The Justice Collaboratory at Yale Law School Hosts The Notebook Art Exhibit in Dwight Hall

This year, the Justice Collaboratory (JC) at Yale Law School published the inaugural edition of The Notebook, its multidisciplinary, creative approach to the traditional academic journal. Artwork from the journal is currently on display in Dwight Hall’s Lovett Common Room, as well as Dixwell Community House and Gateway Community College in New Haven.

The JC was founded by Tom Tyler and Tracy Meares–two professors at Yale Law School–almost ten years ago. According to current Executive Director Caroline Nobo, the Collaboratory was developed with two goals in mind: serving as a social science research center and a gathering place for academics across the country who are passionate about changing the criminal legal system. (The JC intentionally uses the term “criminal legal system” rather than “criminal justice system” as part of a commitment to intentional language.) 

“We’re a diverse and interdisciplinary group,” Caroline explained. “We are experts in areas like law but also history, medicine, philosophy, management, and psychology. We have all these different perspectives looking at nearly every aspect and impact of the criminal legal system on people’s lives. The goal is for us to create a place for everyone to learn from each other to advance public policies that are scientifically proven to build strong, safe, and just communities where everyone can thrive.”

The inaugural edition of The Notebook embodies these values, serving as a diverse and interdisciplinary discussion on the criminal legal system. In creating The Notebook, Caroline and the team at the JC hoped to establish an accessible avenue to discussing a wide variety of issues related to the legal system. “It’s probably easier to start with what The Notebook is not,” Caroline reflected. “It is not a dry academic journal, written by researchers alone. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with that, but we really wanted to find an accessible way to share these ideas that are sometimes very complicated without requiring the reading of a long-form journal or law review piece or sitting through a lecture. We wanted to create something that lived in this space between a typical academic journal and a popular magazine.”

Caroline went on to explain how this commitment to accessible information was further rooted in the core values of the JC. “You’ve probably heard the term “ivory tower,” which has to do with the idea [of] the academic elite that can sometimes be stuck in their patterns of sharing,” she said. “At the Collaboratory, while we value rigor and scholarship and science, we also value collaboration and community-building, and so we wanted to widen our audience beyond the Yale bubble.”

The Notebook combines 18 original written pieces alongside art created by Chidinma Dureke. The artwork centers around the theme of community vitality, or the combination of health, safety, fulfillment, and economic vitality that empowers both communities and individuals. The articles range from personal meditations on work as a community researcher and empirical poetry to pieces about cash bail and hiring practices at Yale. 

The accompanying art by Chidinma may be viewed in The Notebook, which can be accessed online here or in a temporary exhibit in Dwight Hall’s Lovett Common Room, which showcases prints of the original artwork. Inspired by Chidinma’s pieces, Dwight Hall student organizers are also hosting a gallery opening on Friday, March 1st from 3-5 pm that will include refreshments and conversation prompts. Dixwell Community House and Gateway Community College are simultaneously hosting exhibits. 

One aspect of the project that stood out to Caroline was the writers’ willingness to buy into and support the mission of The Notebook. “These [contributors] are some very heavy-hitting, hard-core faculty and scholars who could be published in the best journals in the world,” Caroline emphasized. “And they chose to share their work in this medium. I think that was bold, and it is the first step in sharing information with a wider audience, which is going to create momentum for social change. I was really affected by their intention, their candor, and their curiosity to share in new ways.”

Looking forward, Caroline hopes that the JC’s future work will continue to embody its current theme of community vitality. As a part of this commitment, the JC is having critical conversations about what community safety means—not just the absence of crime and violence, as vitality is traditionally conceived, but also the presence of good, holistic understandings that move away from traditional carceral logics. Though this mission—which in many ways is the dismantling of a centuries-old carceral system—is ambitious, the JC nevertheless remains committed to meaningful and progressive change.

The JC and its partnership with Dwight Hall is a part of the Advance pillar of the Hall’s Engage, Grow, Advance program philosophy. Advance programs implement innovative solutions to advance justice in New Haven and beyond, helping pave the way to a more equitable world. 

By hosting the exhibit and accompanying gallery opening in Dwight Hall’s Lovett Common Room, the Hall is also continuing to grow the space as a home base for the intentional practice of equitable community engagement on Yale’s campus. Gatherings hosted in the Common Room invite students to consider the context of their service and justice work; welcome leaders from the extended New Haven community to access campus resources; convene those who wish to learn from experts, practitioners, and each other; and preserve and perpetuate the collective wisdom and lived experience of our communities.  

Students, alumni, staff, and community members are invited to visit Dwight Hall at 67 High Street to view the exhibit anytime before March 15th. 

About the Author