#ArtTransforms July 14, 2020

Art gives me options

By Jonsaba Jabbi

Alia Ettienne is a performer, writer and facilitator who was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario. An advocate for mental health, specifically for Black people, her work often deals with themes of mental health and racism in society. Currently, she’s running her workshop series, Chill N Do Art, a weekly arts wellness space for Black and Indigenous women. as well as on her second show Xiety Complex. To sign up, email jess@sketch.ca.

View more of her work at www.aliaettienne.com and follow her on Instagram @its_aliaj.

I am a theatre performer and an all-around creative, that’s how I like to put it. I also do really cool costume stuff, the things I can do with a glue gun, you know?!

When I came to Indie Studio,  I was going through a very…interesting mental health time. Last year, I was dealing with a bit of social anxiety and so I wanted something or somewhere to go where I would be consistently be around creatives and that would consistently get me out of the house.

Alia performing at our 2019 Rad Grad celebration

My creative process starts at an odd time of day, before sunrise and after everyone has gone to bed. I’m usually just listening to music, loud in my headphones and a story comes up, an image comes up, a costume idea comes up, then I will start writing with it…sometimes I work with it for a month, sometimes I work with it for two days but I just run with it. But once I start running with it, it starts morphing into more details.

I always like to start with music always cause I’m a mover  and I write on my feet so whenever I’ve written a piece, I’ve written that piece after pacing for 15 minutes, thinking about it and how it flows.

Because I like multiple forms of creation, sometimes it’s just whatever form fits that day. So I maybe inspired in a certain way but I’m not always going to write it or dance or draw it.

A piece of art that I’m proud of would be writing my first full-length show, Yellowzoned, which made was part of the Toronto Fringe Festival. It was such an accomplishment, I felt like I was re-introducing myself to the world or something.  The piece came out of a really dark time  and to finally be able to perform my own work and have my own stage and have control in that way was a proud moment for me.

Alia performing a movement piece at Rad Grad in 2018

Right now, I’m inspired by texture and motion. Texture in terms of costume element because I also create costumes for the pieces that I do. I want to create the full extent of that emotion and have that model sit in it and imagine how do I get there?

If something’s rough, how does it make you feel, if something’s soft how does it make you feel. If the texture of a sheet is very ruffled versus smooth, how does it make you feel? What thoughts does that bring up for you? How can I provoke emotion? I’m thinking of all of those little things.

Motion works as an inspiration because motion shows emotion and so when I’m dancing, sometimes I’ve written the piece and then I have a beat and then I’m going into to motion. If I’m showing, for example anxiety, am I going to be quicker?  Am I going to move slower?  Am I going to move sharper? It’s all motion for me.

Art has given me more options that wouldn’t have existed if I didn’t do art.

Flyer for Alia’s Chill N Do Art workshop series for Black and Indigenous women

It’s all art. Everything is optional.

"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