“Our whole city was hurting, and the whole world was looking at us. And sometimes, when you don’t know what else to do, creating something beautiful in the face of so much ugliness is the only thing you can do.” —Andy Cross
On August 9, 2014, Michael Brown, an unarmed black eighteen-year-old, was shot and killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. This set off a chain of events which led to protests and property destruction as well as multiple discussions, forums, lawsuits and investigations, putting a spotlight on our city and our country’s continued struggle with racial inequality.
This exhibition consists of a unique and energetic collection of painted panels selected from more than 100 Ferguson and St. Louis businesses impacted by the vandalism that accompanied some of the protests. The works of art represent both the collaborative and singular work of artists and community members responding to the pain, frustration, shock and anger felt by many.
When viewing the works, one will observe the multiple media used, from acrylic to markers and spray paint. It is significant that many of the works were spontaneous group collaborations that are aesthetically beautiful while presenting a specific but universal message of hope, peace, and unity.
The paintings fall into two loose categories, symbolic and text-driven. Swirls of bright color, flowers, hearts, children’s hand and foot prints, trees and birds—primarily the dove, the eagle and the phoenix—symbolize hope and strength. The text-driven panels feature familiar encouraging quotes from the Bible, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Mother Theresa, and Lao Tzu. There are a few with specific messages such as “One Love,” “Come Together” and “We Are Them.”
The exhibition, Outside In: Paint for Peace, chronicles a community response through art at a unique and powerful moment in the history of Ferguson, St. Louis, the region, and the nation.
Outside In: Paint for Peace is presented by Regions Bank. The Millstone Gallery at COCA is presented by the Arthur and Helen Baer Charitable Foundation with additional support from the Millstone Foundation and the Missouri Arts Council.
The exhibition is curated by Jacquelyn Lewis-Harris, Associate Professor and Director of the Connecting Human Origin and Cultural Diversity Program at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Special thanks to Carol Swartout Klein, contributing artists and businesses, and to Jacob Farmer, Olivia Lahs-Gonzales, Michelle Roberts, Ferguson Youth Initiative, Terry Suhre, Katie Van Allen and Freida Wheaton for their help with the exhibition.
The Exhibition Checklist provides descriptions of each work of art featured at all of the exhibition locations.
Outside In: Paint for Peace is a community collaboration and will be on view at presenting and program partner locations across the St. Louis region.
Painting for Peace Timeline
The exhibition is based on a series of events in 2014 that led up to the Painting for Peace effort.
Resources for You and Your Family
We Stories uses the power of children’s literature to create conversation, change and hope in St. Louis as well as a stronger, more equitable and inclusive future for all. COCA partnered with We Stories to provide resources to help you and your family enjoy a more full and transformative experience of Outside In: Paint for Peace.
COCA’s educational programs include field trips to view Outside In: Paint for Peace in The Millstone Gallery, in-school arts residencies, a Professional Development Workshop, and resources for teachers and families.
Educational Program Information
Connecting Human Origin and Cultural Diversity Program (UMSL)
Painting for Peace in Ferguson Teaching Resources
What happened in Ferguson: Q&A (The New York Times)
Ferguson: A shooting that caused a nation to shudder (The New York Times)
Visit The Millstone Gallery at COCA and participate in docent-led art-making activities:
THU | 4:00–7:00PM
SAT | 10:00AM–3:00PM
SUN | 1:00–3:00PM