Artist finds 'safe place,' outlet for expression at Star House

Peek into the art room at Star House and no matter which wall you're looking at or which direction you're facing, you're probably looking at work by Clarke Billard.

Since she aged out of foster care, Billard has called numerous places home, but none of them for very long. About a year ago, upon returning to Columbus, Billard found herself frequenting a familiar haunt.

“The Star House, for me, has always been a safe place,” Billard said, referring to the drop-in center, which serves Columbus youths experiencing homelessness. “I've had my world fall apart and then come back together at Star House.”

A self-taught artist, Billard has often lacked both resources and space to practice her passion.

“At first, [Star House] was just a place I went to get some pizza rolls,” she said. “But when they told me they had an art room, the first thing I asked them was, ‘Can I keep my art there?'”

Nicknamed “Color Guru” by Star House artists and volunteers (Ohio State University student volunteer group The Visible Invisible staffs the center's art room), Billard said, “The colors come from my subconscious. Each color is a symbol for something.”

“Identity,” an exhibition of work made by Billard and others in the art room at Star House, is on view through Aug. 10 at the Martin de Porres Center.