“When Art Goes to Court”

Justin Law

“Its about people having the right to be critical,” said Michael Aakhus, associate dean of the college of Liberal Arts, about last Thursday’s Berger Lecture titled “When art goes to Court.”

Marilyn Skoglund, Associate Justice of the Vermont Supreme Court, was chosen by the art department to present at the Berger Lecture, a yearly series that deals with civil rights and liberties in different fields of study.

Marilyn Skolgund is the sister of Margart Skolgund, an associate professor of art history at USI. In 1971, Marilyn received a bachelor of arts degree from Southern Illinois University with a major in fine arts. In 1973 she moved to Vermont where

she completed a clerkship at the Office of the Attorney General and passed her bar exam. By 1997 she was appointed to the Vermont Supreme Court. This unique background made her a great choice for the lecture.

“She was particularly qualified to address the issue,” said Aakhus, “She is unique in not just the courts, but unique in the arts.”

Marilyn was interested in this opportunity. She gives brief lectures to people in the courthouse on this topic and was happy to have the chance to expand on it.

Marilyn related the way art is judged to the old Mickey Mouse Club of her youth. Thursday was “Anything can Happen Thursday,” which is how she describes art in court.

“Today, nothing is cohesive,” she said about the values of the United States.

When there is controversy over art in public places, the court must decide if it is appropriate or not. According to Marilyn, the courts do not always know how to judge these things neutrally or understand the content.

“It’s a very confusing landscape,” she said.

She used cases, with a little bit of humor, to demonstrate this loss of neutrality.

“She can disagree in an intelligent way, because she is an artist herself,” said Aakhus.

Stephen Oakley is a senior criminal justice studies major. He attended the lecture for extra credit in one of his classes. He thought the presentation was very humorous and educational.

“(I like) the fact that she knew art history and related it to law court and justice,” Oakley said.

When it comes to how art should be judged, “A court of law is a completely strange place to be answering these questions,” Marilyn said.