Art project brings new life to law school walls

As students and faculty returned to the UC College of Law for the start of the academic year, they were met with refreshed and revitalized artwork throughout the building.

The updated artwork and displays reflect the diversity of the College of Law community and document our individual and collective experiences over the past 18 months. The project, known as the Art Revitalization Project, led by Nora Burke Wagner, Assistant Dean for International and Graduate Programs | Director, LLM Program, and student representatives from the Student Legal Education Committee (SLEC), brought an opportunity for introspection, study, and collaboration among the College of Law community. It also brought a welcome change to the walls at Cincinnati Law.

How it began

In 2020, two students—James Weiler’21 and JáNae Powell’21—were tasked with creating their own final project for Professor Emily Houh’s Critical Race Theory (CRT) class. Weiler’s idea was to inventory the artwork at the law school and suggest replacements to make the walls more reflective of the diversity in and around the college. Life as we knew it changed, however, with the ensuing COVID-19 crisis and accompanying closure of the law school. Weiler and Powell, nonetheless, sought to make their CRT final a living and lasting project, to showcase the law school in a different light and leave a legacy that would grow and evolve in the years to come.

Their original project was supported by the appropriate school committees and developed over the course of the 2020-2021 academic year. Its implementation led to several changes in the artwork at the school and will continue in the new building.

Photo of "While We Were Away" display

While We Were Away display at the college

The display, “While We Were Away,” is one of those changes, thanks to the additional help and leadership of 2L Sanjaly Geevarghese. “While We Were Away” is a student-led display consisting of quotes, photos and other memorabilia focusing on what the Cincinnati Law community did during the past pandemic year. It is located in a first-floor display case.

New artwork is displayed throughout the building. It includes new pieces created by Ohio Innocence Project (OIP) exoneree Raymond Towler, who spent 29 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. His work can be found in the law school’s atrium.

Professor Jennifer Bergeron and OIP fellows

Professor Jennifer Bergeron and OIP Fellows

A painting of Jennifer Bergeron, Professor of Clinical Law, along with two OIP fellows has been installed outside the Crow’s Nest. The painting was created by OIP client Alfred Cleveland.

A new portrait of Judge Nathaniel R. Jones by local attorney Bruce Petrie is installed in the Appellate Court Room. Petrie, an accomplished oil painter, enjoys finding ways to incorporate graphic imagery with civics education. The portrait of Mayor Theodore Berry, formerly in the Appellate Court Room, has been given a special place of honor in  the Trial Courtroom.  

Finally, in the Robert S. Marx Law Library one will find a display about the history of the law school and which highlights diversity. . It was curated by Rhonda Wiseman, Library Associate, who manages the law school’s archival collection.

Special thanks to Chad Uhl, Terri Masur, and Pierce Reed for their efforts on this project.

Photo credits: Joe Fuqua