#ArtTransforms March 4, 2020

Art makes me bolder, braver and happier

By Ashley T.

Ashley T. is an multidisciplinary artist working in the mediums of event coordination (or what she calls “installation art” ), dance and visual arts. She is also a resident artist at SKETCH’s Indie Studio Residency for the Winter Season. You can follow her on Instagram at @blackdiamondeventsto and to see or purchase her work, visit her site  Bi Fusion Arts.


I work professionally in event design and management, which consists of anything from planning an entire event from scratch to running the show the day-of and wrangling people.  As event management involves a great deal of organization and logistics, it is regarded as being a real profession.

As a child I always aspired to be a professional artist, but was widely discouraged because it was not considered to be a real profession.  My brother was my only real support system for my art. He bought me my first easel and paint set and encouraged my artistry. As a result of the discouragement from others, I pursued more academic endeavours. However, my brother helped keep my love for the arts alive and I continued to pursue it, but in a more hobby-inclined manner.


The residue of the discouragement resulted in me not being able to accept the term “artist” as one I could identify myself as.  I had truly removed myself from that realm of thinking, until I realized that when I create and produce events, that I am still creating art.  My events are three-dimensional, atmospheric pieces of art that cater to all of the senses, thus I refer to my events as my “installation art”.  The fact that I could see my events as “professional art” re-inspired me as an artist and helped me fall back in love with all forms of art, especially acrylic painting.

I call my art collection Bi Fusion Arts because it speaks to my many identities the same way my art does.  I am Biracial, Bisexual and have Bipolar Disorder Type II. I am also the middle child of three children, so “Bi-ness” has always been a very big part of my life in the sense that I am constantly told that I am either not enough or am too much.  My paintings, although abstract, still very much tell a story. Each one is essentially a snapshot of my narrative. They speak about me being Black and Biracial, about my bisexuality, about being Bipolar and my mental health, about my feminism, and many other things that make me who I am.  Although the themes are consistent, each piece is completely different.

Haute Couture

I have been thinking more and more about what success actually means to me because growing up, I was influenced by the idea that money and fame signified success.  I have been re-evaluating my sense of success. To me, success is permanence. I have survived many discouragements, traumas, rejections, and attempted erasure of my identities.  The fact that I have been able to survive and continue to translate that pain, fight, and resilience into my art is success. Defying erasure and claiming permanence IS success.

I wish I found out about SKETCH a long time ago because I am aging out soon. It has been a part of my journey in reconnecting with my visual art and my resilience.  This past year has been all about reconnecting with my visual art and allowing myself to expand on being an artist.

Art has really changed my life, it has made me a hell of a lot happier. It has made me bolder, braver, and happier.

"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