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Imagine old courthouse as a Joliet art museum

Terri Coleman sees art in that concrete monster

If Joliet is experiencing an art renaissance then it’s time the city has a museum for the arts, and what better place for it than the concrete county courthouse no longer in use.

What!? you may ask, given that many scorn the old Will County Courthouse as the ugliest building they’ve ever seen.

But artists see things differently.

Terri Coleman, a quilt maker who was among the 150 or so at the recent unveiling of sculptures commissioned by the Joliet Art Commission and City Center Partnership, offered her thoughts on what could be done to foster the arts in our city.

“I would think they could make an art museum at our old courthouse,” Coleman said. “That would be a unique building for exhibits.”

What!? I thought to myself and then gently mentioned to Coleman that many consider the courthouse to be the ugliest building they’ve ever seen.

“I see it as art,” Coleman, a Joliet resident, replied.

Furthermore, she added, “It looks like an art museum.”

And, she’s right.

I’ve been to some art museums that if used as courthouses would likely be regarded as among the ugliest buildings ever seen.

But they’re not courthouses. They’re art museums.

The buildings are interesting – maybe weird but interesting.

And perhaps now the old Will County Courthouse, retired in 2020 from its responsibility of standing as a bastion of law and order since it opened in 1969, should be looked at it in a new light.

Maybe we should appreciate how oddly balanced it stands on a foundation smaller in area than the three stories of massive concrete that rise above.

Maybe we should let its stark lines, angles and flat surfaces work on our imagination.

Maybe we should consider its complete lack of ornamentation not an absence of art but a yearning for creativity.

Maybe we should keep it.

The county has not made a final decision on what to do with the building but the inclination is to tear it down.

Imagination is one thing, but money is another.

I don’t know if there is a benefactor of the arts who wants to step up with the multimillions needed to establish a Will County Museum of the Arts.

The word “renaissance” was mentioned a few times at the unveiling party at Juliet’s Tavern on July 29. But for there to be a renaissance there has to be a classical period. And, I don’t know when the classical period for the arts was in Joliet.

Still, there does seem to be enthusiasm for a new creative spirit in town.

Terri Coleman’s vision for the old Will County Courthouse is worth thinking about.

Go to the old courthouse and look at it for a while. Take it in, so to speak. You may see it a little differently.

Bob Okon

Bob Okon

Bob Okon covers local government for The Herald-News