“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 consisted 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 represented 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 could 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 fell 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—symbolized hope and strength. The text-driven panels featured familiar encouraging quotes from the Bible, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Mother Theresa, and Lao Tzu. There were a few with specific messages such as “One Love,” “Come Together” and “We Are Them.”

The exhibition, Outside In: Paint for Peace, chronicled 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 was 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 was 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.

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Exhibition Checklist

The Exhibition Checklist provides descriptions of each work of art featured at all of the exhibition locations.

Exhibition Checklist

Exhibition Map

Outside In: Paint for Peace was a community collaboration and on view at presenting and program partner locations across the St. Louis region.

Exhibition Map

Painting for Peace Timeline

The exhibition was 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.

Recommended Resources

Educational Programs

COCA’s educational programs included 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

Additional Resources
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)

Exhibition Locations

Outside In: Paint for Peace was on view at the following presenting and program partners:

The Millstone Gallery at COCA
AUG 27–OCT 30, 2016
524 Trinity Ave. | St. Louis, MO 63130

Gallery 210 at the University of Missouri-St. Louis
AUG 27–OCT 30, 2016
1 University Blvd. | St. Louis, MO 63121

Missouri History Museum
AUG 27–OCT 30, 2016
5700 Lindell Blvd. | St. Louis, MO 63112

Vaughn Cultural Center
SEP 2–NOV 4, 2016
3701 Grandel Square | St. Louis, MO 63108

Ferguson Youth Initiative
SEP 2–OCT 30, 2016
110 Church St. | Ferguson, MO 63135

The Sheldon Art Galleries
OCT 7–NOV 19, 2016
3648 Washington Ave. | St. Louis, MO 63108

Painting for Peace Timeline

The following lists significant events in 2014 leading up to the Painting for Peace effort, upon which this exhibit is based.


At approximately noon, Michael Brown, 18, is shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis. His body would lie in the street for four hours.

AUG 10–20

AUG 10–20

Protesters fill the streets.

AUG 11

The Federal Bureau of Investigation opens a criminal investigation into whether the shooting violated federal law.

AUG 14

AUG 14

Images of a mostly white police force, in a predominantly black community, aiming military-style weapons at protesters and firing tear gas and rubber bullets flood the media nationally. President Obama urges calm; Missouri Governor Jay Nixon orders the Missouri State Highway Patrol to take over security. Appointed by Gov. Nixon, Captain Ronald S. Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol orders troopers

AUG 15

The officer who shot Brown is identified as Darren Wilson.

AUG 16

AUG 16

Gov. Nixon declares a state of emergency and imposes a curfew in Ferguson.

AUG 18

AUG 18

Gov. Nixon brings in the National Guard to protect the police command post. Hours later, he lifts the curfew.

AUG 20

AUG 20

U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. arrives in St. Louis and promises a full federal investigation into Brown’s death.

AUG 25

AUG 25

Thousands mourn at Brown’s funeral.


The Justice Department announces that it will open a civil rights investigation to examine whether the Ferguson police have a history of discrimination or misuse of force.

SEP 25

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson issues an apology to Brown’s family.

OCT 10–13

OCT 10–13

Thousands of people take part in “Ferguson October” events around the St. Louis area to protest the killing of Brown and raise awareness of police treatment of African Americans.

NOV 17

Gov. Nixon declares a state of emergency and activates the National Guard ahead of the grand jury’s decision about whether to indict Officer Wilson.

NOV 24

NOV 24

The St. Louis County prosecutor, Bob McCulloch, announced that a grand jury decided not to indict Officer Wilson. While protesters filled the streets, vandals looted and burned a dozen buildings in Ferguson and nearby Dellwood and on South Grand Avenue in St. Louis.

Starting NOV 25

Starting NOV 25

Volunteers from across the St. Louis area begin arriving at daybreak to clean, sweep and board up windows in Ferguson and along South Grand. Hundreds of amateur and professional artists painted on the boarded-up storefronts of the damaged businesses.

Timeline Image Credits: AUGUST 10–20, 2014: Protesters fill the streets. Photo by Kevin Kelly.; AUGUST 14, 2014: Photo by Philip Deitch.; AUGUST 16, 2014: Tank in front of city hall. Photo by Gussie Klorer.; AUGUST 18, 2014: National Guard. Photo by Kevin Kelly.; AUGUST 20, 2014: Protestors in yellow. Photo by Philip Deitch.; AUGUST 25, 2014: Roses leading to Brown memorial. Photo by Philip Deitch.; OCTOBER 10–13, 2014: Girl holding up blue sign. Photo by Mark Regester.; NOVEMBER 24, 2014: Demolished building. Photo by Carol Klein.; NOVEMBER 25, 2014: People painting rose. Photo by Kelley “Jersie” Ray.