OAK, the Online Arts DocK, a private web-space where teenagers living with health conditions can interact, share stories, artwork, films and music, and develop online arts projects in a safe and secure environment, was launched by Helium, the arts and health organisation for children and young people, in the autumn. OAK has been developed by Helium in collaboration with web developer and artist Clare Kelly.
The name OAK was inspired by a young creative writer with Cystic Fibrosis who came up with the title ‘Iridescent Oak’ because ‘we’ve come from one seed but go on to become individuals with different personalities – like a branch with leaves. I felt that this was what the site wanted to achieve – a place where we can show off our “leaves”!’
Members of OAK can start their own blogs; share creative writing and music on the files page; create galleries for their artwork and photos; and post topics and chat to fellow OAKers on the forum. Only members of OAK can view content on the website or chat on the forum and the site is moderated by Helium to ensure that the space is enjoyed by those it is intended for.
The first interactive arts project on OAK took place during the mid-term break as part of Helium’s Two Suitcases Project, which supports the creativity of teenagers living with chronic illnesses through the development of filmmaking skills. A young online participant connected with on-site participants to develop a short film and animation and to learn skills for future web-based projects. The online participant contributed script and character ideas and took part in the film as a virtual actor via Skype. OAK was used by on-site participants during the film week as a virtual journal, with photos, video blogs and forum posts documenting the film’s progress.
OAK and the Two Suitcases Project have been funded by the Arts Council’s Young Ensembles Scheme.