Art Place

Observations and Lessons Learned at the Somerset West Community Health Centre Youth Drop-In

Karen Balcome and Lee, a volunteer at the Salvation Army - from one of the other Art Place projects

Blog post 6 – April 20, 2016 by Karen Balcome

Somerset West Community Health Centre

I love making lists – in life as in my creative process. I thought there could be no better way to gather all my various thoughts on the end of our youth Art Place project at Somerset West Community Health Centre than with a list. So –


  • To expect the unexpected
  • To meet people where they are at
  • To start with a conversation. To ask questions. To listen.
  • To take my space
  • To think on my feet
  • To share myself
  • To be flexible
  • To honour my commitments
  • To be patient
  • To stay confident
  • To laugh
  • That if there is going to be a snowstorm, it will happen on the night of our session
  • That attitude is a performance
  • That it is a gift to be witness to special moments in these youth’s lives
  • That these youth are funny, strong, smart and sensitive
  • That these youth care about this community of their peers
  • That there are stories everywhere
  • That performance happens all the time

I came into this process thinking I already had much of this knowledge in my back pocket. But I found I had to relearn these lessons in this context. I’m sure I will have to relearn them anew working with a different community. And I’m sure the youth at Somerset West will have to teach them anew in the next art process they participate in and in general as they continue to engage and develop as active members of their community. As I evolve as a community artist, I’ve come to understand that this engagement is at the core of the creative process. Together, the youth and staff at Somerset West and I co-created an experience and a relationship. It will be up to each of us to see where that experience can lead us next…

Artplace Showcase-5

Thanks for sharing / Merci d’avoir partagé!

About The Author / À propos de l’auteur

Karen Balcome

Karen Balcome

Karen is an Ottawa-based theatre creator, community artist and educator. She is co-creator of THUNK!theatre with Geoff McBride, and has worked with Gruppo Rubato, New Theatre of Ottawa, Salamander Theatre, Skeleton Key Theatre, STO Union and, most recently, dancer Kara Nolte. Karen has lead theatre workshops, courses and community projects for the Ottawa Children’s Theatre, the City of Ottawa’s Community Arts and Special Needs programs, and the Ottawa School of Speech & Drama’s Our Stories outreach program. Karen has trained with Calgary’s One Yellow Rabbit and London’s Oily Cart Theatre and holds a BA in Collective Creation and Playwriting from York University.

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