Inside a space where a judge can determine a person’s future, RE:CLAIM gathered artists, performers, and community members to imagine new possibilities.

Designed to promote dialogue about the carceral system’s harmful effects on youth, RE:CLAIM (“Rooted Exhibition: Community, Love, Abundance, Intergenerational, Multiplicity”) was an eight-week art exhibition at the Washtenaw County Courthouse in downtown Ann Arbor. The program included three live events held in and around the courtrooms.

“For a lot of people, a courtroom can be very traumatic, and not so fun or loving,” said Jamall Bufford, rapper and project specialist for Washtenaw County My Brother’s Keeper. “We wanted to bring a little joy and awareness to what the criminal legal system has done to a lot of people—especially Black and Brown people.”

“What could we create? What would people wish for? What experiences could be different or changed?”

— Heather Martin, Youth Arts Alliance

In addition to My Brother’s Keeper, RE:CLAIM was hosted by Youth Arts Alliance, the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice (ICPJ), the Amplify Project, and Title Track.

On opening night, about 700 people, including judges and court staff, filled the hallways, engaging with work by local visual and performance artists and participating in critical dialogue.

“The only word to describe it is exhilarating,” said rapper Isaac Mack, a student at Ann Arbor’s Skyline High School. “With the right group around you … spaces that you think you will never be able to occupy, people that you think you wouldn’t shake hands with, all that is possible.”