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Ferguson street art becomes peace-promoting coloring book

Ferguson street art becomes peace-promoting coloring book

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FERGUSON, Mo. — When children contemplate the image of a black hand and a white hand grasped in the shape of an arch, they interpret it in different ways.

The arch, the uber-symbol of St. Louis, has roots like a tree. Those roots, children say, show that St. Louisans can grow together, are rooted here or can grow in new ways.

"These are pretty profound thoughts," says Carol Swartout Klein, who talks to students about the illustration.

But the artist, who painted the image on a board protecting a U.S. Post Office from violence during the protests after the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown, had a slightly different intent.

Ana Bonfilla's "Black and White Arch" indicated St. Louis was kind of "uprooted in that moment ... and we are going to have to uproot ourselves in order to come together and make a better future."

Bonfilla's explanation is part of a new coloring book, "Painting for Peace," which Klein put together with artist Robert O'Neil.

The pair have transformed the street art from protests into a coloring book for all ages, so children and adults can contemplate and interpret the pictures themselves. Along the way, the coloring may also "create a positive intention" for people or the community, the book says.

Klein, who grew up in Ferguson, says profits from the coloring book will go to initiatives in art, education and youth in the north St. Louis County area. The coloring book follows last year's picture book, "Painting for Peace in Ferguson," which paired color photos of the Ferguson and South Grand Avenue artwork and artists with verses about working together.

More than $3,000 from sales of that book have been given out in grants, and about 600 copies of the book were given to the Ferguson-Florissant School District, Klein says.

When Klein and the picture book represented Missouri last fall at the National Book Festival, copies sold out almost immediately because the Washington-based bookseller had ordered only 50 books.

She hopes for better national response with the trendy coloring book, which includes artwork as difficult as a detailed mandala and as simple as a connect-the-dots page.

Veronica Delgado, one of several artists whose work is featured in the book, wrote in her journal: "I had come to bring some positivity and care to this little town, yet it was the town making me feel cared for by their unwavering thanks."

Her words, reprinted in the coloring book, end with: "What I realized is that not all of social justice work includes overly insulting the status quo in anger like I previously thought. It involves care, compassion, and empathy as well."

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