GOOD

This St. Louis Community Created an Art Project From Its Boarded Up Windows

The South Grand business district rallies after the Darren Wilson acquittal

Just a few Mondays ago, when St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCullough announced that a grand jury would not be pressing charges against the white cop who put six bullets into 18-year-old black man Michael Brown, the entire St. Louis metro area veered into chaos. The rioting was well documented by the hundreds of journalists from around the world awaiting the verdict. One of the areas hit was the South Grand business district, about 20 minutes south of Ferguson. This vibrant, diverse pocket of Vietnamese eateries, black beauty shops, a LGBT-friendly tattoo-and-porn parlor, and dozens of other restaurants and boutiques are joined in a funky family vibe. And now, in picking up the pieces, South Grand has become the site of an art project that captures both the community’s sense of loss as well as its determination to move forward.


On November 24, a small mob ran down the artery of Grand Boulevard on the night of the grand jury decision, smashing window after window at some 17 businesses. In a brief burst, they did considerable damage. Natasha Bahrami, namesake of Persian eatery Café Natasha, stood and watched the vandalism to her restaurant as it happened.

“I saw them pick the top off this trash can,” she said, gesturing at a heavy iron garbage can in front of her restaurant, “and throw it through the window. I wasn’t afraid, but it did break my heart.”

“Later, when we were boarding it up, some other people driving by slowed down to yell ‘I don’t know why you’re boarding it up it; we’re gonna come back and burn it like we burned Ferguson,’” she recalled.

Bahrami and a coalition of St. Louis City Alderwomen and community improvement groups hatched a plan almost immediately. They knew that the businesses would be girding themselves for the possibility of more trouble by boarding up their windows with plywood. A thriving destination district would very shortly end up looking like a ghost town of condemned buildings. So they put out a call to the artists of St. Louis via social media. Paint us, they said. Paint the front of our restaurants and shops with any imagery you choose.

Very quickly, the dun-colored boards were transformed into colorful prescriptions of hope and healing for a polarized city. Now, a glorious phoenix rises from the orange and red flames of a burning skyline. An interactive chalkboard created by artist Anna Bonfili, complete with a bucket of chalk, seems to issue from the mouth of a screaming baby. Passersby are invited to leave their thoughts regarding the crisis on the wall.

One of most striking paintings offers a pair of black and white arms and hands clasped in a shape evocative of the Gateway Arch. The message serves as a direct riposte to a certain New Yorker magazine cover (though the plywood painting actually came first).

Some of the art has already been earmarked for the collection of the Missouri History Museum, said one source. They’re soon-to-be historic artifacts.

“We’ve had a setback, but the art project is a demonstration of how resilient and connected to each other we all are,” said St. Louis Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia. “Now, this is a jumping-off point for future work we can do together as a community, too.”

Articles
Photo by Josh Couch on Unsplash

Christopher Columbus, Alexander Hamilton, William Shakespeare, and Sir Walter Scott are getting company. Statues of the famous men are scattered across Central Park in New York City, along with 19 others. But they'll finally be joined by a few women.

Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Sojourner Truth are the subjects of a new statue that will be on display along The Mall, a walkway that runs through the park from 66th to 72nd street. It will be dedicated in August of next year, which is fittingly the 100-year anniversary of the 19th Amendment that granted women the right to vote.

Currently, just 3% of statues in New York City are dedicated to women. Out of 150 statues of historical figures across the city, only five statues are of historical women, including Joan of Arc, Golda Meir, Gertrude Stein, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Harriet Tubman.

Keep Reading Show less
promo-homepage

It's easy to become calloused to everyday headlines with messages like, "the world is ending" and "everything is going extinct." They're so prevalent, in fact, that the severity of these statements has completely diminished to the point that no one pays them any attention. This environmental negativity (coined "eco-phobia") has led us to believe that all hope is lost for wildlife. But luckily, that isn't the case.

Historically, we have waited until something is near the complete point of collapse, then fought and clawed to bring the species numbers back up. But oftentimes we wait so long that it's too late. Creatures vanish from the Earth altogether. They go extinct. And even though I don't think for a single second that we should downplay the severity of extinction, if we can flip this on its head and show that every once in a while a species we have given up on is actually still out there, hanging on by a thread against all odds, that is a story that deserves to be told. A tragic story of loss becomes one about an animal that deserves a shot at preservation and a message of hope the world deserves to hear.

As a wildlife biologist and tracker who has dedicated his life to the pursuit of animals I believe have been wrongfully deemed extinct, I spend most of my time in super remote corners of the Earth, hoping to find some shred of evidence that these incredible creatures are still out there. And to be frank, I'm pretty damn good at it!

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

For more than 20 years. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has served the citizens of Maine in the U.S. Senate. For most of that time, she has enjoyed a hard-fought reputation as a moderate Republican who methodically builds bridges and consensus in an era of political polarization. To millions of political observers, she exemplified the best of post-partisan leadership, finding a "third way" through the static of ideological tribalism.

However, all of that has changed since the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Voters in Maine, particularly those who lean left, have run out of patience with Collins and her seeming refusal to stand up to Trump. That frustration peaked with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
NHM Vienna/Hans Reschreiter

Wealth inequality has been a hot topic of discussion as of late, but it's something that's occurred all throughout history. Class structure is a complicated issue, especially when you consider that haves and have nots have been in existence for over 4,000 years.

A study published in Science took a look at over 100 late Neolithic and early Bronze Age skeletons found in a burial site in southern Germany. The study "shed light on the complexity of social status, inheritance rules, and mobility during the Bronze Age." Partly by looking at their teeth and the artifacts they were buried with, researchers were able to discover that wealth inequality existed almost 4,000 years ago. "Our results reveal that individual households lasting several generations consisted of a high-status core family and unrelated low-status individuals, a social organization accompanied by patrilocality and female exogamy, and the stability of this system over 700 years," the study said.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture
via Truthout.org / Flickr and Dimitri Rodriguez / Flickr

Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign looks to be getting a huge big shot in the arm after it's faced some difficulties over the past few weeks.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading voice in the Democratic parties progressive, Democratic Socialist wing, is expected to endorse Sanders' campaign at the "Bernie's Back" rally in Queens, New York this Saturday.

Fellow member of "the Squad," Ilhan Omar, endorsed him on Wednesday.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics