Collaborative art project at University City unity gathering in the spotlight

Community art project

UMSL’s Department of Art and Art History organized a community art project Feb. 26 in the wake of vandalism at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery. (Click on the screenshots to watch the full news clips.)

Shortly after the desecration of a Jewish cemetery in her community last month, Lauren Masterson-Rodriguez reached out to her alma mater with an idea.

The University of Missouri–St. Louis graduate and University City, Missouri, employee was busily pulling together a unity gathering for the weekend following the highly publicized act of vandalism, and she thought the UMSL community might be able to help with the event.

Jeff Sippel speaking with KSDK

“You’re expressing something visually that kind of makes the world go away in a sense, and you appreciate that moment, and it’s not often that you can reflect that visually,” Professor of Art Jeff Sippel told KSDK (Channel 5).

“We’d like to have a community art project, ideally a large canvas – where people can either write something, or draw a picture to express what they are feeling,” Masterson-Rodriguez wrote in an email to Chancellor Tom George. “We wanted to see if the art department at UMSL could assist with the canvas, as well as drawing something in the middle of the canvas to depict the unity of the St. Louis community.”

That note soon reached Professor Jeff Sippel, who along with fellow faculty members was happy to assist, even on short notice.

“My colleagues and I feel fortunate that UMSL’s Department of Art and Art History was the primary consideration for participating in this event,” Sippel said. “We are honored to receive such invitations for community involvement.”

On the evening of Feb. 26, equipped with art supplies and a plan to get people painting, Sippel and others arrived at the solidarity gathering, which took place across the street from Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery.

KMOV screenshot of art project

The hope is that the canvases will travel around to local schools, where the collaborative artwork will continue, and eventually be donated to community organizations.

Attendees were soon covering multiple canvases in colorful imagery and messages of peace, love and support.

“You’re expressing something visually that kind of makes the world go away in a sense, and you appreciate that moment, and it’s not often that you can reflect that visually,” Sippel told KSDK (Channel 5) during the event.

KMOV (Channel 4) also featured the project, the results of which organizers say they hope to eventually donate to community organizations.

Reflecting on the activity several days afterward, Sippel found Masterson-Rodriguez’s invitation to get involved particularly meaningful and encouraging.

“Visual art can generate healing powers that endure through time,” he said.

The UMSL Experience

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