Meramec Elementary students have been learning this month about the hope and goodwill that can be achieved when a group of people work together toward a common cause. This learning took place in anticipation of the Dec. 16 visit by Clayton resident and local author Carol Swartout Klein. Klein is a native of Ferguson who was inspired to write her award-winning book, “Painting for Peace in Ferguson,” after witnessing the hope that emerged in that city after months of tension thanks to the collaborative efforts of artists from across the region. During Klein’s visit to Meramec, she shared her book with students and took them on the journey of how artists transformed the boarded-up storefronts and windows in Ferguson and on South Grand Boulevard in St. Louis into beautiful, inspirational works of art.
One of those artists was Meramec Art Teacher Beth Williams. In fact, her artwork is featured in Klein’s book. Williams worked with Meramec Librarian Jeri Lynn Palmer to coordinate the Klein’s visit to the school.
In art class this school year, Meramec students have been focusing on the big question, “What do artists care about and think about when they make art?” Klein’s book dovetails with this focus; prior to her visit, Williams presented a mini-lesson to students that centered on how the artists featured in the book responded to the events in their community. The students looked at the murals and discussed how artists and the community organized to spread a message of hope. They also identified the images, quotes, feelings and messages the artists communicated through their murals.
In conjunction with Klein’s visit, students and their families had the opportunity to purchase Klein’s book and the “Painting for Peace” coloring book. All proceeds from the books are used to support youth programs and small business recovery in North St. Louis County.