DJC Announces Recipient of Inaugural Abolitionist Artist Residency

This July, the Detroit Justice Center (DJC) put out an open call for artist proposals that grappled with the question “What does a world without police and incarceration look like?”.  Artists were invited to consider questions like “What would it feel like to exist in a world without the police and incarceration, without jails, prisons, and detention centers? What would be the textures and sensations of that world? What patterns of interactions and relationships would transform for the communities that would be born as we realize these demands of structural change?”. Applications were open to artists living in Wayne County, MI and the selected finalist will be awarded $10,000. Funding for this residency was provided by a donation from Red Bull Arts Detroit to DJC.

After reviewing dozens of incredible applications, our selection committee (details below) chose Lauren Williams as our initial artist in residence. Currently a visiting instructor at the College for Creative Studies, Lauren is a designer, organizer and educator who works with visual and interactive media to understand, critique, and reimagine the ways social and economic systems distribute and exercise power. She serves on the editorial board of Riverwise Magazine and is an organizer with Frontline Detroit. Lauren’s project proposal “Artifacts for/from a Liberated Detroit” captivated our selection committee with its innovative and sensorial take on what a world without policing and incarceration might. It instilled a sense of wonder and sparked our own freedom dreams by asking questions like “If we were to look back at this world from a point in the future through the lens of this installation, what evidence of abolition would we find?” Williams’ proposal asked us to consider what ambient sounds would fill our neighborhoods if there weren’t sirens, or what would replace “We accept EBT” signs if every person had a guaranteed income in order to thrive. 

In her own words, Williams writes “Futures-whether broken and dystopian or idyllic and utopian-help us imagine new worlds and reflect and understand our own world in new light. The goal of this project, then, is to reinforce the possibility of another reality: to contribute to these networked alternatives, build on them, support them, and flesh them out in new directions with tangible artifacts that convey possibilities, fears, hopes, and consequences.” 

The Detroit Justice Center is thrilled to be working with Williams to execute this project and bring it to the public in the upcoming year. 

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About The Artist

Lauren Williams (she/her) is a designer, organizer, researcher, and educator. She works with visual and interactive media to understand, critique, and reimagine the ways social and economic systems distribute and exercise power. 

She teaches full-time in the Communication Design department at the College for Creative Studies and occasionally elsewhere. Lately, her practice and research revolves around Blackness, identity, bodiliness, and social fictions and examines the ways in which racism is felt, embodied, and embedded into institutions. Her work often engages people through collaborations and facilitated experiences in service of imagining and manifesting a more liberated present and future. In the past, she’s managed programs and policy aimed at cultivating economic justice. Going forward, she’s most interested in finding ways to align her capacities with revolutionary movements that build toward a different economy entirely and usher in new dimensions of power and freedom altogether.

Her work can be found at 

Lauren received her MFA in Media Design Practices from ArtCenter College of Design and holds a BA in Economics / Global Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  

Selection Committee

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Amanda Alexander is the founding Executive Director of the Detroit Justice Center, a movement lawyering organization that works alongside communities to create economic opportunities, transform the justice system, and promote equitable and just cities. Amanda is a Senior Research Scholar at the University of Michigan Law School and serves on the board of the Center for Constitutional Rights and the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership. Her writing has appeared in The Globe & Mail, Detroit Free Press, Michigan Journal of Race & Law, Harvard Journal of African-American Public Policy, and other publications. Follow her on twitter: @A_S_Alexander.


Cézanne Charles has more than 20 years of executive and senior management experience in nonprofit and for-profit creative industries in the United States and the United Kingdom. With John Marshall, she is the co-founder and director of rootoftwo, a research- and practice-driven hybrid design studio that engages in civic future-making, using design methods to facilitate people to imagine and shape collective actions for more just, resilient, inclusive, and adaptive futures.From 2008-2019, Cézanne served as director of creative industries at Creative Many, where she led the design and implementation of the company’s creative industries research. Here, Cézanne also designed and directed programs that provided the knowledge, funding, networks, and advocacy needed to help empower the practices of Michigan artists, designers, and makers, with a core focus on Detroit.Cézanne serves on the Stewardship Board for Design Core Detroit’s UNESCO City of Design initiative, the Allied Media Projects Board of Directors, the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, the Americans for the Arts Creative Economy Advisory, and the Zoning Advisory Group of the Detroit Planning Commission. Pronouns: she/her/hers Twitter + Instagram @rootoftwo

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Casey Rocheteau is the Communications Manager at DJC. Casey is an author and artist originally from Cape Cod, MA. They moved to Detroit in 2014 as the inaugural winner of the Write A House residency. Formerly a writer in residence at InsideOut Detroit, Casey has taught writing in DPS classrooms across Detroit. They have an MA in Historical Studies from The New School where they wrote their thesis on the two Black Panther Parties in New York City. They are the creator of the Shrine of the Black Medusa Tarot and author of The Dozen (Sibling Rivalry Press 2016). Follow them on Twitter & Instagram: @CaseyRocheteau

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Cozine A. Welch, Jr. is a formerly incarcerated poet and educator. His work has been featured in The Michigan Quarterly Review, Plough Quarterly, the Periphery and 11 consecutive volumes of the Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing where he also served as Managing Editor. Currently co-teaching both the Atonement Project and the Theatre & Incarceration courses at the University of Michigan, classes that focus on restorative justice, reconciliation, atonement, and the role the arts play in healing and rehabilitation, Cozine also serves as the new Executive Director of the Washtenaw County nonprofit A Brighter Way which focuses on providing mentorship and wraparound services to those returning home from incarceration.