#ArtTransforms July 18, 2019

Jess De Vitt talks Drake Egg Mural and collaboration in art

By Jonsaba Jabbi

In June, SKETCH and Drake Hotel Properties partnered to commission an artist from the SKETCH community to paint the Drake Egg located across the street from the Drake Hotel and beside the Drake General Store at the intersection of Queen West and Beaconsfield Streets. Through a competitive open call and two rounds of jurying, Jess De Vitt’s design was awarded the commission. Jess completed the mural in six days while engaging with excited passersby in the busy Queen West neighbourhood. This mural will be on display for an entire year with the plan to make this an annual competition and commission. We spoke to Jess about her artistic practice, her experience painting the mural and why art is an ongoing transformation for her.

No Nos Toquen (Don’t Touch Us) by Jess De Vitt

My art practice consists of being the Visual Arts Facilitator at SKETCH and working in art and collaboration within the community at SKETCH. On the other hand, I work around the themes of gender-based violence. I use art as a platform to talk about the issues based on where I’m from in Mexico and I try to reflect on the impact that colonization has and its relationship to gender-based violence here in Canada as well.

It was a surreal experience because I had never done a public mural before. But it was a fun process! I love creating on big scales like the Drake Egg Mural. I’m afraid of heights so doing the top of the mural was a challenge for me. I was also able to commission another artist from the SKETCH community, Ezequiel Morales, to help support the creation of the mural.

Jess with artist Ezequiel Morales working on No Nos Toquen

I want to do more murals. I was excited to see and hear how people responded to the piece, from my friends to people walking by the mural.

It’s pretty cathartic to do these pieces. It makes me think about how we can use art to relieve these anxieties related to the issues and problems happening around us. Art can also be a tool that challenges narratives and ways in which we are made to think about these issues as well.

Jess at work 

Along with being informed on how gender-based violence is perpetuated by heterronormative political systems and reading more and more news about this violence, much of the ideas in the mural are a result to the violence of the pro-life/pro-choice debate. This made me think about the impacts of not being able to have control over your own body, or the environment around us.

I tend to draw these stylized figures that are shaped by the frame they are being created in. For the mural, No Nos Toquen, which translates to Don’t Touch Us, the figures in the piece are being protected by nature. Around the piece, I added messages that speak more directly about this violence.

I heard about SKETCH through Naty Tremblay (Program Coordinator at SKETCH), who came to visit OCAD one day. I had moved to Canada only a couple of years before that, and was feeling very disconnected from artmaking and community. When I visited the space and saw what it was like, I started to look at different ways to do art and layer it with other disciplines through collaboration. Being able to facilitate Day of the Dead celebrations and other multi-disciplinary workshops in the space made me think about art differently.

I don’t believe art alone can solve the problems we have in the world but it is a reminder of how we need to be more connected to each other.

Art, for me, is an ongoing transformation.

Photos courtesy of Louisa Nicolaou and David Yu.

"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