Youth-Centered Art Commissioned for the CFJC

Mural design for the King County Children and Family Justice Center by Jesse Brown, 2019.

Throughout the process of managing public art funds for the new Children and Family Justice Center, we’ve focused on supporting youth impacted by the facility and the juvenile justice system. Now, as we get closer to the building’s opening later this year, we’re sharing the ways in which the artists commissioned for work at the CFJC are doing the same.

Five artists were selected to create murals for the detention areas at the facility: Jesse Brown, Sophia Dawson, Blaine Fontana, Haruka Ostley, and Brian Sanchez. They spent the spring and summer developing their designs—each of their creative processes are unique and involved youth in meaningful ways.

Ostley says, “The youth inspired me greatly, so I made sure to give them my all for this collaborative project. What textures are there to bring warmth into the space? What materials can I share that can be special for them? How can I show that they are valued and cared for?” Ostley drew on the strength and unity symbolized by Japanese koi fish in her mural. Each individual fish was designed by a young person in detention—in the mural, they move forward on a journey together.

Dawson also asked the youth questions to form the basis of her mural, located in the visitation room: “We talked about the concept of a ‘visit’, and if we were to sit across the table from someone that we loved what would we do? Where would we be? We all agreed that the mural design should cause visitors to feel that they were in an entirely different environment.”

For Brown, who spent time in the old juvenile detention center during his own youth, “…this was a project that felt important to be involved with.” He led workshops with youth in detention, combining their original writing through the PONGO Teen Writing program with song lyrics and literature to create text-based mural designs.

Alder Street Entrance
Artist Horatio Law will create artwork for the entrance to the campus’ transitional housing on Alder Street, providing access for social service providers and their clients. Law is a Portland-based installation and public artist who focuses on making creative projects with diverse communities—he frequently engages stakeholders in planning and production of the artwork. His projects explore issues of identity, memory, history, and the meaning of community in a global culture.

Portable Works
91 artworks by 40 artists have been purchased for the CFJC’s juvenile court building. These paintings, sculptures, photographs, and works on paper form a special collection that will be displayed in all public access areas, including lobbies, courtrooms, and social service offices. A panel of court-involved and formerly court-involved youth, artists, arts professionals, community stakeholders, and court staff reviewed the applications submitted for this opportunity and selected works that represent a diversity of perspectives. Many of the artists are from the Northwest, while others live and work elsewhere in the United States.

Detail of mural design for the King County Children and Family Justice Center by Haruka Ostley, 2019.

4Culture believes deeply in juvenile justice reform that results in zero youth detention, and that artists can lead the way in enacting this change. Beyond creating art objects, they are culture-bearers, storytellers, and community-builders. Every single artist involved in this project has demonstrated their commitment to change and to uplifting youth. For more information on how we’ve managed public art funds for the CFJC, click here.

The communities of King County have asked challenging questions and advocated tirelessly for zero youth detention. We welcome all questions, comments, and ideas related to art at the CFJC. If you are interested in working with youth in detention, you are invited to contact Karen Kinch, Volunteer Coordinator.