Berkshire students' art brings color, cheer to Probate and Family Court
Photo Gallery | Student art show at Berkshire Probate & Family Court
PITTSFIELD — Hope now literally hangs on the walls of the Berkshire Probate and Family Court rooms.
Nearly 30 attorneys, court administrators, local high school students and art teachers gathered in the Bank Row building's main courtroom on Thursday afternoon to celebrate a new public art initiative called "Creating Community Connections Through the Arts." Announced back in March, the program curated 15 pieces of art by students from the city's Pittsfield and Taconic High Schools, and Berkshire School in Sheffield, each with imagery addressing the theme of "hope."
Built in 1871, the interior of the Berkshire Probate and Family courthouse, frankly, could use a little sprucing. The walls are the color of manila file folders contrasted by an industrial carpet the color of burnt orange. Legal tomes and state emblems seemed, up until now, to be the only decor there.
Berkshire Probate Register Francis B. Marinaro said many of the courthouses in the commonwealth's Probate and Family division face similar circumstances. He said that its Chief Justice Angela M. Ordoñez developed the idea for the Creating Community Connections Through the Arts program, which was first piloted in the Essex Division court in partnership with students from Marblehead High School and community artists.
Marinaro said the call for art went out with the help of Jen Glockner, the director of the city's Office of Cultural Development. The program provided funding for the artwork to be framed and to provide students honoraria of court citations of distinction and a ceremony with refreshments.
In addressing the inaugural class of Berkshire County art contributors, Marinaro said, "You've created a little sunshine in this courthouse," where "it can be a difficult four walls" to be in, day in and day out.
According to state Probate and Family Court data, a total of 3,586 cases were filed in the Berkshire division in 2015, meaning that dozens to hundreds of people file into this public space daily.
The Honorable Berkshire Probate and Family Court First Justice Richard A. Simons also addressed attendees to Thursday's ceremony.
"You have given us a tremendous gift, whether you know it or not," Simons told the students. He said that the two courtrooms there are regularly "flooded with trauma" and fracturing family units. About 60 percent of the cases heard last year had to do with domestic relations and child welfare.
In the smaller courtroom, referred to as "Courtroom 2," there now hangs a drawing of a dove with an olive branch by Taconic senior Kamryn Dunton, and two other drawings — one of a planet and another with a pair of hands — both heralding the word "hope" in them, by Taconic junior Leland Grover and sophomore Madalin Holden, respectfully.
Messages of power, freedom and strength can be seen in the main courtroom, which includes a painting by PHS junior Emma Sullivan and drawing by senior Amber Tart, depicting the symbol of the American bald eagle.
Others evoke emotional experiences, mixing color and shadows. Berkshire School junior Dalia Banevicius' contribution is a house being lifted over a seaside cliff by a brightly colored giant balloon.
The artwork will remain on display through the rest of the year, and Marinaro said that, "hopefully, we'll keep it going" by putting out a call for new art next year.
"It's neat. I've never done anything like this," said Sullivan.
"It makes you feel proud," Tart said.
Judge Simons said the artwork offers both families and court staff alike a source of comfort.
"I personally can come in and start my day by looking at you pieces of art and it's comforted me," he said.
Simons said to the art teachers there, "In this world where everything is focused on metrics and test scores ... God bless the teachers who encourage creativity and thinking."
Chief Probation Officer Amy Koenig also thanked the students and teachers and said in closing, "Art does communicate to us in different ways. To hang art in the courthouse is really important and can change the way we see things."
Contact Jenn Smith at 413-496-6239.
Creating Community Connections Through the Arts 2016 contributors
Pittsfield High School
Kayla Johnson, Riley Nichols and Emma Sullivan, all in Grade 11
Taconic High School
Kamryn Dunton, Grade 12
Leland Grover, Grade 11
Angie Fuentes, Grade 9
Spring Hajjar, Grade 12
Abby Hebler, Grade 10
Madalin Holden, Grade 10
Abigail Mooney, Grade 10
Brooke Morse, Grade 12
Jennifer Osafo, Grade 12
Amber Tart, Grade 12
Leslie Tayi, Grade 12
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