It began almost a decade ago with a dream of refurbishing and expanding the Caledonia Courthouse.

Thursday, it culminated with a celebration of the final touch to the $8 million project: the art.

In the courthouse budget, $41,500 was set aside for art. The major works commissioned: a foyer floor designed in light and dark granite, museum-quality photos of residents gathered in towns around the county, and custom tapestries for the new courtroom.

A panel made up of state officials, judges, artisans and others commissioned the works. On Thursday, days after the last of the artwork was installed, several dozen people gathered for a reception.

Among those present were the photographer who did the county pictures and the weaver who did the tapestries. They are photographer Michael Sacca and weaver Elizabeth Billings, both of Tunbridge. Sacca and Billings are husband and wife, and Billings is the daughter of Judge Franklin "Frank" Billings.

Sacca, whose photos have lined the main hallway for months now, has received much praise for his work. They & #039;re archive-quality photos from 17 Caledonia County communities -- photos consisting of crowd shots of hundreds of county residents, many of them posed in front of buildings ranging from tiny town halls to historic landmark buildings

He used a large-format camera that makes negatives 4 inches by 5 inches in size -- that & #039;s the size of a telephone message slip. What & #039;s special about a negative that big is it creates photos which are exceptionally sharp.

"I wanted to make sure you could see every single face in the crowds," said Sacca. "When people are here waiting to go into court, they can look at these photos and see the faces of their neighbors and friends."

The tapestries Elizabeth Billings did were hung in the new courtroom this past week. The reviews have been mixed as courthouse regulars get used to the look.

One person who likes them is Deputy Caledonia County State & #039;s Attorney Bob Butterfield, who said, "When you turn on all the lights, it makes the room kinda warm (looking)."

Some others feel the tapestries, whose predominant color is chocolate, makes the windowless courtroom even darker.

Assistant Judge Roy Vance said, "My personal feeling is it (the tapestry display) is in the wrong courtroom. It needs to be in a courtroom with natural light."

There are two rooms that have natural light, i.e., has windows. One is the main courtroom upstairs, the huge one that dates from when the old part of the complex was built over 150 years ago. The other room with windows is a hearing room on the top floor of the new part of the building.

Vance would prefer to see the main courtroom the way it is -- with its refurbished woodwork and decorated with portraits of judges of decades (and in some cases, centuries) past.

He wonders, though, whether the tapestry panels might be moved to the hearing room, where the decor right now consists of photographs of some of the current judges.

"I guess it takes an Ôact of Congress & #039; to change things," said Vance, chuckling. "But, it & #039;s something I, for one, would be willing to consider."


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