Bette Backs “Release the Fear” Program

Sculpting a peaceful plan
Melted weapons will form symbol

Kristina Davis
The Arizona Republic
Feb. 13, 2003 12:00 AM


Painter and sculptor Robert Miley sees his art as a tool for healing, with the power to change lives and communities for the better.

The 47-year-old Phoenix artist hopes to transform violence into non-violence through art with a large sculpture he will create from melted-down illegal weapons donated by the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

The sculpture will be part of “Release the Fear,” a program Miley is planning to launch that would use art in Valley schools to raise awareness about alternatives to violence.

He says his plans have the backing of some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, including Brooke Shields and Bette Midler.

He hopes to start the sculpture this summer, eventually installing it in the middle of Central Avenue at Roosevelt Street.

His art can be found in the collections of Prince von Furstenburg of Austria and the British royal family, but his work as a community artist is closest to his heart.

What kind of an artist would you call yourself?

Community is the first word that comes to me. Sometimes people ask if I’m a painter or a sculptor – people always want to categorize. But I think being a true artist crosses many boundaries, including mediums. I hope what I do is always a challenge. For artists, part of that challenge is helping the community around them to grow mentally and in spirit.

What is the most important thing about art?

To evoke emotion. People want to say art is really the process of creating, but it’s really the process of you interacting with the piece. Society is going at such a fast pace that we’ve lost touch with a lot of our feelings. But everything is coming full circle and I think we are getting back to that. During the first Gulf War, when Schwarzkopf cried on TV – years ago we would’ve never seen that. It’s been a gateway to express feeling.

What is your vision for “Release the Fear”?

“Release the Fear” is about being able to cross barriers and understanding it takes differences to come to the table as a whole. With those differences we can create something beautiful and show the transformation of something that was used for violence to the transformation of something that can be let go.

How did the idea for the project come about?

About five or six years ago, people thought violence only happened across the tracks or to people in a certain income level. I saw a trash can full of weapons collected (by law enforcement) from all over, and I thought that something needed to be done with them. We can overpower something negative with something positive. People are starting to understand that violence affects us one way or another.

What is the biggest challenge facing the project?

Dollars. We are not a preventative nation. We put on Band-Aids and rally around each other when something happens. But if we don’t do something now, the problem will only become more vast. We can’t keep burying our heads in the sand and hope it goes away. We can pay for it now, or we can pay for it quadruple times later.

Have you ever come into contact with gun violence personally?

No, not gun violence. But I’ve talked with several youths, and I found out the “coolest” thing ever is to carry a weapon to school. That’s almost as cool as smoking cigarettes was a few years ago, and that’s scary.

Are you still raising money for this project?

Yes. We still need to raise $200,000 for the entire program, including $100,000 for the art symbol. Visit for more information on how to donate.

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