Take a moment to think about your high school or youth experience - the difficult classes, the awkward social interactions and the struggles that seemed larger than life. Now imagine that same experience but as a young, homeless teenager. The struggle of doing your homework or meeting deadlines are paired with living in a shelter, finding a warm bed or a hearty meal.
Once upon a time, that was Dynesti Williams' reality. Like too many others, Dynesti was in and out of homelessness during those defining years. During those years, Dynesti turned to art. She used her words, whether written or spoken, to create a healing space where she was able to thrive and overcome the challenges that came her way. It was then that Dynesti was introduced to SKETCH Working Arts.
Founded in 1996, SKETCH is a not-for-profit organization located in downtown Toronto. It is a platform in the arts for marginalized or homeless youth, aged 16 to 29, to fuel imagination, build creative capacity and connect to opportunities to live well and lead social change.
In 2016, SKETCH was awarded a grant on behalf of CIRA'S Community Investment Program to build the SKETCH Media Lab. The Media Lab establishes a designated space in SKETCH's Creative Hub where over 800 youth participate annually. Most importantly, it develops arts-based curriculum teaching digital and online technologies and pilots curriculum with established digital media creatives and youth. The project broadens possibilities for youth, creating a co-learning community and nurturing confidence and skills that can transfer into job opportunities or projects such as the chance to create and start their own enterprise as a self-employed artist.
Dynesti is one of many young people who has had the chance to receive training and use the new digital resources for the Media Lab to produce content for her very own venture in publishing and music. Dynesti is now part of SKETCH's most recent awareness campaign -the #ArtTransforms series. In partnership with TraffikGroup, they produced six 90-second videos in which youth reveal how engaging in the arts at SKETCH ignited their own personal transformation. The purpose of this campaign is to create barrier-free opportunities in the arts for homeless and marginalized youth. As one of SKETCH's strong creative voices, check out Dynesti Williams video: