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Valley Journals

Artwork sentenced to lifetime stay in courthouse

May 21, 2018 12:15PM ● By Jet Burnham

Students express their opinions about various legal subjects through their artwork. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)

By Jet Burnham | j.burnham@mycityjournals.com 

Eight judges from the Third District Court passed judgment on student artwork, sentencing the winning pieces to serve out a lifetime sentence in a courthouse. The seven winning pieces, created by elementary and middle school-aged students, will be on permanent display in courtrooms and the private chambers of Salt Lake County courthouses. 

This judgment of the annual Law & Art Contest was in conjunction with the Utah Bar Association’s Law Day, held May 1.

“It gives kids a way to express what the law means through a medium that kids are more used to expressing themselves in—through art,” said Blakely Dennis, a representative of the Art & Law Committee of the Salt Lake County Bar Association Board. “It gives a whole new perspective on these—usually difficult—themes.” 

Students from Salt Lake, Utah and Davis counties were given the theme, “Balance of Powers,” to create an 11-by-14 inch colored-pencil piece of artwork.

Chelsea Doan, an eighth-grader from Eisenhower Jr. High, won Best in Show and will have her piece hung in a local courthouse. 

Chelsea’s art teacher, Jane Myers, encouraged her seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders to choose something they felt passionate about for the subject of their piece.

“One girl was concerned with deforestation; another girl, a Native American, was worried about the Dakota pipeline,” said Myers. “They get so emotional about it, and it comes through in their art.” 

Every year, the contest theme provides opportunities for students to learn about current issues and form their own opinions about them. They are judged, not on whether their opinion is right or wrong but on how well their message is conveyed through their art.

“Different issues come up every year,” said Myers. “The hot-button issues this year are not the same as last year—everybody drew walls last year because they were scared their parents would go back.”

Myers believes because the student body at Eisenhower is so diverse (students collectively speak more than 32 different languages), they have a deeper understanding of these kinds of issues. 

“The mainstream of this state wouldn’t understand because they’re not directly affected,” she said. 

The artwork of eighth-grader Chelsea Doan will be displayed in a Salt Lake County courthouse. (Courtesy of Jane Myers/Eisenhower Jr High)

 Chelsea, whose parents are immigrants, colored the faces of all the people in her picture blue. She told Myers it is a reminder that all people are the same. 

Many of the students’ pieces expressed their feelings about gun laws, in response to the school shootings that were happening at the time they were starting their pieces, said Myers.

Other pieces focused on the confederate flag issue, the hunting of wolves and gay pride.

Artwork was judged on expression of the theme and artistic ability. Chelsea’s piece scored high in both. Myers was impressed by Chelsea’s use of intricate details. She also said there was good balance to the piece and a well-executed light source that gave dimension to the scene.

Myers submitted four student pieces to the contest this year. Her students have placed first, second, third or Best in Show in the contest for the past seven years. 

Additionally, another of Myers’ students, ninth-grader Davi Silveira, won third place in the District Art Show’s Caesar Chavez Contest where students created a piece illustrating the theme of “Social Justice.” 

Chelsea and her school will both receive compensation for her winning piece.

Myers said school administrators will use the money to purchase student artwork from the school art show. Four pieces will be added to the school’s permanent student art collection. 

“It’s a tradition here,” said Myers. “You can go down any hall and you’ll see student art hanging there.” 

The art show has been an Eisenhower tradition for more than 25 years and is the largest in the district, said Myers. This year, the show was held May 15 and showcased a variety of media, including graphite, watercolor, scratchboard, chalk, alkyd paint and block printing, as well as 3-D art formed from clay, popsicle sticks and copper tooling.