Sketch ‘unlike any other organization’

Non-profit aims to help disadvantaged youth through art

Six years ago, James Muggah was staying at a homeless shelter, addicted to hard drugs and slowly wasting away.

Then one night a friend invited him to something called Sketch, which happened to be throwing a party that night that featured a stage full of musical instruments. Muggah spent the entire night jamming.

“As soon as I got there I saw this was unlike any other drop-in or organization I had ever seen,” Muggah said. “One of their staff I already knew, plus they told me about their free recording studio and I think that sold me.”

For the past 16 years, Sketch has been providing space and resources to disadvantaged youth.

“We really want people to know that it’s not a school or a shelter,” said Dale Roy, marketing and communications associate for Sketch. “It’s an open space where all these resources are available. Youth can come in with their own ideas and grow into interesting culture-makers.”

They nurtured me when I felt alone. Plus the girl I asked out in their old studio is now my fiancée and we have two children together.

—James Muggah

Just giving youth that space does a lot for their self-confidence, Roy said.

“We just provide the tools,” he said. “Their own talent and their own courage really help them develop where they want to go.”

Where Muggah, 27, wanted to go was music. Now using the stage name Frosty Fortwenney, he was able to use the opportunity of free recording time to motivate himself.

Now he’s working for Sketch as a paid intern and community artist, helping to organize workshops and training.

“The staff at Sketch always had a unique approach and only had the best, most personable, down-to-Earth staff that didn’t treat its youth like a statistic,” Muggah said. “They nurtured me when I felt alone. Plus the girl I asked out in their old studio is now my fiancée and we have two children together.”

Sketch, a non-profit organization that subsists almost entirely on private and government donations, is going through growing pains of its own, Roy said.

Currently the group is working on raising money to support its new space, which is scheduled to be completed in 2013 on Shaw Street.

“It’s a big move for us because we’re sort of a product of our own environment. Toronto has had a homeless problem for quite some time and there’s no sign of it getting better,” Roy said. “This has made us think about growing so that we can provide more arts and skills workshops for more youth.”