Since 2020, the Detroit Justice Center (DJC) has hosted a unique artist residency program where an artist is invited to create work that imagines a world without incarceration or policing. Applicants must be from Wayne County, MI and the winning applicant receives $10,000. DJC provides support around the artist’s project, connecting them with community members and staff as a resource for their planning. This residency seeks to uplift the work of artists who imagine an abolitionist future and invite the public to dream alongside them.
DJC is happy to announce that the recipient of our 2022-2023 Artist Residency is Saylem Celeste. As a Detroiter and lifelong resident of Wayne County, Saylem wowed our selection panel with their proposed project “Visions, Realities, and Speculative ‘Now-isms’”. The proposal envisions abolition in a way that is rooted in meeting the needs of individuals and communities through access to food, housing, and water. In Saylem’s own words “by amplifying the ways in which we are already accessing Abolitionist/Black Feminist futures, we can collectively illuminate more pathways into a non-carceral future. I fundamentally believe that the world that we live in already has critical windows into a world without carceral systems of power and exploitation.” Through this lens, the radical care of the present moment is the seed of a world without policing and incarceration.
Our selection panel comprised of DJC’s Glennisha Morgan and Casey Rocheteau (Communications Manager and Communications Director), our 2020-2021 artist in residence Lauren Williams, and filmmaker/writer/activist Asia Johnson. Our judges were impressed by the overall scope of the project and its intended impact on local communities. Saylem showed great interest in working with local organizations to create outdoor event spaces and gather people to reflect, share and commune. When considering the human need for shelter, for instance, participants may be invited into a sculpture garden where they will be invited to rest or perhaps do a shared journaling exercise. This praxis of community building through art and shared space spoke to the judges of building a world without the fear associated with policing or incarceration.
Saylem will serve as DJC’s artist in residence until July 2023. When asked what this opportunity means for them and their work, Saylem wrote: “I feel so very honored to be trusted with the task of bringing my project proposal to life in collaboration with the Detroit Justice Center. I am so excited to synthesize new, accessible containers within the city and to share these containers and explorations with the local community in a way I haven’t seen implemented here (up until this point.) I hope to be able to experiment and push the bounds of what abolition can fuel in our communities in regards to care, revolution, and imagination during my residence.”
We look forward to working with Saylem over the next year and bringing you updates on their process and work. To see Saylem’s previous work, follow them @sabetyeee on Instagram or check out their website: https://saylemceleste.com.