Federal courthouse officials hope to draw in public through art - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Federal courthouse officials hope to draw in the public through art

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Kris Gerencir, chief deputy of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, and federal clerk Teresa Deppner stand with Jennifer Peyton in front of the court's most recent exhibit, donated from the Peytons' personal collection. Kris Gerencir, chief deputy of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, and federal clerk Teresa Deppner stand with Jennifer Peyton in front of the court's most recent exhibit, donated from the Peytons' personal collection.
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In many ways, a courthouse is a work of art, not only on its face by its architecture but by its meaning. The tall intimidating structure not only symbolizes justice but it also demonstrates community values.

And to further reach out to the community, federal judges and other courthouse officials in Charleston hope to draw in members of the public through the judiciary fine arts program.

"We want to reach out to the community and know that the courthouse is part of that community fabric for them," said Teresa Deppner, clerk for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. "Judges want people to come in here because it is a public facility."

Art has been a part of the federal courthouse since officials moved into the Virginia Street building in 1998. Deppner explained former U.S. District Judge Charles Haden started the program as a way to put people at ease about the structure.

"He didn't want people to be intimidated by this federal courthouse," Deppner said. "Sometimes, people equate this place with something bad but there are good things that happen here too."

After Haden's death, U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin became a strong proponent of the program.

"It's interesting because when you go to the other courthouses, you see pictures of government buildings," Deppner said, noting the Charleston courthouse shows exhibits in various mediums, including botanical prints, photos, sculptures and paintings.

Works mainly are done by West Virginians or artists with a West Virginia connection, Deppner said. Artists don't necessarily have to be famous either. Deppner said one of the courthouse employees was in the Charleston Photography Club and had photos on display.

The courthouse's lower galleries can have about 100 pieces on display. The exhibit usually shows for about two to three months and generally, there are four exhibits a year.

"The artwork is only in Charleston," Deppner explained. "We don't have them displayed in the other four (courthouses) because there is not appropriate gallery space and this is the headquarters."

The most recent exhibit is from a Putnam County law firm duo's private collection and the exhibit displays 40 works including those from bigger city and local galleries.

Harvey Peyton and Jennifer Peyton, from the Peyton Law Firm, have collected the pieces for 20 years. Their collection will be on display through the end of September.

"This is the first time we have had walking tours," Deppner said of the Peyton collection exhibit. "We are even scheduling a tour for employees."

But it's not just employees who gaze at the works.

"Many people come in from outside," Deppner said. "It also gives people something to do if they are waiting on a hearing."

To keep the historical integrity of previous exhibits, Deppner took photos of artists' representative works and posted them on the southern district's web site.

And there's one phenomenon that continues to fascinate Deppner.

"What I found interesting is that people say, ‘I don't like that,' but I see them staring at that one the most and it evokes more conversation than the ones they liked," she said. "It causes people to discuss things they might not otherwise have discussed."

"Art is intended for the public," she said. "I love art and I love for people to love art. And to love art, you have to discuss it."