In one of those “God-cidental” moments, the woman who started the #ThisIsMyFerguson hashtag in August 2014 just happened to be at Good Shepherd Arts Center while director Sister Glynis Mary McManamon, RGS, was formulating an exhibit about Ferguson.
The working title was “My Ferguson,” until that day in August 2017 when Stefannie Wheat dropped in.
“She kind of already had the idea,” said Wheat, a parishioner at nearby Our Lady of Guadalupe. “She said, ‘We’re going to have a show called ‘My Ferguson.’ I asked, ‘Do you mean, ‘This is my Ferguson?” … It took off from there.”
The idea coalesced into the #ThisIsMyFerguson art show, which Sister Glynis describes as “an exhibit about Ferguson by Fergusonians.” The show is set for August at multiple venues in and around Ferguson.
“The idea is to get the city making art and showing it,” said Sister Glynis, adding that she’s “delighted” about the show with a goal of “making art more vivacious in Ferguson.”
Though five months out, the show unofficially started March 2 with a session of “art storming,” basically brainstorming with art. Eight prospective artists, including Wheat, attended the first session at the arts center. Wheat may do a presentation with the written word, or she may focus on diversity and inclusion, drawing on personal experience. Her husband is African American, and she said that the multi-ethnic family has never had an issue in Ferguson, their home of 16 years, but “it’s not so friendly elsewhere.”
Their positive experiences were front and center during the violence in 2014 after a police-officer involved shooting death. She simply started sharing items on social media about the positive aspects of Ferguson to counteract the negative image created by media coverage. After a friend suggested the #ThisIsMyFerguson hashtag, “it kind of took off,” she said. “We shared it and shared it and shared it.”
The #ThisIsMyFerguson project fits well with Sister Glynis’s long-term goal of passing the baton of Good Shepherd Arts Center as a staple of the community.
“We’ve talked about sustainability,” she said. “With religious communities, we don’t have the personnel to maintain these projects. … It’s good to get something started, then hand it over. I want this to belong to the community. I think that Ferguson really values art. … There’s a lot of potential to build community through art.”
Sister Glynis founded Good Shepherd Arts Center in November 2015 to help heal divisions created or exacerbated by the shooting and violence. It has fulfilled those missions and then some. Last year, it was voted Best Art Gallery in north St. Louis County and is in the running again this year.
From the modest beginning of an art show every few months, Good Shepherd now hosts shows on a monthly basis and has added a board of directors, an advisory council and a group of artists called the “Artist Flock.” Those groups consist mostly of artists who have shown their work and taken an interest in the arts center. The arts center also is in the process of attaining non-profit status as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, which will allow it to raise funds and build for the future.
In addition, Good Shepherd makes art accessible by hosting events in which people create art, including Sober Paint for painting without alcohol or liquor present, arts appreciation nights, Visio Divina for praying with art and Grown-Up’s Coloring.
“A lot of people think they can’t do art; there’s a fear of making art in adults,” she said. “This is a chance to do something and not be afraid.”
Good Shepherd Arts Center | At a glance
Director: Sister Glynis Mary McManamon, RGS
Board of directors: Gary Lang, president; Whitney Jones, secretary; Sister Mary Catherine Massei, RGS, treasurer; Sister Nancy Corcoran, CSJ; Kathy Ann Duffin; Cordaryl “Pat” Patrick
Artist Flock: Christy and Tony Bodnar, Henry Chaney, Kathy Ann Duffin, Gary Lang, Mary Martin, Sister Mary Beth Kemper, CPPS, Sister Maria Liebeck, DC, Sister Elizabeth Slenker, OP, and Sister Glynis Mary McManamon, RGS
New website: www.goodshepherdarts.org
Location: 252 S. Florissant Road, Ferguson 63135
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; 2-8 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; and by appointment Tuesday; closed Sunday and Monday. (Closed Good Friday and Holy Saturday.)
More information: call (314) 522-1155 or email [email protected]