Dutchess County court walls brightened up with artworks

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POUGHKEEPSIE – A collaboration between attorneys, judges, and outside agencies has added art to the barren walls in the Family Court waiting rooms in Poughkeepsie. 

The initiative was brought to Dutchess County Court by Attorney Referee Meryl Guzman, who said she had attended the “How to make courts more trauma-informed” a few years ago and one suggestion was to add art to the walls to make them less sterile and more comforting.

Guzman approached Family Court Judge Joe Egito who was receptive to the idea and tasked Guzman with getting the program started.  

The court attorney reached out to Todd Poteet of Poughkeepsie’s Art Effect who immediately offered to help.  The Art Effect is the result of a merger between Spark Media and the Mill Street Loft, which have provided art space and instruction to children for years. Potat evaluated the space with Guzman and then gave a cost estimate to cover the blank space.

With no funding from the court system, Guzman sought donations from attorneys and judges who responded positively.  Two local attorneys with ties to civic organizations joined Guzman to raise funds.  Danielle Strauch, president of the Junior League of Poughkeepsie, and her colleague Linda Fakhoury, set up a crowd-sourcing page and promoted it with almost immediate results.  Strauch is also the membership director of the Mid-Hudson Women’s Bar Association of which she asked members to donate and they did.

When explaining the art hanging at Family Court, Guzman said “Unfortunately most people that come into this court are there for reasons due to trauma and in some way that has affected their family. If we can make our waiting areas that much easier to be in then we should do everything we can.”  

The attorney continued by saying “The hardest part was picking the artwork produced by the children because of the enormous selection.”  

Poughkeepsie-based attorney Kelley Enderley has a large family court presence and was pleased with the new art.  “The artwork gives a sense of human decency and comfort to a building that is full of stress when people are dealing with the most difficult issues of their lives surrounding by their most loved individuals.”

Strauch, speaking for both the Junior League of Poughkeepsie and the Mid-Hudson Women’s Bar Association, said both groups support the exhibit because it “Provides local exquisite artwork from the students at the Art Effect Poughkeepsie,” adding “The artwork highlights our local youth’s creativity and provides a more cheerful atmosphere for families and litigants.”