Miscellaneous November 13, 2018

Art is a Healer

By Jonsaba Jabbi

Jason Jamaal is a visual artist, facilitator and a Community Artist at SKETCH. He tells us why art has made an impact in his life and how he plans to use art as a future city planner.

Jason in his element working on a new piece

I didn’t really do much art before SKETCH to be honest. I was just doing music, singing and songwriting.

I started coming to SKETCH in 2013 on and off but it became more consistent by 2016. It was hard coming here because of the distance since I lived in Jane and Finch at the time.

I feel like just coming downtown SKETCH was just more of a fresh start for me. I was able to be myself and not have to adapt or put on a mask or guise to be able to do art.

At first, I was in the studio with Michael because I was still in the realm of music and getting my foot into art. But then I started to take visual arts workshops as a way to keep my hands busy due to depression. But from that depression, I developed anxiety so I used art as a band aid to help heal me.

Jason performing at the Element of He Showcase during SKETCH Open Studio Event in March

But it actually started working so now art is more of a cloak I use to get through.

This past summer, I was able to curate and host my first art show called Anxiety Matrix. The art was done from the beginning of the summer to the end of summer which is part of a series I’m doing called Seasons. So it was a collection of my paintings and illustrations that I made during that time. The paintings were acrylic poured onto the canvas and then swirled on the canvas to make a cool design.

The show was really intimate, I had fun. I was really happy to see all my friends and family come out and support. I even sold most of the art!

My goals right now is to get my finances in check and clear up some debt so that I can go back to school. I want to study Urban Planning. I feel that Toronto is a really great city but there are so many things we can do better to include more people. We like to use multiculturalism as a brand but our city is still really segregated in terms of race and class. But the thing that divides us the most is transit. Some areas in Toronto have more access to transit than they should have.

There are so many people like me in the city. Toronto needs to do better for the people who use transit the most because they’ll get their return back. I got a grant from CUE and I used it to address the problem with transit in Toronto. It was a fantasy map of the subway of what it should look like if class, race and socio-economic opportunities were all disqualified. So there was a subway on Finch, a subway or RT in Pickering. So for example, some areas got a RT line as a opposed to a subway because the density doesn’t match up to the rapid transit.

Jason’s piece Fantasy Map

A lot of people thought it was a really cool map. It just takes away the whole “you must have money if you live near the subway” stigma which is not always the case. There are a lot of co-ops and Toronto Community Housing buildings and complexes that are next to subways. They are slowly being erased…gentrification is one of those things that are erasing people of colour off the maps, displacing them and scattering them all around.

Art has been a healer. It’s therapeutic and it has made a big difference in my life. Before, I wasn’t really able to connect with people on a level like how I connected with people back when I did music, now I feel the same way with my art. Like when I connect with other artists, I feel really included especially if they vibe with me and we like each other’s art.

Art has been impactful, I don’t see myself ever stopping. If I can include art in there as a city planner, that would be sick!

"You really want that utopian ideal of what our world could be? You want to be proudly and ACTIVELY anti-racist, more than fearing being called a racist? I want that for you too. If so, then do the work, educate yourself and others stand by us loudly, consistently, FOREVER." - Clara Amfo, BBC 1 Radio Host

Dear SKETCH Community,

The last two weeks have been yet another reminder that the Black community continues to be under attack by white supremacist systems. SKETCH's board of directors and staff sends their deepest sympathies to the families and friends of those who we have most recently lost including Regis Korchinski-Paquet, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and D’Andre Campbell, and all those whose deaths have not been televised.

In our grief and anger at these senseless murders committed by the police, SKETCH is ensuring that we stay accountable to our Black youth artists, staff and the Black community at large, by taking swift action to ensure that folks are supported, uplifted, taken care of and their voices amplified, as they continue to organize and march on the front lines for justice.

As an organization that is led by mainly white leadership, we are deeply committed to examining and activating our role as an accomplice to address violence, racism, oppression, and discrimination in our sector, in Toronto and in society generally.

This Means:
  • We will continue to look within and address our own biases and the ways that systemic and structural racism plays itself out in SKETCH;
  • We will increase investment and resources to young Black Artists;
  • We will endorse Black leadership in SKETCH and in arts and culture;
  • We will support self-care and resources for our Black staff; and
  • Our leadership will connect with other white leaders of arts and culture organizations to support Black leadership in the sector with resourced opportunities to lead in meaningful ways.

We want to acknowledge the trauma and grief of those who create with and work at SKETCH, who are Black. We know you endure violence on a daily basis. We want to reach out to support you, stand and work together with you, to fight for justice, for your health, and for your futures.

We seek to learn daily, with you, how to enact a more just present and future. Thank you for your leadership. Thank you for calling us to be better. All of our liberations depend on it.

We join the movements for prison abolition, and for strong redirection of funding for policing to go toward community-based transformative justice efforts.

We call on the Arts Councils to create a Black Artists Fund to support Black Artists and Black Arts and Culture Organizations, recognizing and investing in their leadership in arts and culture, and in building fair and inclusive communities.

We encourage the non-Black community members of SKETCH to stand with us and take action by:
  • Educating yourself on the issues;
  • Supporting your Black staff with personal time for self-care;
  • Supporting the community by buying from Black-owned business (which include Black artists at SKETCH);
  • Donating to organizations that are directly supporting Black folks;
  • Reposting and resharing information on your social media feeds;
  • Having constant conversations with your peers, families, and friends; and
  • Signing petitions that call for justice.

With so many ways to actively support the dismantling of systems that continue to oppress the Black community, silence is not an option.

We welcome you all to join SKETCH in allying yourselves with the Black community in the fight for liberation for all, not as a token event, but one that actually leads to a re-education, re-evaluation, and unbiased and selfless action.

In solidarity,

SKETCH Working Arts

Artwork: Egwu Ogwu Mystic Dance by Kanna Anigbogu

Dear Friends and Investors,

Greetings from the SKETCH Project Home Team! We hope that you and your family are keeping well and safe during this time.

UPDATE: SKETCH is placing the capital campaign to purchase our studios on brief hiatus until the fall.

Our campaign has been a great success so far, with over $370,000 raised in funds and Community Bonds! However, in face of the COVID-19 pandemic, SKETCH is taking action to suspend the campaign to allow the time needed for those excited about our campaign to be in a more secure position to participate.

If you have already donated to the campaign, or purchased SKETCH Community Bonds, we deeply appreciate your commitment to Project Home. If you've just recently submitted your bond-purchase documents, we will still process your investment.

Have any questions about your donations or bond purchase? Please do not hesitate to contact SKETCH Executive Director, Rudy Ruttimann at rudy@sketch.ca.

This summer, we'll be working with our campaign partners and SKETCH community to determine exactly when we relaunch in the Fall. We'll be sure to keep you posted over the summer.

You can still inquire about SKETCH, our capital campaign, and its progress at invest@sketch.ca or by following us at @SKETCHToronto.

Thank you for your time, and we wish all the best for you and your family.

-The SKETCH Team & Campaign Advisory