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Softening Reality’s Harsh Lines

Legacy of the Skipjack transforms courthouse wall 

Carol Wade instructs artists from CalvART Gallery working on her Legacy of the Skipjack mural at the circuit courthouse in Prince Frederick.
       If Pablo Picasso, who said “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life,” knew what he was talking about, then the Circuit Court of Calvert County’s majestic new mural Legacy of the Skipjack must bring a tidal wave of inner refreshment to the confinement of courtroom arguments and judgments.
       “We have domestic abuse and child abuse cases here,” said Administrative Judge Marjorie L. Clagett. “I’m not an artist, but I knew we needed something other than a barren brick wall for people to see.”
       With the collaboration of local artists from CalvART Gallery and the Arts Council of Calvert County, her idea has blossomed into a project that has people who enter the courthouse leaving with smiles of gratitude. 
      Inspired by the courthouse mural she had seen in St. Mary’s County, Clagett envisioned Calvert artists creating something of equal splendor. The Board of the Arts Council of Calvert County agreed to encourage artists to submit their ideas.
      The selected design was Carol Wade’s The Legacy of the Skipjack. Created to work under sail navigating shallow waters for oyster harvesting, the now-endangered skipjack is Maryland’s state boat.
      “I was eager for the challenge,” says Wade, “and very excited when mine was selected; Then the reality set in. It struck me that I had to actually take this canvas-sized idea and transform it into a giant mural. I thought I was going to have a heart attack thinking about how to do it.”
      Wade divided the wall into fifths and used a projector at night to outline her design onto the wall. She then color-coded each segment like a paint-by-numbers coloring book. She and her team — CalvART members Alison Barry, Mary Blumberg, Gail ­Chenevey, Ann Crain, Mimi Little, Alyson Schwartz and Ann Trentman — worked in shifts. The project took one month of planning and two weeks of painting.
       “The whole process was amazing,” says Arts Council director Carol ­Eberly. “Judge Clagett and the staff at the courthouse were extremely accommodating with arranging scheduling, providing scaffolding, cleaning the brick wall and applying the primer coat. We had a talented team of artists who pitched in to help.”
       At 34 feet wide and 22 feet high, the mural can be seen across the courtyard from inside Courtroom No. 3.
      Funding from the courthouse and private individuals was matched by a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council Public Art Program.
      “Not only is the design stunning,” says Clagett, “but the Legacy of the Skipjack theme is in keeping with our maintaining the historical integrity of the courthouse. Throughout the facilities are reminders of our county’s past, from important places like the Calvert Lighthouse to influential people like Harriet Elizabeth Brown.”