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How the broad brush of Ferguson transformed the local arts scene

In a single moment and with a half-dozen gunshots, St. Louis was shaken to the core on Aug. 9.

The shooting death of Michael Brown by Ferguson police office Darren Wilson unleashed continuous waves of local and national protest that significantly shifted the St. Louis arts scene. Since then, musicians, dancers, and visual, performing and literary artists have sung and performed, and written and painted the issues revealed by the tragedy.

We talked with a handful of people about what it’s been like to respond to these concerns in an artistic way. Some narrowed it down to a single moment or artistic work; others reflected broadly about how the past year has affected their art — and how their efforts might impact our city.

St. Louis Symphony resident artist and Ferguson resident Brian Owens discusses a shift in the artist community toward socially engaged art.

“Black and Blue” playwright Lee Patton Chiles, on how a 13-year-old named Valerie changed the course of the play about tensions between African-American communities and police.

Alliance of Black Art Galleries founder Freida Wheaton on how a specific painting in the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” exhibition illustrates the thin line between police and protestors.

Artist Damon Davis, on gaining national attention for his poster and fine art project All Hands On Deck.

Artist and Arts Administrator De Nichols, on developing “rapid response” artwork to address police brutality in the year following Ferguson.

St. Louis Poet Laureate Michael Castro, about the way Michael Brown’s death inspired him to bring together the area’s diverse poetry community.

Follow Nancy Fowler on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL

Follow Willis Ryder Arnold on Twitter: @WillisRArnold

Nancy is a veteran journalist whose career spans television, radio, print and online media. Her passions include the arts and social justice, and she particularly delights in the stories of people living and working in that intersection.