Baton Rouge artists create as images for healing, inspiring healthy dialogue

Published: Jul. 13, 2016 at 9:41 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 27, 2017 at 6:28 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - If viewing this story on a mobile device or in an email, click the link to view a slideshow of images -

It's a stressful time for the city of Baton Rouge with emotions flaring as deep issues are addressed. While many have expressed those emotions on social media platforms and at protests, one group within the community has turned to another form of self-expression.

"Art is a universal language that propels culture forward," said Rodneyna Hart, local art advocate. "It speaks beyond boundaries to unite and can be the purest expression to process complex emotions. In such turbulent times, having something greater to work towards can remove the overwhelming powerlessness that many feel."

The day after the death of Alton Sterling, Baton Rouge artists picked up paintbrushes and spray paint to express the sorrow felt by the community. Murals were painted on the side of the Triple S Food Mart, which is where the shooting occurred and what has become the epicenter of a larger dialogue.

"In a week full of violence and pain, these creators have brought the light of art to heal and inspire the hearts of our community," said Casey Phillips, founder of The Walls Project.

The "wall of memoriam" took two days to complete and were created in partnership with local artists, Denicola's Furniture and Upholstery, the Triple S Food Mart, and the Walls Project.

"When we decided to join hands with the Walls Project on Wednesday and present this blank canvas to the public, I wasn't sure what to expect," said Michael Gatx, co-owner of Denicola's Furniture and Upholstery. It's perfect because it's full of raw emotion and sadness and hope. There's nothing on this wall that's 'wrong' or 'inappropriate' - because it's all real."

The Neighborhood Arts Project, which is a free outreach art program by the LSU Museum of Art, also contributed to the growing memorial at the Triple S Food Mart. Children painted individual pieces that were connected together as a prayer flag. It is currently hanging above the store.

"We provided the canvas squares and the paint and facilitated a conversation with the children about what happened and had them paint whatever they wanted," explained Lucy Perera. "We left it open ended but tried to have the project run as a kind of like an opening for what was going on in the community."

Prayer flags are attributed to Buddhist tradition and are common in Tibet. They are typically rectangular banners that promote peace, compassion, strength and wisdom.

"We are going back to the store tomorrow [Thursday, July 14]," said Perera. "We are going to do smaller versions of these prayer flags and anyone in the community can participate. They can do whatever they want with them when they are done."

The collection of artwork will continue to grow as the conversation about how Baton Rouge will move forward after this tragedy.

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