Framing justice

Art inspire, it provokes, and it’s one of the most powerful ways we express our hopes and dreams, explore our darkest moments, and critique society.

Given justice often does things things too, what better place to exhibit art than in a justice centre?

Art of justice 

For over a decade professional artists and enthusiastic creative spirits living in our community have exhibited their art in our centre. 

With two long-running art exhibitions every year, our Urban Campfire art show gives people a place to showcase their talents. In return our centre is transformed from a utilitarian government agency into a warm and welcoming hub, which is important for a place that's a court, treatment centre and community meeting place. 

The program's mission is to:

  • Raise the voices, representation, and stories of the people in our community who, without help, are marginalised from mainstream life,
  • Create the atmosphere conducive to helping people through the justice process.

Urban Campfire is designed to network community groups, and remove social stigmas and isolation, and so while all are welcome, we emphasise contributions from people who face physical, mental, economic, and cultural barriers to mainstream life.

How exhibitions work

We host two shows a year, with each show running for around six months.

Each show is brought together by an independent curator who liaises with artists and art facilitators, chooses works and manages installations, and stays true to its mission. 

The manager of our local Neighbourhood House runs workshops with local art makers, manages the program, and connects the NJC to community groups and residents.

One member of staff acts as the conduit between the program manager and the NJC.

Exhibitions are opened with a gathering of artists, friends and family, stakeholders and staff launch, events also contribute to building community relations.

The program model is lean and efficient, and there is little to no disruption to daily business. 

Purposeful art

Community art programs use the Arts art as the conduit through which communities explore their aspirations, needs, identity, sense of place, or tackle broader social issues. 

Participants come away with new skills, new friends, and a new or renewed sense of being heard and respected, and programs are based on the principle that our innate creativity can bring about positive social and individual change.

For the NJC, community art does this and fundamentally changes the very nature of what is, in effect, a statutory agency within a complex justice landscape. 

While artists enjoy the individual and collective benefits of creating art, their art serves as our conduit to explore their aspirations, needs, and insights into community life.

We also exhibit work to enhance the justice experience. For instance, art made by children would be hung in a room used by victim-survivors of family violence, a photo of a street scene would hang in public space, and an intimate portrait of an artist's personal journey would hang in room caseworkers and lawyers meet clients.

Such is the power of art to unlock our thoughts, case workers use the art as the conversational bridge to reach vulnerable clients who are drawn to art that expresses many of the issues they're dealing with, such as mental illness, social isolation, and addiction.  

Foundational principles

Engagement  

  • Give the community a sense of ownership and connection to their local justice service
  • Ensure the NJC is a welcoming space.

Awareness 

  • Promote our services using art as a form of soft diplomacy
  • Open our eyes to what's happening in our community.

Enhance life 

  • Ensure high levels of artistic standards that contribute to strong sense of personal and community identity
  • Use arts practice as a form of social inclusion
  • Use arts activities as a mechanism of social justice.

Spark your own urban campfire

Urban Campfire works for us, and all or parts of it may work at your court. Time and a bit of flexible experimentation will tell. 

We can help you with templates, community contracts, expertise, curatorial advise and more. 

Contact us on (03) 9948 8777 or njc@courts.vic.gov.au (External link) 

 

Sample artworks