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Bike cops use art to raise awareness of gun violence

One set of drawings up for sale at 10th Street Gallery
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio
One set of drawings up for sale at 10th Street Gallery

The St. Louis Downtown Police Bike Unit is hoping to serve the community creatively while addressing gun violence. To this end, officers organized a show of artwork they produced. Funds raised from the sale of this work will be donated to Jamyla Bolden’s fourth-grade class in the Riverview Gardens School District.

Officer Solomon Thurman, III, serves in the bike unit and his parents run the gallery. He hopes the show lets the class know one thing.

St. Louis Police Officer Solomon Thurman, III, at 10th Street Gallery during the installation process
Credit Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Police Officer Solomon Thurman, III, at 10th Street Gallery

“They’re not alone and she’s looking over them and her spirit inspired us as far as to help them,” Thurman said.

Two months ago 9-year-old Jamyla was shot in her home in Ferguson. Her death quickly became a symbol of St. Louis’s rising death toll caused by gun violence. Many of the images feature the officers bikes and other objects from their experiences while on the job but some drawings that featured police-specific imagery like handcuffs were excluded. Officers participating in the gallery show saw wanted to show Bolden’s classmates that they’re supported by a wide spectrum of St. Louis communities.

“We never want to see a young person suffer. It seems to mean a lot more, it seems to hurt a lot more,” said the bike unit’s commander Lt. Daniel Zarrick.

About 60 images were selected from more than 400 drawings produced by the officers during a 2012 workshop hosted by artist Solomon Thurman, Jr., Officer Thurman’s father. Thurman, Jr. runs 10th Street Gallery along with his wife, Patricia Smith Thurman.  The artist was attracted to working with the police officers because of their discipline.

The St. Louis Police Downtown Bike Unit
Credit Courtesy of Solomon Thurman, III
The Downtown Bike Unit participated in several one-hour drawing classes, which resulted in the artwork shown at 10th Street Gallery.

“It reminded me of the Kentucky Derby when they get a lot of trained thoroughbreds and try to get them lined up before the race takes off. That’s how they came into the room, a lot of energy. Once we got started, they went non-stop the entire hour we had our one hour drawing classes,” he said of the experience.

He sees the show as an extension of the police officer’s presence on bikes in the community. It’s another chance for those officers to connect with the people around them.

Most individual drawings are priced at $150 with larger images fetching higher prices. The show runs through Oct. 24.