Art Therapists, community band together to bring hues of hope to Ferguson

Art Therapy professor Gussie Klorer was a resident of Ferguson for 48 years and said she was crushed when she saw what happened in her hometown.

Ferguson City Hall after murals were painted on the boarded windows. Photo courtesy of Delgaldo.

“The destruction and the riots were absolutely devastating to me,” Klorer said. “The anger and destruction that were projected onto the city was undeserved.”

Klorer added that Ferguson is not the way it is portrayed on the news.

“It is a more integrated and successful community than the media portrays,” Klorer said.

Taking steps toward what she hoped would contribute to healing, Klorer said she was involved in the Ribbons of Hope project, which was started in September in an effort to focus on more positive thoughts about Ferguson.

“We wanted people to take a hopeful stand and move forward,” Klorer said, “so we asked them to write their hopes and wishes for Ferguson on a ribbon, which was then tied to a fence in Ferguson.”

Art therapy students at SIUE got involved in the project. Through social media the project grew and over 1500 ribbons have been collected from the St. Louis region and 10 different states.

According to art therapy student Veronica Delgado, people wrote thoughtful and positive messages.  For example, one person simply wrote the word, “Heal,” on it and another ribbon had a Dr. Martin Luther King quote.

Three art therapy students, Veronica Delgado, Peggy Williamson and Dominique Begnaud, along with Professor Klorer and adjunct faculty Fabia D-Amore-Krug, wanted to do more for Ferguson by using art as an expression of emotion and to promote healing. They, along with about 30 other volunteers, descended upon Ferguson to participate in a mural painting project after the recent riots.

According to Klorer, many store windows were broken and boarded up.

“It was very difficult to see your own hometown look so awful,” Klorer said.

She added that they got wonderful feedback from shop owners and that people were very moved that so many people came to beautify Ferguson.

“I only had positive experiences, people walking by were very gracious offering water bottles and sandwiches to painters.  Some people who came to gawk at the destruction ended up jumping in and doing work,” Klorer said. “People were very kind and receptive to us being there.”

“I was really humbled. I wanted to do something for them and they were thanking me,” Delgado said.

“It really brought out the collaborative aspects of community work.  It was great working with others, residents of Ferguson, youth from the surrounding area and friends and classmates, to create art in the midst of a difficult situation,” Begnaud said.

According to Begnaud, she had never been to Ferguson before.

“It is a really nice town, with local shops and a University.  Not being from Missouri, for some reason I originally I thought it was more rural,” Begnaud said.

Delgado added that she had never been to Ferguson before either.

“Seeing everything boarded up was really sad. It was a cute little town and seeing everything all boarded made me sad for that community,” Delgado said.

Begnaud said she was excited to give some hope and courage to the residents of Ferguson through the beautification mural painting project and that she was glad to contribute something in a positive way.

Delgado said the experience was great.

“We were approached by a mother and her son,” Delgado said.  “She brought her own paint in and we helped her find a place to paint with her 10-year-old.

Begnaud said Klorer informed her students of the opportunity to volunteer, as she is from there and expressed concern over it in class.

She added that art therapy is one way to heal.

“I think it’s a different way to express opinions or emotions; to process something without words. Begnaud said.  “Ultimately, it’s a way of communicating.”

Begnaud said she is from Louisiana where there is racial tension.

“There’s can be inappropriate comments depending on where you are and who are you speaking with. Then there are others that celebrate diversity,” Begnaud said. “It depends on who you’re talking to, where they are coming from and what experiences they have had. It can’t be generalized.”

She added that coming from a white middle-class family she does not typically have racism directed toward her.

“I often experience the results of white privilege instead,” Begnaud said.

Begnaud said art therapy is very useful and can be used in a lot of different aspects and situations.

“It can help people process traumatic natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina, tsunamis, or events such as what is happening in Ferguson. It can also be used in day-to-day situations, like easing anxiety for individuals with dementia” Begnaud said.

According to Begnaud, this is what she witnesses at her practicum placement at a memory care facility for geriatrics.

“Through art a message of hope can be articulated to individuals and the greater community,” Begnaud said.

Be Sociable, Share!

Filed Under: Art and Design

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.

Switch to our mobile site