Fine Arts Review

In a letter to a friend, famous U.S. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter wrote, “No one can be a truly competent lawyer unless he is a cultivated man.” This short phrase encompasses the philosophy behind the Law School’s second annual “Term in Arts,” an exhibit of art produced by the Law students, faculty and staff, on display in the Hutchins Hall Basement Gallery of the Law School through March 16.

The exhibit’s curator, Law student Jay Surdukowski, understands full well the perceived void between the law school and the art sphere. “The Law School can be cut-throat and philistine, but it doesn’t have to be that way,” he said.

According to Surdukowski, the “Term in Arts” exhibit’s first purpose is “(to maintain) some connection to the arts.” The pressures of law school can have a smothering effect on artistic expression, Surdukowski sees the exhibit as “very healthy for the Law School . It is a continuation of culture.”

The second purpose of bringing together such a large body of student art is providing financial support for public-interest law scholarships. Many of the works will be auctioned off the final night of the exhibit in order to raise money for law students with public-interest jobs, which include public defending, legal aid work and government counseling. Jobs in the sector typically don’t pay nearly as well as a position in a firm – the goal of most law students – but are still a vital part of the judicial system.

Though the exhibit accepted almost all submissions, there’s a surprising degree of skill in the work presented. “Law students are notoriously self-selective,” Surdukowski said in regard to the lack of amateurish art in the gallery.

He described the various artists on display as a “diverse group of people coming from all different backgrounds.”

“I like to be more inclusive than not – we kind of lucked out,” he explained.

The exhibit opened on Saturday night to a large and eager crowd. The ambiance was energetic and sophisticated. A pianist and a violinist provided a soothing backdrop to the sounds of the exhibit’s many visitors. “People have a real hunger for this sort of thing,” Surdukowski said.

Photography is the most prominent feature of the exhibit. The portraits submitted by Julie Saltman and Zachariah Oak Lindsey are balanced and professional, as well as Damon Marcus Lewis’s stills of animals in urban environments.

Of the paintings on display, the minimalist compositions of Rachael Shenkman and Surdukowski himself drew much attention during Saturday’s opening. Vandana Nakka’s portrait of a woman – and her first attempt at painting – first greets viewers as the cover of the event’s program. The real version, residing in the middle of the long exhibit, would not look out of place in a small-time gallery.

Although the world of law students is primarily hidden within the rusticated walls of the Law Quad, the year’s “Term in Arts” exhibit is a brief but intriguing look into the belief that those who study law are not inherently dull and artistically talentless.

Term in Arts
Now through March 16
At the Hutchins Hall Basement Gallery

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