#ArtTransforms April 1, 2021


By Rose Gutierrez & Phyllis Novak

Painting by Rowell Soller

Our love and vision of the power of the arts to heal, to bring together, and also to  disrupt and to offer alternatives, is at the heart of why we are here. That, in connection with what we believe happens when young people with lived experience of the margins lead through the power of the arts is what compels us to set a new tone. We believe young people can powerfully lead us into just and sustainable futures. We need to grow into a new powerful vision for artistic practice, production, and leadership to make social change. We need to be a partnership platform for young people to become artistic leaders and producers.

Through numerous art-full conversations with young creatives, considering the state of the world, the impacts of the pandemic, physical and social health, the climate crisis and this time of reckoning for the cumulative impacts of inequities and injustice to Indigenous, Black and POC communities… AND because this November is our 25th Birthday….SKETCH is making significant reVisions.

We are reintroducing ourselves as a partner and a creative development platform for:

The Next Generation of Young and Diverse

Arts and Culture Producers, Leaders and Managers

prioritizing increasing social impacts with QTBIPOC creatives,

ages 16-29, navigating precarity and marginalization.


How will we do this? We intend to….

AMPLIFY silenced, invisibilized or erased stories, perspectives, knowledge, visions and dreams.

SUPPORT and MENTOR art making that counters dominant narratives.

PLATFORM and HIGHLIGHT young artists and young person-led arts and culture initiatives leading to create and sustain communities of care and justice.

Brian Jiang. Colour Study

Radical Creativity . Radical Care . Radical Change

COVID-19 has restrictions on access to our creative hub and on our ability to gather. We’re committed to creative engagement in small groups and in well-paced work together that we’re learned can still happen even if the platform is mostly (but not exclusively) digital.

Here’s the plan:

Arts Production 

We will engage young artists in production residencies and mentorships to create original artistic works in multiple disciplines (music, visual art, writing, digital, performance, and mixed media) for exhibition, showcase and sales. Read about two recent amazing production residencies (Transformation is REEL and It’s All the Essentials). They set the stage for more exciting new artistic work to come that highlight the talent and critical expressions of diverse young artists.

Social Impacts: Artists produce powerful works of art, express their ideas and interpretations of the world, lead in community, arts and culture, and in activating change through their powerful engagement in arts practice and production. 

We’ve launched our new Online Gallery which will eventually connect with onsite exhibitions showcasing original works. You can still see the inaugural show Colour Palette. Stay tuned for the next showcase produced in collaboration with DesignTO.

We’ll host panels, podcasts and talks together with artists in which creatives will share with the world, artistic processes and practice, in public conversation and presentation.

The Year of Public Art

2021 marks an unprecedented opportunity for young people in The Year of Public Art, launching the City’s 10-year public art strategy. We will engage artists to create immersive and interactive place-making public art archiving critical stories and strategies for care and community, in partnership with ArtworxTO, The Bentway and others. Read and stay in touch Making with Place Public Art Projects here.

Social Impacts: Artists access opportunities and build connections that support them to further their goals (e.g. produce, showcase and exhibit their work; lead their initiative; work in arts and culture, and in community), generate resources/income and increase overall economic well-being. Artists are able to expand their reach to a broader audience and network through SKETCH and community partners.

Making with Place Research Project Production Experiments 2020. Banners at The Bentway.

Arts Leadership

We will engage young artistic leaders in mentorships, training and programming to support their multi-disciplinary community arts and arts education programs and projects with the launch of a new Community-Engaged Arts Incubator. Our Shared Mentorship Platform will continually be refined in collaboration with young person-led or young leader-focused initiatives and organizations.

We are launching new initiatives like NextUp! Leaders Lab to co-create with arts leaders and managers, identifying as racialized, effective co-learning spaces and practices to lead us into a more inclusive and radical arts and culture sector.

Social Impacts: Through mentorship and training, artists integrate creative skill-building, inquiry and expression as they develop an understanding of systems of oppression and explore how to address the effects in ways that reduce harm and center equity. Building creative community through this kind of learning that leads to strengthen social cohesion by reducing isolation, increasing understanding and compassion, increasing community networks and mutual aid, and bringing new people together. 

Artists develop knowledge, skills and connections to become outstanding and well-rounded leaders who build dynamic and inclusive spaces for people to come together, collaborate and participate in the arts. As they take on leadership roles, they can successfully deliver outcomes through their work in arts and culture, and in community. ( Note “Success” is not necessarily defined through capitalist, colonial frameworks – working to undo that!).

Collage featuring Shared Platform Groups: Lifted By Purpose, Artreach, CUE, Maamwizdaa, and Project Humanity, 2019

Arts Wellness

These days more than ever, young people need support and partnership to be well, to access support, to stay connected, and just keep going. These all go hand-in-hand with making art. We will share self-care resources and connections for youth through creative Resource Distribution of Food, Art Supplies, Harm Reduction Supports and Technological Supports. We will host arts activities in person and online to keep building communities of collective care.

Social Impacts we’re aiming for: Artists will be able to access resources and referrals, knowledge and tools that support their mental health and well being overall. These basic needs support artists to navigate mental health and wellness challenges as they progress towards their goals to produce, work and lead in arts and culture, and in community.

Increasing impacts with QTBIPOC young creatives

In this time, we will engage and provide support to increase equitable opportunities for Black and Indigenous young people, and those identifying as Queer and Trans, who navigate precarity and marginalization, to participate at SKETCH, lead at SKETCH, and in arts and culture and in community more broadly. SKETCH continues to engage a wide range of diverse communities of youth on the margins but we believe that our direct engagement with diverse racialized communities will benefit all young people.

Making change requires internal and external commitments, learning, and actions that are immediate, and short to long term, co-creating more just futures on multiple levels. Read more about our Equity Strategy here.

Change also implies new leadership at every level. We’ve been working together on a multi-staged succession strategy. We’re excited to share more on that in the next newsletter!

SKETCH and Social Impact

So what is actually achieved with young people engaging with SKETCH?

If you’re going to engage a societal group that often finds themselves homeless, isn’t the natural outcome of that work, to find them housing? Isn’t engaging young people navigating precarity and the margins all about getting them out of precarity and beyond marginalization? It is and it isn’t. 

We’ve learned that it’s way more complex than that. Young people themselves have helped us to be more curious, more holistic and have pointed out that there are impacts of this work for them directly, transformational impacts indeed, defined uniquely for each person. What is even more compelling to us is that there are impacts for broader culture, with young people’s artistic practice and production. Let’s talk then, about both.

The arts and certainly creativity are interactive and alive modalities diversely affecting those who engage in artistic processes, from those who experience artistic production.

Making with Place Research Project Banner in the making. 2020

There are intrinsic impacts of aesthetic experiences that vary person to person, form to form. Sonic work impacts us differently than performance art; drawing, differently than sculpture. The arts, again, processes and aesthetic experience, are also well known to be instrumental in other impacts such as health and wellbeing, 21st century skills learning, and the building of social connections and community in which multiple identities can co-exist. And of course, studies have proven the economic impacts of the arts. It’s the intrinsic and instrumental impacts of the arts, together with young people who navigate precarity and marginalization due to systems of oppression.

The arts as an expression of human creativity and innovation, are all around us, amplifying or disrupting how we all move through our world: urban planning, architecture, interior or structural design, landscaping, parks and services, food systems and access, educational curriculum, fashion, free time, etc. Just the power of advertising alone demonstrates the cause and effect of artistic imaginative expression.

Some of the ‘problem’ of describing the impacts of art making (practice and production) with young people navigating the margins, lies in what we in society and in the charitable sector particularly, have determined as standard positive outcomes for those  young people. We’ve learned they can be too general, driven by economic concerns, and can often paint everyone with the same brush.

Over the past 25 years, SKETCH has grown supported by its unapologetic belief that the arts are life-changing, truly transformational for everyone and that communities are shaped by ability to imagine and act on those imaginings. Particularly powerful are the imaginings we can have together.

We believe, rooted in 25 years of community-engaged arts practice that SKETCH provides a highly accessible platform in which its greatest social impact is the support of thriving art makers and communities that are committed to change making through the arts – so contributing to Culture and Heritage (to use formal social impact language) through Diverse, Accessible and powerful original art works and art practices.

Piece by Ehiko Odeh

These original works by young people challenge society to reshape our ideas, to question our assumptions, particularly about them. The work counters dominant narratives that we embody, challenging us to make notice, witness, remember, be accountable and engage in global change making.

This is the ultimate social impact of SKETCH’s engagement with young people – through arts and culture, we collectively work toward Social Justice with new works that stimulate civic dialogue and activation.

In 2021 we will measure our social impact with QTBIPOC artists and leaders by supporting and tracking their increased engagement in :

1. Culture and Heritage

  • Contributing to its Diversity, Access, Equity and Inclusion
  • Contributing to growing body of ART in this country
  • Economic Development and Cultural Workforce Development

2. Social Justice

  • Initiating and Contributing to, civic dialogue and activation

We will also measure direct impacts of this engagement by supporting and tracking increased:

3. Health and Wellbeing among Young People

  • Ability to navigate challenges
  • Cohesion and Connection to community

4. Youth Leadership Education, Skills, and Development

5. Access and Connections for Youth, to Opportunities to Produce and Lead in Arts and Culture

“Equity is a through-line as we investigate across these themes how arts and arts-based strategies are valuable tools in addressing racial and social justice and bridging cultural divides.”


Source: Social Impact of the Arts Study: How Arts Impact King County Communities by ArtsFund (Seattle)