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November 1, 2003
Supreme Court opens its doors to artists

By Jan Pudlow
Associate Editor

Every lawyer dreams of going all the way to the Supreme Court.

But Florida lawyer Kat Silverglate arrived at Tallahassee’s stately halls of justice in a most creative way.

“Fifteen years of interrogatories, trials, and briefs, and it took a paint brush to get me to the highest court of Florida,” Silverglate quips.

Silverglate’s art exhibition titled, “Reflections of Freedom: One Lawyer’s View from the Inside Out,” is on display on the first floor outside the courtroom, and on the second-floor rotunda of the Florida Supreme Court as part of the Arts in the Court program.

“For many years now, we have transformed public areas of the court into a showcase for Florida artists, including lawyer-artists,” said Chief Justice Harry Lee Anstead.

“It is one of our most successful programs and has taken once empty spaces and turned them into public galleries for Florida art. Our current exhibition is especially significant because it consists of the work of Katherine Silverglate, a Florida lawyer and chair of The Florida Bar’s Committee on Professionalism, whose work highlights significant points of law and legal history. We are hopeful that courthouses around the state will also utilize these means to enhance one of the community’s most important and central public spaces.”

The Arts in the Court Program began with a court order on December 10, 1996, as part of the court’s Sesquicentennial Celebration, under then-Chief Justice Gerald Kogan, now retired and living in Miami. The program started as a joint project of the chief justice and then-Secretary of State Sandra Mortham. The Committee on the Arts in the Court was created to help carry out the court’s policy that “courts should be a place where communities come together to appreciate the artistic achievements of Florida’s residents, including both musical and the visual arts.”

Justice Kogan placed the program under the leadership of now Chief Justice Anstead, who recently met with Secretary of State Glenda Hood.

Plans are underway for making the Supreme Court more user-friendly for art enthusiasts by locking the doors that lead to the justices’ chambers so browsers at the rotunda gallery don’t need to be accompanied by a marshal, said Sandy Shaughnessy, co-chair of the Arts in the Court Subcommittee and arts administrator of the Division of Cultural Affairs.

She added that the subcommittee is also reviewing a walking tour brochure of Tallahassee’s downtown cultural offerings. The first stop on the walking tour is the R.A. Gray Building. The second stop is the Supreme Court.

“Hopefully, this brochure will generate traffic into the court,” Shaughnessy said.

In the meantime, anyone wishing to view the art at the Supreme Court may call Joan Cannon for an appointment at 922-5520.

On display through January is Silverglate’s art that she describes as “a combination of photography, acrylic paint, and editorial. I first take an original high resolution digital image; edit it graphically for color, contrast, depth, and frame; print it on fine art canvas; stretch it over a museum wood frame and then paint it with acrylic paint. The finished product looks like an oil painting or acrylic painting,” Silverglate said.

The art on display blends Silverglates’ love of language and love of law through words that accompany each of the 28 pieces that tell a story about freedom.

For example, next to “Umbrella of Freedom,from an original photo of Kathy Rymer’s torn and tattered fabric patio umbrella in Atlantic Beach, are Silverglate’s words: “Freedom without challenge does not exist. And not challenge from the outside, either. No. Quite the contrary. It is challenge from within — challenge by the very people who stand beneath the protection of our freedom umbrella — that makes our freedom beautifully real. True freedom is the ability to live beneath the umbrella of protection and seek to make it better by criticism, debate, disagreement, and passion. It is the holes and tears that make this umbrella of freedom beautiful.”

How did a lawyer find her creative outlet?

As Silverglate explains: “Truly, I believe that God has used everything in my life for good. Even the hard stuff. . . .no, especially the hard stuff. Ever since surviving brain surgery at 18, I’ve looked at the world through a different lens. Every day is a gift. And at 18, I tried to discover and use all of the gifts and desires God placed in me for this short time on earth. Strangely, my true dream has always been to be a judge. That is truly where the heart of my dreams remain. But when the JNC [judicial nominating commission] took a pass on me after making three rounds of interviews, I turned to art.

“While I was devastated, my husband said, ‘Thank God for unanswered prayers!’ Spencer, my soul mate of 21 years, was wise enough to realize that my passion for art would remain dormant unless I gave it 110 percent. So, when Justice [Raoul] Cantero suggested that I submit my work for consideration by the Supreme Court, Spencer is the one who said ‘go for it.’”

For more information on Silverglate’s art, contact her by e-mail at [email protected] or visit her Web site at PhotosByKat.com.

[Revised: 11-03-2018]