Art Law Society paints future lawyers in a different light

Published: February 14th, 2011

Category: News

Elise Helgesen wouldn’t call herself an artist. Neither would Kara Steger.

Steger labeled even her stick figures as atrocious. Helgesen laughed at the thought of producing her own art.

But both Steger (3L) and Helgesen (3L) want to share their love of art with the University of Florida community because, as the pair said, art is everywhere.

Even in law school.

Together with Farrell Tripp (3L) and James Ayres (2L), Steger and Helgesen form the leadership of the UF Art Law Society, a student organization that hopes to paint future lawyers in a different light.

“(Art Law Society) provides for a place to be more creative than law students usually have,” Steger said. “It’s like a getting a little something extra.”

And the Art Law Society will give the law community a little something extra later this semester when it holds its biggest event of the year – its annual student and faculty art reception Wednesday, March 16.

The group began planning for the event in late January, and hopes the art reception will help the law community understand that the words lawyer and artist aren’t mutually exclusive.

“It’s really important to see what your classmates can do,” Steger said. “(The reception) starts a dialogue about your classmates as artists and something outside the legal realm.”

This year’s event, which will resemble a large art gallery and complimentary food and wine, will take place in the UF College of Law’s library beginning at 7 p.m. and will feature live music.

Students and faculty will also have the opportunity this year to donate their art to a silent auction at the reception in which all proceeds will benefit a local nonprofit organization designed to promote the arts.

“It’s good to be out of your shell,” Ayres said.

Last year, Tripp said the annual reception showcased paintings, photographs, drawings, videos and even clothing made by UF students and faculty.

And she hopes this year to be even better.

“Everyone has different interests,” Ayres said. “But art is culture. It really defines us.”

Those interested in submitting their art are encouraged to e-mail their submission (if possible) or dimensional information to Farrell Tripp by March 14 at 5 p.m. at

“It gives an idea of what students are doing in their free time,” said Tripp, UF Art Law Society president.

“(Art Law Society) gives you a chance to see things you wouldn’t think people are doing.”

While the group deals with daily misconceptions about being nothing more than “doodlers and finger painters,” this group of students wants the law community to know how intertwined art and law are.

“(Art) bleeds into law so much,” Helgesen said, noting the current turbulence in Egypt and its potential for art crime in the chaos that is gripping the country. And Steger, UF Art Law Society’s vice president, said she goes above and beyond the obvious by bringing art law into her classes, choosing to weave art into her term papers.

“It comes up in every class in some way,” Ayres agreed. And while many might see his suggestion as going a bit too far, Ayres said art finds a way to work itself into even the most basic classes, including copyright law, patent law and even property law.

Ayres, who considers himself a classically trained oil painter, received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of South Florida in 2007, and has been busy working art into his own life as well as his law classes.

“I started drawing because I love cartoons. I love comics,” he said.

Bringing his talents to the law school and the Art Law Society, Ayres said he wanted to find fulfillment in other ways aside from the canvas.

“I wanted to help the artists who had the dreams,” he said. “That was my prime motivation for coming to law school. I don’t think being a lawyer precludes anything.”

Ayres’ motivations and history are shared by others in the Art Law Society, especially Tripp, who also received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2007.

“I wanted to be able to do something rather than just paint about things,” Tripp said of her law school aspirations.

While many maintain the image of law students hidden behind jurisprudence textbooks, the Art Law Society wants for the law community to know creativity isn’t a dirty word. In fact, the group suggested it’s quite the opposite.

“I think people are afraid to be creative,” Helgesen said, noting that even a mention of the UF Art Law Society on a job application sparks discussion.