NORRISTOWN >> A colorful, playful and inspirational mural with the theme “Keep Looking Up,” created by a Skippack artist, now greets children at Montgomery County Court Care, a licensed drop-in care center for families who have court business to attend.
“This is going to be enjoyed by probably 5,000 to 6,000 people every year. That’s just spectacular because this is in many cases the first impression that residents have of our courthouse and you can bet the kids are going to remember this and if they have to come back for another court day they’re obviously going to be anxious to come back here,” county Judge Daniel J. Clifford said as the mural was unveiled at Court Care at the One Montgomery Plaza office building across the street from the courthouse.
Artist Chelsea Allen cut the ribbon, officially unveiling the mural she designed and created over the course of about two weeks.
“I wanted to design something that was multi-cultural so everybody could relate to it, so it was a universal theme,” Allen said as she described her inspiration for the mural. “What better than nature and to be able to tie in all different types of landscapes from across the country.”
The mural depicts a beach, a meadow and a mountain. Hidden within the mural are animals, providing children the chance to play a game during which they seek to find the figures.
“I wanted to mix in bright, beautiful colors to make it inspiring, to make it seem like anything is possible, kind of like a wonderland-type feel,” Allen smiled as she glanced at her creation.
“There are so many things to see here and to point out,” Clifford added. “What a great memory that families will have from coming to the courthouse.”
Court Care was established to provide a safe, secure, child-oriented environment where families or jurors can comfortably and confidently leave their children while they attend court-related and domestic relations hearings or provide jury service. The care is provided at no cost to families who need the service. The program, which serves thousands of children each year, is available for children that are at least six weeks old through school age.
The mural project, spearheaded by Clifford, was sponsored by the Family Law Section of Montgomery Bar Association and the Montgomery County Commission on Women and Families.
“We are thrilled. It’s something that we support with all our heart and it’s a pleasure to see how beautiful it is,” said Dana Greenspan, chair of the Montgomery County Commission on Women and Families.
Andrew Taylor, chair of The Family Law Section of Montgomery Bar Association, said members see firsthand the distress that families and children experience while maneuvering through the family court system.
“So it’s kind of nice to know there’s a little bit of cheer that these kids get to see when they have to, unfortunately, be involved in the court system,” said Taylor, adding the legal community was proud to be a part of the project.
Linda Awarski, director of Court Care services, said the mural was unveiled just as the program is celebrating its 21st anniversary.
“It’s like we got a lot of presents. Chelsea’s gift was a wonderful gift,” Awarski said.
Court Care is the first state-licensed child care court program in Pennsylvania.
County Commissioner Chairwoman Val Arkoosh beamed as she viewed the mural now gracing what once was an unwelcoming, undecorated wall.
“As every parent knows there is nothing more important than sort of the equivalent of emergency child care. If something comes up like jury duty or a court date or something that you really haven’t been able to plan for, or in many cases really can’t afford to purchase, to be able to bring your children here and have them be safe and so well cared for is just an extraordinary service in our community and one that I am so proud to be part of,” Arkoosh said.
“Now we’ve made it even better with this wonderful mural,” Arkoosh added.
The idea for the mural was born last year after another work of Allen’s was unveiled to decorate the Family Court division’s conciliators office in the Master’s Building, 321 Swede Street, across the street from the courthouse.
Allen said she hopes her mural brings many smiles to the children who view it.
“I hope it makes them feel welcome and that they feel more comfortable here. I know they’re going through different types of situations that might not be the most comfortable for them. I hope it’s something to really inspire them, to brighten their day, to remind them there’s all this beauty in life,” Allen said.