Courthouse Gallery

by Mickey Myers

Bryan Memorial Gallery has been invited by the Lamoille County Courthouse to install artwork in its stately corridors in one of the final phases of the recent Courthouse renovation.  This current exhibit of Vermont Landscapes at the Lamoille County Courthouse features 38 paintings by 20 artists who paint in Vermont.  The installation was curated by Bryan Gallery Executive Director Mickey Myers and Gallery Manager Tom Waters, and can be seen Monday – Friday, 8 AM – 4:30 PM (Closed 12 – 12:30 PM,) by visiting the Courthouse at 154 Main Street, Hyde Park, Vermont (fully handicap accessible.)  

There’s nothing like a new building or a newly renovated public space to summon soaring spirits and invigorated purpose.  When the building is a courthouse, a Superior Court House, renewed energy meets tradition for all to enjoy, as much as any courthouse is ever enjoyed.

So it is with the renovation of the Lamoille County Courthouse, age 105 years, in Hyde Park, Vermont, and its $7.5 million renovations, completed in May, 2016.  The majestic building, restored to its original, understated but elegant grandeur, has been re-appointed with many of its original fixtures, features and furniture, amidst the efficiency of demurely installed twenty-first century devices.  Adding to the spaciousness of its public areas are an additional 12,000 square feet of newly constructed functional space including a hearing room, judges’ chambers and deliberation rooms.

As with many such public renovations, its carefully crafted budget did not include much for the purchase of artwork.  After a few stately portraits, historic photographs and directional signs were reinstalled, the walls of the Courthouse’s public spaces were left blank.  Less than a couple of months after moving back to the building, the Judges and Staff of the Courthouse moved to solve this situation, extending an invitation to Bryan Memorial Gallery to address it along with them.

courthouse2Having been to the Courthouse only a few times prior, and not knowing what to expect, my breath was taken away as I passed through the metal detector, and found myself facing a sweeping corridor ahead.  In front of me lay a curator’s dream.  Soaring ceilings, tasteful benches, calmly furnished offices, and blank walls (save for those few portraits) calling out for art.

It was a big help that the Assistant Judge who articulated the invitation came over to talk with us at the Gallery, surrounded by art.  We watched what caught his eye and at the same time his attention to detail.  Dare we admit, we love attention to detail?

As Bryan Memorial Gallery is primarily a gallery for landscape painting, it was fairly instinctive that this is the kind of work we would be bringing into the Courthouse – specifically, landscapes painted in Vermont of Vermont.  As we thought about the function of the Courthouse, the people it serves in Lamoille County were our main focus.    As we thought about our Gallery, it was founded to feature the artwork of artists who came to Lamoille County to paint:  we eagerly anticipated a union of the two.

As the details fell into place, we put the exhibit together during the Gallery’s January Hiatus.   We called upon 20 artists whom we knew to have paintings that not only filled the immediate need, but also who could be nearby and available in the event that artwork had to be replaced.  Paintings in a variety of mediums – oil, watercolor and acrylics – were gathered.  Artists such as John Olson of Burlington loaned 2 paintings of his series of Vermont Towns – Morrisville and Johnson.  Johnson artist Eric Tobin offered 2 paintings of local scenes in autumn and winter.  Vladimir Vagin, originally from Moscow, Russia, now from Burlington, presented two fantasy watercolor landscapes of animals enjoying Vermont.  Susan Bull Riley’s watercolor of an unfortunate moose gathered animated attention during the installation while friends of various other artists recognized their works as they were installed.

courthouse3There were other more technical considerations, as it is the function of the curators to care for the artwork they install.  The watercolors made available to us would be installed primarily in the main corridor where they get a minimum of natural light which can be harmful to the fugitive pigments of watercolor over an extended period.  The hanging system in the Courthouse utilizes uniform fixtures installed from moldings, which delineated the size of the artworks from not too small, to not too large.  The work had to be portable from Jeffersonville to Hyde Park, and indeed we prayed for an absence of precipitation on installation day.

It is a priority for the role of the curator to assure that the artworks look good together, and that the individual pieces in a group show enhance each other, like so many voices in a chorus.  In a sense, as curators we are making a statement in assembling works that say, “This land is our land,” taking care of this particular installation to leave an impression that is genuine and clear about where we are.

Then, too, there is the more transcendent or demonstrative effect of an exhibit such as this one in a public space, especially in a Courthouse.  For whatever reasons people go to a Courthouse, to get married or divorced, to sue or be sued, to pick up a permit or pay a fee or look up a public record, a curator wants to offer a glimpse of hope to all involved.   A curator believes that art has a way of “making life more bearable,” (Kurt Vonnegut).

On behalf of Bryan Memorial Gallery, it is our hope for this installation of Vermont Landscapes at the Courthouse Gallery helps make “life more bearable,” and that it adds to the enjoyment of the Lamoille County Courthouse for our community.

To see the full gallery of images at the courthouse view the gallery on our website by clicking here: Courthouse Gallery