Optical Realities Indie Arts Initiative

An important part of the healing process is to restore a feeling of connectedness to society. ORIAI offers participants a powerful medium for sharing their stories. Through multimedia projects, including educational documentaries and video autobiographies, our program provides support to some of Philadelphia’s most vulnerable population, while confronting societal misconceptions about homelessness and foster care. With an increased understanding of the factors contributing to homelessness, as well as the exploits within the foster care system many participants are empowered to become community leaders and activists.


The ultimate goal is healing and empowering, but an important component is offering life skills as participants celebrate their uniqueness and similarities and unlock hidden talents while building self-esteem. Job skills training is integrated throughout the program in areas such as photography, videography and journalism as well as community coalition building and public engagement campaigns.


Photo opportunities and relationship building take place through weekly outings to venues such as museums, cultural and sporting events, community gardens and parks. While exploring the fundamentals of photography and developing life skills, students, volunteers and project participants collaboratively share the roles of learner and educator, supporting and mentoring one another. Each gain a better understanding of the dynamics of power, privilege and indifference as well as the factors that contribute to homelessness, such as poverty, trauma, mental illness, addiction, immigration, and broken or abusive family situations. This connectedness offer


With the escalating level of drugs and violence in our cities, schools and homes, many refer to their neighborhoods as “war zones”. Youth, in particular, are very vulnerable to the effects of neglect as well as verbal, psychological and sexual abuse. These and many other contributors lend the way to social and economic issues including the crippling effects of trauma/PTSD. The restorative focus of Indie Arts Initiative offers a pathway for the healing process to take root. Participants become empowered by the skills they are mastering and the friendships that develop. Pride and ownership in their art becomes transformative and healing on multiple levels. The program offers participants an opportunity to see the world through a totally new and unique lens.