Sawnee Association of the Arts committee members clapped as the first painting – that of a church — was hung in the Forsyth County courthouse’s grand jury room.
As other paintings went up one by one the room, previously drab and uninviting, began to gain a certain warmth.
On Friday, Sawnee Association of the Arts members began the installation of 12 paintings in the room, which were commissioned by District Attorney Penny Penn in response to grand jury feedback she received.
“One of the previous grand juries had made that recommendation at the end of its service that the walls needed something and I could not disagree with them,” Penn said. “That room is [primarily] slated for use by the grand jury, [which] meets once a month for four months at a time, but we also use it for other groups. I started thinking about what we could do because it’s such a big space.”
Penn added that when she started with the DA’s office a number of years ago, SAA had hung their works throughout that office, which was located in the old courthouse at the time.
“They did that for some time and then they stopped,” Penn said. “I remembered that and knew the [SAA] president and felt comfortable reaching out to her if I could enlist the art association’s help and if the group would be interested in doing this. Some of them came more than once and walked around with me, and the space is big and a lot of it could use some color, so I said, ‘let’s give priority to the grand jury room and start with that and go from there.’”
SAA co-chairwoman Kristine Weeden said the association has about 15 artists they’re using for the project, which will also include paintings to be hung in the witness room.
The witness room paintings may differ slightly from the grand jury room’s theme — historic buildings in Forsyth County — though they will still be local scenes.
“It seemed that a theme would be appropriate and I liked the idea of structures and buildings from around the county,” Penn said, “And I think those make for natural subjects for paintings. I had seen some before in the area and [Weeden] indicated there were artists who also were interested in doing that [kind] of art. I liked the idea too that it was local to the community and it captures some history, which bears direct relation to being in a courthouse. It makes sense.”
Weeden said the art will rotate in about six months and added that this kind of project is exactly what the arts association does.
“We are trying to get the community more involved in art and bring art to the community,” she said. “That’s our mission — to bring it to Forsyth County. Seeing the brightness and all the work that went into [these paintings] — I’m really excited about that and proud of all the people who painted. They did a fabulous job and I’m just proud of the committee that worked so hard to make all this come together.”
Smiling, Weeden stepped back, admiring the paintings on the walls.
“It really brightens it up,” she said, “and it makes you feel warm.”