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Local art association installs new courthouse paintings
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A member of the Sawnee Art Association looks on as a courthouse worker hangs a painting in the grand jury room of the Forsyth County Courthouse at an installation event held on Friday. - photo by Alexander Popp

Sawnee Mountain, Lake Lanier and Pooles Mill Bridge are just a few of the places depicted in a new gallery show that was recently opened by the Sawnee Association of the Arts — but if you don’t frequent the grand jury meeting room or witness rooms at the county courthouse, you might miss seeing them.

On Friday, SAA installed 15 new paintings at the Forsyth County Courthouse, a second installment in project that was put together by Kristine Weeden, the SAA Chairwoman for Courthouse Gallery of Art and Forsyth County District Attorney Penny Penn, and was designed to liven up what used to be a serious, utilitarian space.

"We do this because the Sawnee Arts mission is to get art in the community," Weeden said. "I think it makes the room warm and inviting ... There's no windows in here so it gives you a feeling of being in nature, and makes you feel good."

Weeden explained that each painting is of a different, historically significant area of the county. She said that they will remain in the space for the next six months before hopefully being replaced with new paintings of a new theme.

One SAA member, Linda Petty, said that she painted a landscape portrait of Sawnee Mountain in spring for the installation, depicting a view of the mountain from Dr. Dunn Road and Bettis Tribble Gap Road in north Forsyth.

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Sawnee Art Association members, Margaret Cameron and Linda Petty examine one of the paintings that was installed in the grand jury room of the Forsyth County Courthouse on Friday. - photo by Alexander Popp

"They asked us to choose something that was historic or significant to Forsyth County and I do love to do landscapes, so I did a scene from Sawnee Mountain," Petty said. "I was very excited we were commissioned to do this and had the opportunity for our artwork."

Another member, Margaret Cameron, chose to depict Pooles Mill Bridge — A place she explained she was fond of, and wished more people in the county knew about.

"I chose it because I think it's beautiful, plus it’s a historical place a lot of people aren't even aware of," Cameron said. "So maybe we will get some extra attention to a nice park that is just a good family place to take your kids."

According to Forsyth County District Attorney Penny Penn, when they set out to make the installation happen not long after the courthouse was opened, they wanted to give people something beyond blank walls to look at while serving on a grand jury or as a witness.

"The first grand jury that met in this courthouse said the room needed something, and if you'd been in there before we had these paintings you would agree. It was rather stark and utilitarian,” Penn said. “I thought that this was a good way to decorate the space, to use local talent and get the artists exposure." 

Penn said that the first batch of paintings to be commissioned for the courthouse in 2017 were of historic buildings from the county that people could come in and recognize as places they pass on a daily basis.

“I think that adds significance when you have these structures that people can come in and recognize," Penn said. I'm excited today about what we’ve got. And I think it’s like the buildings, I think people will be able to recognize places around the county."