Adding color, inspiration to the county complex

April 6, 2019

La PORTE — With the help of some talented La Porte teenagers, employees of the county’s Probation Department are looking to add a splash of color – and a dash of inspiration – to the otherwise drab hallway leading to its offices.

Earlier this week, the La Porte County Board of Commissioners accepted Chief Probation Officer Stephen Eyrick’s request to have a group of La Porte High School art students decorate the tunnel connecting the La Porte Courthouse and county complex.

Students in Marybeth Lebo’s art class plan to paint inspirational messages – similar to ones on display inside the high school – along the walls of the 160-foot hallway, which currently sports a flat, gray paint job with no decorations on the walls.

Eyrick has sought to bring some life to the utilitarian hallway that leads to the Adult Probation Department offices ever since his department moved into the renovated space in the basement of the county complex last summer, he said Thursday.

The department head jokes that he sees the opening sequence of the 1960s sitcom “Get Smart” – which featured the main character traversing a series of doors along a seemingly endless hallway – in his mind whenever he walks down the passage.

“Every time I walk through the tunnel, I hear [the show’s theme] song in my head,” Eyrick said with a chuckle. “Hopefully the murals will make that go away.”

While probation officers and other department employees can enter the office through a private doorway inside the county complex, the public is required to travel through the underground hallway. Visitors must enter through the courthouse and have security guards screen them, which ensures probationers cannot carry weapons into the office.

Earlier this year, Eyrick decided to take his quest to liven up the hallway off the back burner, asking Lebo if her students could create a massive mural for the tunnel.

While the teacher loved the idea, Lebo was apprehensive about asking the young artists to create a single, sprawling piece due to the hallway’s length. She instead suggested the students create smaller works that sport inspirational messages, such as “Dare to be remarkable” or “P.S. You got this.”

“These kinds of statements will hopefully be uplifting not only to probationers but employees as well,” Eyrick said. “Maybe it will give them a little bit of an uplifting feeling as they walk through.”

For probationers, the bit of inspiration they will receive on their way to see their probation officer may give them the extra push they need to turn their lives around, Eyrick said.

One of the ways officers work to correct probationers’ criminal behavior is through Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, an evidence-based program that encourages individuals to make positive changes to how they think and act, the department head said.

“We can throw some things on the hallway that will resonate with what we’re already teaching them,” he said.

Eyrick’s staff is currently working on phrases for the students to incorporate into their artwork. Lebo has told the chief probation officer that she expects her class to begin work on the project in May.