The OCP Blog

An Artful Community

Our staff are always asking ourselves whether the programming we facilitate in the building is making a positive impact on the folks we welcome every day. We’ve tried a lot of activities. Some have taken off, and some have been duds. We want to help people meet basic needs like food, housing, and employment, and these are crucial, but we’ve found that it is difficult or impossible for a person to make progress on these things when a person’s life experiences have taught them that they are worthless, disposable, and subject to exploitation and abuse at any moment. Part of our mission is to nurture and reveal the basic human dignity and worth of each of our community members, and this means nurturing their fecundity, or their desire to create and give gifts to the world.

It is easy to define the poor by their neediness, and poverty as a problem to be solved through statistically measured inputs and outcomes. But it is hard to measure the calmness that comes from an hour of painting, or from feeling the cool softness of clay as one shapes it into a cup or a bowl. It is hard to measure the pride that comes from crafting the perfect hot sauce, from a beautifully arranged and garnished plate or salad, and from witnessing the appreciation of a customer enjoying the gourmet meal you prepared. And it is hard to measure the release that comes from drumming with other community members and forgetting your troubles, even for a few minutes.

“Arting” can take on many forms, and our community members have been expressing themselves in the kitchen through cooking, baking, and serving food. They have given beauty to the community through painting, sculpture, theater, creative writing, and through our weekly drum circle. And our monthly karaoke nights are a lighthearted way to make our voices heard through song.

The work of OCP is in itself more art than science. Every day we must improvise to be responsive to the needs and states of mind of our community members, which can change from hour to hour and day to day. We make mistakes and learn from them, reshaping the clay or integrating a bad brush stroke into a new picture. We are always committed to making our programs more engaging, supportive, and welcome to all, and you too are invited to come take part.

Eric Olson-Getty

Interim Executive Director