As Jane Austen might say, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that British Columbia has some very beautiful courthouses.” This fact inspired art enthusiast Judge Gregory Koturbash to begin a collection of paintings of BC Courthouses, and to take up a brush himself. This eNews article features some of his collection and the artists who painted them.
Tracey Kutschker grew up in Toronto, drawing portraits of family and friends. In her teens she moved to a small town in Alberta and found subjects in the surrounding landscape. Her passion for art took her to the University of Lethbridge where she studied painting and film-making while earning a Bachelor of Arts.
In 1995 she and her husband Eric, a sculptor, moved to the Shuswap area of BC’s interior. There she became the director and curator of the Salmon Arm Art Gallery and Arts Centre. Surrounded by lake and mountains, Ms. Kutschker developed a rich colour palette that reflects the region's lush environment.
Old Salmon Arm Courthouse – artist Tracey Kutschker
A member of the Shuswap Women's Art Collective, Ms. Kutschker exhibits her work with eight other women artists at a gallery in Salmon Arm. Her charming, quirky rendering of the Old Salmon Arm Courthouse is an example of the personalized depictions of well-loved buildings and viewpoints that she paints on commission.
Judge Koturbash saw her work in Salmon Arm and commissioned the painting of its 1930s courthouse, a Salmon Arm landmark made distinctive by its gable dormers, half timbering and decorative detail.
Anita Skinner’s interest in courthouses dates back to her first career – as a judges’ secretary (now called a Judicial Administrative Assistant in recognition of the variety of responsibilities involved in the role) at the then new Provincial Courthouse at 222 Main Street in Vancouver’s downtown east side. She worked in the criminal court there from 1976 until 1981 and recalls many of the judges of that era as having large personalities and being kind to staff. In 1981 she gave up court work to attend university.
“My Dad thought I was crazy to give up such a good job. But those were the days when rents were cheap, jobs were plentiful, and life was pretty easy”, she said. Although she studied nursing and became an eye technician at Vancouver General Hospital, Ms. Skinner took art history for two years, and later pursued her interest in art through drawing and painting classes. In 1988 she moved to Kelowna and married. Eventually, she earned a Political Science and Sociology degree from the University of British Columbia (2000) while working part time at Kelowna General Hospital. She retired in 2006 after 17 years at the hospital.
Since then, Ms. Skinner has worked as an artist. Described as “vibrant, fresh and appealing folksy images that bring a smile” her work has been exhibited in juried shows and numerous galleries in BC and Alberta. Presently, it can be found in galleries in Kelowna, Penticton and Qualicum Beach, as well as in local calendars and on puzzles.
Penticton Law Courts – artist Anita Skinner
She comments, "I am always thinking about art, and what my next painting will be. I see art in life around me." Prints of her painting of the Penticton Law Courts are popular in Okanagan legal circles.
Judge Koturbash began his legal career as a prosecutor in Saskatchewan. In 2005 he moved west – first to join Crown Counsel in Prince George and then to become the administrative Crown counsel in Salmon Arm. Before being appointed a Provincial Court judge he used his encyclopedic knowledge of criminal law to author a book on investigating impaired driving offences. Since his appointment he has contributed to judicial education, led a project to draft standard criminal bail and sentencing orders, and now chairs the Court’s Criminal Law Committee.
After receiving a painting of the Revelstoke courthouse as a gift, Judge Gregory Koturbash was inspired to begin collecting courthouse art.
His appreciation for art also led him to exercise the other side of his brain by taking painting lessons with his children. Judge Koturbash has attempted his own versions of courthouse paintings but says he’s not ready to exhibit his work. “In the class with my kids you can guess who the real artists were”, he says.
More courthouse art?
A future eNews article will feature other paintings of BC courthouses. If you have a courthouse painting you’d like to share, please tweet a photo of it to @BCProvCourt.