I have never lived in Ferguson, MO but I have a lot of ties there. I worked there for several years. I went to school there for several years (yes I know STLCC is a two-year college but it took me longer than that – plus I took continuing ed classes for many years afterward). I know how hard the people of Ferguson have worked to create a nice business, dining and entertainment district. I’ve had several of those businesses as clients over the years and have been a customer at many others. A couple of my best friends lived there. I don’t like to see any community torn by violence but of course it’s extra emotional when it’s one that I am familiar with.
I believe the arts can heal and I believe that gardens can heal. That’s why I’m a Master Gardener and why I’ve been having my #virtualartparty online. When I saw that a friend of mine that I respect for her art ability, spiritual commitment and community spirit was participating in #paintforpeace in Ferguson, I wanted to put my beliefs about the healing power of art to the test. This past weekend I painted one panel along the main drag of Ferguson to make my contribution and to see what would happen. My husband joined me for one of the two days I was there and helped me paint a panel. If you have any questions about what we experienced or opinions about the project please feel free to ask and comment.
The theme for #virtualartparty Thursday, June 11 is Public Art. #paintforpeace is a form of public art that is intended to have a specific function. There is also a lot of other public art in the news lately – statuary and monuments from US and World History. There are monuments that are being targeted because they cause offense and make people feel unwelcome, and there are others that I theorize are being targeted to get footage of statues being toppled in the hopes of inciting fear and anger and sparking a violent revolution of our form of government. George Washington, Winston Churchill, Ghandi, Queen Victoria, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln are all under attack and if continued we in the US and any part of the world influenced by European culture will see a Cultural Revolution to rival past events in history. Has anything good ever come from that? Please give your opinion.
Although it is not perfect I still support the Democratic Republic form of government and the US Constitution. I predict public art is going to be in the news for a long time to come. In between questions and comments, if we get any, my husband Tom is going to read selections from the following books. I chose these books because they were on my shelf and convenient, and also had something interesting to contribute to the public discourse about public art and public spaces. I have a HUGE book collection (seems pretentious to say “private library” but I guess that’s what it is) and I need to dig into it more often. It’s very illuminating, and I also find it calming to know that the issues we wrestle with today are not new and people have the ability to persevere through a lot of tough times.
Book selections for June 11, 2020:
“The Expressive Arts Activity Book: A Resource for Professionals” by Suzanne Darley and Wende Heath, 2008. Pages 60, 68.
“American Signs: Form and Meaning on Route 66” by Lisa Mahar, 2002. Excerpts from pages 186, 189, and 190.
“A History of the American People: Volume One: To 1877” by Stephan Thernstrom, 1984. Excerpts from pages 358, 372, 377-379.
“Parks, Plants and People: Beautifying the Urban Landscape” by Lynden B. Miller, 2009. Excerpts from pages 65-66.
“Keith Haring: The Authorized Biography” by John Gruen, 1991. Excerpts from pages 68-69, and 98.
“St. Louis: Portrait of a River City” by Elinor Martineau Coyle, 1966. Excerpts from pages 56, 66-69, 82, 128.
“Arts and Ideas”, Seventh Edition by William Fleming, 1986. Excerpts from pages 86-87.
“The Visual Dialogue: An Introduction to the Appreciation of Art” by Nathan Knobler, 1966. Pages 238, 261-263, 289.
If you have book, article, or art recommendations, please post them! I’m going to be posting more after tonight’s discussion because there is enough material to stay on this topic for quite awhile. I might even want to turn this into a project for my Master’s Degree at Webster University, if I don’t get expelled first for “thoughtcrime”.
Update June 12, 2020
Ok, here is how last night’s video turned out.
#paintforpeace in Ferguson organizers video:
They are promoting the hashtag #wehearyou so I’m going to start adding that to related stuff in social media.
Listening and hearing I think are some of the key things I’ve learned from this healing experiment. We live in a “gotcha” culture and everyone is quick to see and pounce on the flaw in someone’s reasoning rather than trying to understand how they got to where they are in their thinking. People in our society today have an average attention span of 8 seconds which is less than that of a goldfish which is 9 seconds. Is it any wonder that the humanity part of being human seems to be hard to find? Understanding and healing takes patience and work, but we are being pushed to instantly judge someone to see if they fall into one category or another so their concerns can be dismissed. If you treat people like that for decades you can’t earn trust back in an instant. Have we all examined ourselves to see if we are worthy of trust? That’s what we have to do first before we judge someone else for getting the wrong idea about us and writing them off as not worth trying to engage with.
Of course there are those who have ill intent and want to sow hate and violence to achieve their destructive goals and sometimes they hide those goals under a facade that seems benign. I believe in letting people show you who they are with their behavior before you judge. I don’t blame people for not knowing who it’s safe to trust. I try not to take it personally and use patience and love to “give peace a chance”. You might get burned, but you might find something beautiful. We have to accept that we aren’t always allowed to have peace but where we can have it I like to try it first.
Here is an amazing video I watched the other day. It’s called “Before You Call the Cops”.