A little history and a little art are going a long way to brighten up a room in the Forsyth County Courthouse.
On Friday, an art unveiling was held at the courthouse’s grand jury meeting room for 12 pieces depicting famous buildings around Forsyth County done by members of local group Sawnee Association of the Arts.
“Every piece of art in here is done by a local artist in our organization ... [the paintings] are all historical from Forsyth County,” said Kristine Weeden, co-chair of SAA.
District Attorney Penny Penn said the idea to put art in the room was the result of a suggestion made by members of a grand jury, who felt the room was bare.
“The purpose was to get some color, some decoration to this room. It had absolutely nothing in it; it was very stark,” Penn said. “One of the previous grand juries had recommended that we do something, and talking with the artist association, we came up with local structures, some of the older homes and businesses.”
The art was hung on the walls in November, and an unveiling was originally planned in December but moved after snow hit Forsyth County. Penn said Friday was the first time most SAA members had seen the paintings since the pieces went up.
Weeden said it was a lengthy process to make the plan a reality. She added that new works would be coming later this year.
“It took us several months to decide on the layout and what kind of photos and what kind of themes,” Weeden said. “We’re going to rotate the art in six months, and I’ve already got the painters to do the art for the next six months.”
The new pieces will focus more on the natural beauty of the county, such as Sawnee Mountain and Lake Lanier.
Penn said she has only heard good comments about the art since it went up.
“They have all been positive,” she said. “The grand jury … thought it was a definite improvement. It’s just been very fun because people can talk about which ones they like and that varies. It’s fun when people see a place they recognize. I haven’t heard one negative comment.”
Artist Bunny Salter painted the well-known Redd’s store, owned by Mrs. Roy Redd, which featured a prominent Coca-Cola ad and said it was located in “Cuba, Ga.”
“We don’t live very far from this building, so it’s always caught my eye as I would travel down the road, and I just loved the idea of that little store and wanted to paint it,” Salter said.
The piece caught the eye of Clara Mae Cox, Redd’s daughter, as did another depicting her grandparent’s home near the store.
“They’re beautiful,” Cox said. “That was my grandparents’ house. The store belonged to my mother, and that was her parents’ house. There was once a store there [also.] My grandfather used to run [another] store, and he was murdered. It’s history here.”
Cox said her grandfather, Ben Roper, was killed at his store in 1943 and the incident was well-known locally. Cox also said her mother’s store sold general wares for Forsyth County residents.
“It was just a general store,” she said. “She did everything. She sold for people, and she had cloth in there and vegetables.”
Cox said she first saw the paintings in a Forsyth County News article announcing the artwork would go up and had since made contact with the painters. The two paintings hang side by side in the grand jury room.
For Penn, preserving the county’s heritage was a big part of the project.
“As fast as this county is growing and so much of it is new, I think that it is very important to preserve these historical structures, the architecture and I think that doing it this way is a great way,” she said. “We have a lot of local talent so this is a great way for them to showcase their talents.”
Salter said having the work of local artists available to the community is important.
“We don’t have a building of our own, so having a place like this where a lot of different people see things that we do is so great,” she said.
Weeden said SAA was honored to be part of the project and hoped to see it continue.
“We had a great time doing the project and it was an honor to do it for the courthouse, and we’re very honored that they want us to do it again,” she said. “We’ll see how long we can keep doing this, but the art turned out great, the committee worked hard and I’m so pleased with what the committee has contributed to this project.”