Artists create beauty out of Ferguson destruction

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ST. LOUIS COUNTY - Through the past week many St. Louis businesses have boarded their windows to either protect them from the Ferguson riots or to cover damage that has already been done. One business owner called upon local artists to beautify her boards, and the request spread like wild fire. 

The owner of Cafe Natasha's on South Grand in St. Louis contacted her friend Tom Halaska the morning after the Grand Jury decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of Michael Brown. Halaska is the owner of Artbar STL. She asked him if he knew any artists that would come paint the plywood she had put up after rioters broke out nine of her windows.

"As soon as I started reaching out to people I knew, there were already social media posts, sign up sheets for artists, text messages, and phone calls going out all over the south side. The next thing we knew South Grand was packed with artists painting, neighbors talking, kids passing out food, cops spray painting murals, the mayor, and people from all over gathering to help the community come together," Halaska said. "It was such a beautiful sight".

The next day the art movement filled the streets of Ferguson. The group is now called Paint for Peace STL. The organization's Facebook page has attracted more than 1,500 "likes" in under a week. Halaska said several artists came from out of town. 

University of Missouri student and St. Louis native Lauren Rundquist heard of the movement through social media and decided she wanted to be a part of it. 

"I had been, you know, seeing all these news stories of everything that was happening around my city and just really felt like I wanted to contribute in some way. I didn't really know how to, but the one thing I knew how to do was paint so I thought that would be a good way to bring a little light to the streets of the city," Rundquist said. 

The group has not only had help from artists but also from donations. According to Halaska it has raised about $1,200 for supplies, hundreds of gallons of paint, paint brushes, paint supplies, food, water, hugs, and just about anything they need. 

Halaska said he believes St. Louis is strong enough to come out of this better than it started. 

"This isn't about the Michel Brown case. It is much broader than that. This is about community and our need to change. The first step in that is reaching your hand out and helping your neighbor through their struggles whatever they may be. I wanted to help give an outlet to the community to express themselves, to create conversation, and to show support to all the people who need and deserve it. There is a lot of work to do for St. Louis to heal. I just wanted to help," Halaska said.

Wednesday night Paint for Peace STL is hosting a thank you party for all the artists that have helped bring happiness to St. Louis with their work.

Halaska said they are heading back out Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 - 5:00 at Vincenzo's, 242 South Ferguson. He suggests bringing supplies and said it doesn't matter if you are an artist, there are plenty of "non-art" things to do.