The door is opened with a smile, and a little dog to greet you at your feet. When inside, it appears to be a normal house with artwork by children posted on the walls. But this is more than just artwork, and more than just a house as it is a relaxing and enjoyable environment for a slowly growing number of children. This is a passion of Michaelanne Harriman’s, the Community Arts Director at Orange Korner Arts, part of the Ayuda Community Center.
Harriman has been the director of Orange Korner Arts, or the O.K.A. House as the children call it, ever since it opened several years ago. With a background in theater and painting sets for various theater companies, she is passionate about these opportunities presented to the children. It is easy to see how much the children enjoy coming to the O.K.A. House as they drop in every now and then just to say hello to Harriman and see how she is doing. Even with no activities going on, they will come just to hangout and relax with Harriman and her 10-year-old dog Chutney. It is a quite relaxing and cozy place as Harriman enjoys some mac & cheese. “That’s what happens when teenagers hang out,” Harriman said. “You settle in.” If it was not for her passion, along with the passion of the children, the O.K.A. House would not be what it is today.
The number of children who come to the O.K.A. house is always growing, as many of children bring along their friends and tell others to join. Each day there are about 10-20 children who stop in, while another 35-40 are enrolled in the program. These children are so good and confident, they have entered a competition to design a logo for a local cleaning company, Mother and Daughters Cleaning Service. It would be a great accomplishment for these children, who are already proud of what they do.
With the success of the O.K.A. House in Hunting Park, several other neighborhoods have generated interest in establishing their own O.K.A. House. Harriman never expected to see the program grow as it has and for the children to have as much interest as they do, but she loves what she does. She is excited to see where this continuous growth will go.
For more information on the O.K.A. House, please visit https://www.ayudacc.org/programs/community-arts/.