- Associated Press - Monday, December 8, 2014

FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri History Museum and the Regional Art Commission are working to preserve art that has been added to plywood meant to protect storefronts or cover damage from protesting in Ferguson and St. Louis.

The wood has been enhanced with drawings, bright colors and positive sayings, such as “listen with love” and “heal the world,” since a grand jury last month declined to indict white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed, black 18-year-old.

Hundreds of artists have banded together to highlight the community’s strength and provide a positive outlet that will allow people to move past the images of businesses being looted and burned, said Tom Halaska, owner of the Art Bar on Cherokee Street and an organizer with Paint for Peace STL. The effort has received tremendous support from business owners and residents, he said.

About 100 board-covered businesses have been decorated, and participants plan to continue their artistic mission, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (https://bit.ly/1sc0A9F ) reported.

The museum hopes to eventually collect some of the art for research or possibly for an exhibit, according to Chris Gordon, director of library and collections.

But not everyone supports the preservation effort, and opposition has been felt by business owners and protesters alike.

“It’s not the history you’d want to remember,” said Varun Madaksira, owner of the Original Red’s BBQ in Ferguson, which was set on fire after the grand jury announcement.

Tony Rice of Ferguson has been protesting since Brown was killed on Aug. 9. He believes the plywood art masks residents’ sadness.

“It’s an attempt to whitewash the pain the community has suffered,” Rice said.

Supporters of the effort say art can help turn a negative situation into a positive one. Boarded-up buildings can lead people to believe an area is unsafe, said Rachel Witt, executive director of the South Grand Community Improvement District.

“When you put paint on, it really changes the perspective,” she said.

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, https://www.stltoday.com


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