moo toiled steadily for months. She used handmade paper, molds, paint, and candles to construct her masterpiece.

    She also used guns.

    Moo got the guns from the Robby Poblete Foundation (RPF), named for the 23-year-old man gunned down in Vallejo in 2014. The foundation donated the guns to Moo under an initiative they call the “Art of Peace.”

    The group received the gun parts through the RPF Gun Buyback Program, a partnership between the foundation and local law enforcement agencies that offered cash rewards for surrendered firearms.

    Moo, a multiple-medium artist and Laney College student, has been more than a distant observer of gun violence. Her boyfriend, Ricardo Distin, was shot and killed during a robbery in Jamaica last year. Through the pain of loss, she summoned her creativity.

    Moo holds the molds she used for her artwork. Her piece is currently being shown in Vallejo’s Temple Art Lofts.

    Channeling the sadness from her boyfriend’s death into something meaningful wasn’t easy for Moo. “I cried all the time,” she said.

    One of the messages Moo wants to communicate through the art is that a gun and its parts can be used to destroy many lives. She hopes her art can change that.

    Moo believes art can spark massive change in society. Art of Peace allowed her to “use the artifacts of tragedy to inspire us to create peaceful places for all of us to live,” she said.

    Moo took the gun parts home and studied them. She admitted this was scary. She lit incense and began her creative process. Next, she attempted to talk to the spirits of those killed by the gun parts. Moo asked the spirits to help her educate people about the horrors of gun violence.

    “I want to use this weapon that took your life to make people aware,” she said to them.

    Afterward, she was inspired to create a piece that reminded people of home. She painted a man in his home, showing tenderness to his newborn son.

    Robby Poblete’s mother, Pati Navalta, lent a hand to Moo’s expression. Navalta directs the foundation named after her son, and began Art of Peace to encourage artists to repurpose gun parts. “We opened this portal for people to express how they feel about gun violence,” she said.

    Moo has come a long way since arriving in the U.S. from Taiwan in 2005. Her work has been shown inside the San Francisco Muni system’s buses and trains. She also teaches art at Yosemite National Park.

    After the Art of Peace exhibit, she plans to continue figure sculpting, painting and pastel drawing — her list of upcoming projects is a long one.

    “I’m addicted to making art,” she said with a smile.

    Moo’s piece will be shown by appointment at Vallejo’s Temple Art Lofts, 707 Marin St., through June 29. To schedule an appointment, email info-at-robbypobletefoundation.org. Moo will teach pastel landscape drawing July 9–21 at the Yosemite Conservancy.


    Alice Robinson is a staff writer for the Laney Tower.

    About the Contributor
    In the fall of 2019, The Laney Tower rebranded as The Citizen and launched a new website. These stories were ported over from the old Laney Tower website, but byline metadata was lost in the port. However, many of these stories credit the authors in the text of the story. Some articles may also suffer from formatting issues. Future archival efforts may fix these issues.  
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