• Carol Swartout Klein

Outside in: Paint for Peace Exhibit

Pacia Elaine Anderson recites poetry at the COCA exhibit preview on August 25.

Outside In: Paint for Peace exhibits opened around the St. Louis community on August 27 at COCA, an exhibit outside Gallery 210 and the second floor at Missouri History Museum and will run through the end of October.

More exhibits opened at Vaughn Cultural Center, Ferguson Youth Initiative and Touhill Performing Arts Center on September 2. And yet one more is set to open at The Sheldon on October 7 and end on November 19. Part of the unique aspect of this exhibit is the collaborative nature of more than a half dozen organizations all featuring the exhibit at the same time, reflecting the collaborative nature of the art itself in bringing together many parts of the community.

Prior to the openings, COCA hosted a preview event in its Millstone Gallery that included at least 100 people ranging from some of the artists to supporters of the exhibit.

It’s been an incredible journey for these pieces of art and artists involved with Paint for Peace STL.

One person was overheard saying “context is everything. If someone walked into the gallery, you would just assume these pieces hanging were created to be hung in galleries, not that they were created to beautify an area after riots nearly destroyed dozens of businesses in our community.”

Thank you to Carol Swartout Klein, who had the vision to locate and salvage as many of the painted plywood boards as possible when they began to come down from the storefronts and pushed to have an exhibit created around the art. Another huge thank you to COCA staff for sharing in Klein’s vision and brought Jackie Lewis-Harris on board to manage, curate and cohesively work with other organizations to take part in this community-wide exhibit.

In the winter of 2014, hundreds of pieces were created in a short amount of time by people of all sizes, ages and backgrounds to bring hope, peace and beauty to two communities fraught with unrest. Nearly two years later about a dozen of the original pieces are showcased in galleries across town to bring that message of hope and peace to even more people.

“When you look at these pieces of art, because they truly are works of art, I hope you can take away and keep a sense of the love and hope for healing that went into each of these boards,” said Klein. “My hope is that everyone understands the scale of both these massive works of art but also the scale of the community effort. It’s important to keep this topic of hope, healing, peace and of community in front of everyone. It shouldn’t get buried.”

If you’re in St. Louis between early September and the end of October (or mid-November, depending on the gallery) we hope you’ll take the time to visit one or more of the locations to see the pieces up close.

Photos from the preview event held at COCA on August 25 can be found here.

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