Arts & Music Projects in Community Centres
By Ruth Howard
There are various types of community-oriented social service agencies that may offer arts programs: community centres, recreation centres, community health centres, neighbourhood houses, boys and girls clubs, culturally or population-specific agencies. Whether you have been asked by one of these to design or facilitate a new or existing program, or you have approached them yourself with a proposal, you will be entering into the realm of ‘community arts’.
The two central and intertwined elements will be Relationships and Art. Remember that you’re there as an artist, and need to take the skills and vision you bring and the nature and quality of your artmaking as seriously as ever. In this context it will be an art growing from relationship with these specific people. Although you will be called upon to exercise social skills beyond what you may be used to purely as an artist, also remember that you’re not a social worker, and that you can rely on your host/partner organization for support for social challenges.
Here are some questions to help you think through your project:
- What is my central artistic idea?
- What is the Partner’s ideal/goal? Do these fit together?
- What excites me about the project?
- What skills and experience do I bring?
- What will be new (how will I navigate it)?
- What resources, supplies and equipment will I need?
- Will I have artist collaborators/assistants, and, if so, who?
- What’s the time-frame and schedule? Do I need to adapt my concept to suit it?
- Is there a required/desired product/outcome?
- What is the organization’s guiding vision and mandate?
- What kind or arts and other activities do they already offer?
- What is their staff structure, and where does my contact fit into it?
- What roles will their staff play?
- Who lives nearby and who accesses their activities and services?
- Which program spaces are available and do they suit my needs?
- What other relevant resources are handy (storage, water, outlets, lighting, tables, technical equipment, sound separation)?
- What’s nearby (transit, parking, housing, other agencies, stores, parks)?
- With whom am I going to work?
- Do I have a say, or is it an existing or already-defined group?
- Do I need to/can I do any outreach and publicity?
- Will it be a structured or drop-in format?
- How many people will take part; are there limits?
- What sort of facilitation approach will I use/adapt?
- Are this group’s social identities familiar or new to me?
- Can I meet them before I start?
- Are there any access needs (languages, disabilities, poverty)?
- What else would be helpful to know, and how can I find out?
You will also want to consider questions of:
- Safety (physical and emotional)
- Equity (you can ask for your partner’s policies)
- Conflict (alleviating or navigating through it)
- Evaluation (plan and follow-through)
- Documentation (including permission and restrictions)
- Legacy (what’s left behind or happens next?)
- Budget and resources (what do you have/need? If there’s a gap, how will you adjust – e.g. prune down your idea or find more support?)
Jumblies On-Line Resources, Artfare Companion & Workshops
Framing Community: A Community Engaged Art Workbook
produced by the Ontario Arts Council, written by Maggie Hutcheson
MABELLEarts Placing Parks Toolkit: