SUMMIT COUNTY, Ohio — It's likely visitors to the Summit County Courthouse have been pleasantly surprised over the past couple years to see art by local makers gracing the walls and halls of the historic courthouse.
Rotating exhibits featuring photography, painting and sculpture all have been displayed through Curated Courthouse, a collaboration between Summit County Probate Court and Curated Storefront, a nonprofit that uses public art displays to attract investment to Akron, activating some of the darkest areas of the city since 2016.
Now, Curated Courthouse has commissioned and prominently displayed a new piece that’s visible across the entire first-floor of the original courthouse and the annex, officials said in a release.
The 5-feet by 14-feet mosaic is of trillium, Ohio’s wildflower, which represents rebirth. Students from North and Firestone high schools created about 100 of the 4-inch tiles in the mosaic’s border.
Cohen, a 1971 Akron Public Schools graduate, said she drew inspiration from poet laureate Amanda Gorman’s poem “The Hill We Climb,” presented at the 2021 presidential inauguration.
The poem reads, “The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it.”
The pandemic kept Cohen and the students apart while pieces of the display were being created so they didn’t meet in person until May when the mosaic was installed in the courthouse, officials said.
To ensure the pieces would be the right size and depth for the artwork, the students, led by teachers Steve Beltrondo and Michael Sieber, learned ceramics techniques using video Akron Public Schools counselor Karen Stepic and Cohen recorded in Cohen’s home studio, officials said.
The artwork uses thousands of pieces of glass and ceramic, much of it recycled glass and handmade ceramics. The piece was made in four 100-pound panels to be transported and now installed permanently at the courthouse.
Artistically, mosaic art is about how each piece works with the surrounding others, Cohen said.
“I wanted to make sure this artwork had a sense of place and purpose,” she said. “I hope it will be a light at the end of this long hallway and draw people closer, to inspire, lighten and calm their moods on what might be one of the most stressful times in their lives.”
Curated Courthouse was launched with the hope it would have that effect on everyone who comes to the courthouse, according to Judge Elinore Marsh Stormer, who said most people who come to the courthouse are facing something sad.
“We try to give them a moment away from whatever their sadness is,” she said. “In addition to permanent art, we also have rotating shows of local under-recognized artists.“
The courthouse is open to the public and the artwork can be viewed from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. A video about the making of the mosaic can be viewed online. A map showing the location of permanent artwork in the courthouse is also available.