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?

Other Aspects:

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?)

Further Resources:

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: