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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!