Chief Magistrate Peter Lauristen opened Spring:Urban Campfire the latest exhibition in our biannual art show on 30 October 2019. Said His Honour, “this exhibition brings the community into the centre in a way that words cannot do.”
NJC is an art gallery for the City of Yarra and attracts emerging artists, art collective participants, community groups, residents and, in the case of, Jess Kease (aka 23rd Key) and Shane Lam, artists with growing public profiles.
The Helen King, a teacher with Boroondara Kindergarten said it was terrific to see her children’s art in the secure rooms used by victim survivors of family violence.
“It sends an important statement to have art within this place. People caught up in the criminal justice system are struggling in various areas of their life but if, in some way, they can be exposed to the nativity of what goes on in a child’s world it might help them to touch base with that part of their lives—maybe before the turmoil and trauma become so dominant for them.”
Dr Becky Batagol, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law Monash University was also there to see her young son’s work in the secure rooms said that “inviting the community to court is at the heart of good practice.”
This program is a one-of-a-kind in both its purpose and model and has a serious side.
We draw on local artists’ work to take the sting out of attending court, gain a deeper understanding of Yarra’s character, assist people to get the most out of treatment services, and give citizens sense of ownership of the Centre.
To protect the program’s community and artistic merit, exhibitions are assembled by community organisation Belgium Avenue Neighbourhood House under the leadership of Sue Kent and independent curator, Laila Costa.
As creative soft diplomacy it’s the perfect conduit to foster partnerships with Yarra’s diverse population, including groups with jaundiced views of the criminal justice system.
And the therapeutic properties of art neatly align with NJC’s problem-solving, therapeutic services that stretch from our Magistrates’ Court to the work we do across Yarra to resolve broadscale social harm.
As Rachel Powning, NJC General Manager said, "being surrounded by art sets the scene for the NJC to balance difficult decisions with our sense of responsibility for working with people—particularly people who are marginalised—to resolve complex problems.”
Art is innately emotional, and victims and offenders attending our Magistrates’ Court connect to artists who live close by, represent their community or have grappled with many of the same issues and come out the other side
Each work is accompanied by artists personal reflections, and our case workers say these intimate narratives open conversations with vulnerable clients in ways sterile facilities quash.
“Artists instinctively explore themes that lie at the core of justice— adversity, identity, sanctuary, culture and belonging―it’s hard to think of a place more suited to show art than a justice centre,” said Rachel.
The public is welcome to tour the exhibition between 9am and 5pm.
And we’d love to talk to you about how you can get involved in this quietly revolutionary program.
We extend our heartfelt thanks to the following for their support: Because I Like You Creative Studios, Ondru Voices Through Art, City of Yarra, and Juddy Roller.
1: Maree Foelz, NJC; Laila Costa, curator; Sue Kent, Manager Belgium Avenue Neighbourhood House (BANH); Magistrate David Fanning; Rachel Powning, NJC GM; Chief Magistrate Peter Lauristen2: Kuckon A.L; artist Shane Lam; 3: Menagerie of Alebrijes, concept artist Wagner, creators, children of the Rupert Street Childcare Centre & Kindergarten and visitors to Collingwood Underground; Market; 4: False Idols, artist ADi; 6: Laila Costa, curator, Sue Kent BAHN; 7: Wagner; 8: untitled artist Michael Robert Young; 8: Homage to Horoshuka, artist Darren Milne; 9: untitled, artist 5-year-old Ni Na, Boroondara Kindergarten; 10: Dragons, artist Joseph Krelle; 11: Dishin Up, Yarra Seniors Art.