A few weeks ago, 37 lawyers from around the world visited the Neighbourhood Justice Centre to learn about how we work and to share insights into various aspects of trauma-informed justice. In other words, weighty issues. But every guest made the same observation, “how cool is the art!”
We gave our international guests a sneaky-peak tour of our latest Urban Campfire art exhibition prior to the formal launch, and it warmed the cockles of our heart that people from Kenya, Namibia, Chile, China, Argentina, the Philippines, Indonesia, the UK and beyond grasp the importance of our homegrown program.
We host Urban Campfire for anyone who lives, works, volunteers, or has some affiliation with the City of Yarra to display their art with us. Our latest exhibition Autumn 2023 is now open, and with so many artists providing over 100 works spanning acrylics, charcoals, photography, and sculpture it’s a cracker.
Urban Campfire favourites, Yarra Seniors Art Group have created a fabulous Maps of Yarra series. The group worked for months to reinterpret old maps of Yarra and the results are stunning abstractions of a familiar landscape.
Collingwood Neighbourhood House and Who Gives a Crap (Australian-based social enterprise company that donates 50 per cent of its profits to global sanitation infrastructure) created vibrant mix media collages to showcase the strength and beauty of community.
Also featured is the wonderful Somebody’s Daughter Art Program for women who are highly vulnerable, including those serving custodial sentences. The women, many of whom are burnened down by significant trauma, created pieces both tender and poignant. As one artmaker said, when she paints, there’s nothing else. “I can block out other things and concentrate on my painting.”
Considerable thought goes into what goes where. For example, the joyful art made by the Richmond Youth Hub children brings life to the secure rooms reserved for victim-survivors of family violence attending our court. And the fine talents of the Willowview art group adorn our meeting rooms. In all, artists transform a utilitarian collection of offices, meetings rooms, and a courtroom into a surprisingly welcoming and peaceful place.
Indeed, while we're something of a village square, we’re also a court, and difficult discussions and tough decisions are made here. Again, art intercedes. We’ve seen people deflated and depleted find distraction, even, solace in an artwork. It’s true what they say about a picture painting a thousand words.
The program is curated by professional artist, Dr Paula Mahoney, who brings an exacting eye for artistic merit, and managed by local hero Sue Kent, manager of the Belgium Avenue Neighbourhood House (BANH), and their skills underpin this exhibition.
We’ve been hosting Urban Campfire since 2008 for two main reasons: to illustrate respectful, contemplative justice and to make the place nice. And you know, the artists explore many of the weighty topics that therapeutic justice grapples with every day: redemption, change, connectedness, remorse, respect, inclusion, adversity, hope. Little wonder a justice centre makes the perfect art gallery.
No wonder lawyers from around the world saw the art of justice, and justice in art.
Well done to Dr Paula Mahoney, Sue Kent, and the installers for another terrific exhibition.
And thank you, the artmakers. With so many artists in this exhibition we haven't named you all here but whether you're a budding professional artist, part of a community group, serving a custodial sentence, making art at your kitchen table or in a classroom, you’ve made this happen.
To tour the exhibition, drop into the NJC Mon-Friday 9-5pm. And to be part of the next exhibition or to find out more, contact Sue Kent, Belgium Avenue Neighbourhood House on 9428 1676 or the NJC on 9087 5739.