10 Sep Thank You, Miss Book
Law firm shows deep appreciation and support of the arts
When Doug Church was in the eighth grade, he made a palm tree out of copper wire and Popsicle sticks. His teacher, Miss Beulah Book, told young Doug that she would give him a passing grade on the condition that he never make art again. He knew his strengths and weaknesses, and so he agreed and went to law school.
Several years later, around 1973, the Church Church Hittle & Antrim law firm partner and his team had just finished remodeling their Noblesville office and were considering how to use their budget for artwork. As someone who appreciated art and knew several artists in Hamilton County, Church suggested the law firm buy local art to decorate its walls, and they’ve been collecting ever since.
To date, about 33 paintings hang in the downtown Noblesville office. There’s a flag-draped chair by Henry Bell and several drawings by Nickel Plate Arts Studio Artist Bruce Neckar depicting Hamilton County sites. There’s a pantry stocked with colorful canned goods by Alice Rulon, a meandering stream by Patty MacInnis and a stark interior with an empty chair by Emmett Thames. An oil painting by Nickel Plate Arts Studio Artist Lesley Haflich features Syd’s bar as the destination along the tree-lined sidewalk that is Eighth Street in Noblesville.
The firm’s commitment to supporting the arts goes well beyond its own address. For many years, Church Church Hittle & Antrim has supported community arts organizations including the Noblesville Cultural Arts Commission, Hamilton County Artists’ Association and Nickel Plate Arts. In fact, CCHA was one of Nickel Plate Arts’ first major sponsors.
“I firmly believe that the quality of any community is defined by the degree to which it supports the cultural arts,” Church says. Theater, dance, fine art, music, art-related programming for the public — these all create a certain climate and sense of place for a city or town. You can measure the value of arts in lots of different ways, Church says, as an economic stimulus attracting tourists to highlighting a specific community and giving it its own personality.
In January 2013, Jessica M. Heiser joined the firm as an associate working in school law and assisting in the firm’s litigation practice area. Like Church, Heiser admits to not having natural artistic talent, but she is fierce appreciator. She studied art history as an undergraduate at Northwestern University and has several family members who are professional artists. Heiser parlayed her gifts as a lawyer and her excitement about art by joining the Nickel Plate Arts board at its inception in 2013.
“To use a railroad analogy, I think that Nickel Plate Arts is a conductor. It can be a place where people come together around appreciating art in all forms and all ranges of talent,” Heiser says. “It does a really good job in creating community around having a fun, creative experience.”
To her, art is about recognizing the beauty around you in communities where it’s unexpected, like Sheridan and Cicero. And it shouldn’t feel exclusive to people sipping wine and talking critically and academically about it.
“Come to a class or an open gallery night. Whatever community you’re in, whatever time you have, get exposed to this world. It’s all very approachable. You get hooked pretty quickly,” she says.
Several attorneys from Church Church Hittle & Antrim have attended a class at Nickel Plate Arts, and a colleague of Heiser’s went to a wine-and-canvas event called Degas and Drinks. She views the venue as a great place to entertain clients and other nonprofit partners. After having spent 10 bustling years in Los Angeles and Chicago, the quiet, intimate patio on the Nickel Plate Arts campus is one of her favorite spaces for events.
From a business perspective, supporting Nickel Plate Arts also makes sense for the firm, which has offices in Noblesville, Fishers and Tipton along the Nickel Plate Railroad. Heiser would love for all of Hamilton County to think of Nickel Plate Arts as a place to go not only for art appreciation but also for community building, where classes, events and programming have a reputation for welcoming everyone. With her service, the firm’s support and the support of others, we are well on our way.
Visit Church Church Hittle & Antrim at cchalaw.com to view their gallery of local art.