SKETCH Working Arts

SKETCH is a Toronto-based community-arts initiative now celebrating 20 years of creating opportunities for young people, ages 16-29, who are homeless or living on the margins. SKETCH inspires and engages youth from all over Canada through the transformative power of the arts.

Huda the artist creating at SKETCH studiosOur Impact Why We Exist

Some social services focus on “what’s wrong” with youth—often keeping youth in a position of long-term receiving rather than long-term developing. SKETCH, on the other hand, is decidedly not a service organization, but rather a community that takes the time to foster a young person's skills and talents.

SKETCH creates opportunities for young people living street-involved, homeless or on the margins, to experience the transformative power of the arts; build leadership and economic self-sufficiency; and cultivate social and environmental change through the arts.

Since launching in 1996, SKETCH has welcomed over 10,000 youth to engage in the arts through our programs and opportunities. Over 850 young people visit SKETCH annually—many of whom go on to launch enterprises, find employment, become community artists, return to school or learn a trade, and become engaged citizens.

You can play a major part of transforming a young person's life through the arts. Scroll down to "How You Can Help" to learn about our 20/20 Visionary Program, or download the booklet here.

SKETCH operates out of a 9,000-square-foot Creative Enterprise Hub in Artscape Youngplace, located at 180 Shaw Street, Toronto.

SKETCH is celebrating 20 years of transforming young lives in Toronto! You're invited to celebrate with us and visit our space at our December 1st event: SKETCH20.

Joel a SKETCH artistOur Story What We Do

Located in Toronto’s West Queen West neighbourhood, SKETCH’s Creative Hub provides young people access to visual arts, culinary arts, music recording, dance and performance, industrial arts, and more.

This kind of barrier-free engagement plays a key role in the social-support ecosystem that transitions youth out of homelessness, away from poverty, and towards living well.

What's that role? A young person needs to develop skills, feel a personal sense of purpose, and see their own direction. Only a space that both champions creative potential, and prioritizes equity and inclusion can house the kind of transformations that lead to:

  • better health and wellness,

  • bridges to literacy and educational opportunities,

  • creative enterprise and economic self-sufficiency, and

  • creative leadership and participation in community.

"At the surface level, SKETCH helps young people engage in the arts and community building, but, digging deeper, SKETCH is helping young people in incredibly challenging positions find a path for themselves." Dr. Sean Kidd, CAMH Psychologist in Chief.

What's our VISION? To build a movement where young people, free from barriers, are celebrated and engaged as culture-makers, perception changers, and collaborators in building creative community.

SKETCH is the proud recipient of the 2009 Toronto Community Foundation Vital Ideas Award!

To view more accolades and awards, click here.

Smiling artistOur Programs How We Do It

A Creative Solution

SKETCH is a unique and nurturing community. It’s a place where young people can freely express their thoughts, test new ideas, and trust each other.

Based on 20 years of community building, SKETCH developed its Theory of Change: an alternative education framework where young people self-direct their own artful transformation through three phases:

  • Arts ENGAGE welcomes a young person to SKETCH, ignites a desire to explore and imagines new creative possibilities;
  • Arts INCUBATE offers a palette of workshops where youth experiment with new ideas, and develop skills;
  • and Arts PLATFORM builds their leadership skills by offering support and mentorship for their initiatives, and connects youth to education and employment opportunities.

Here's some of the ways those three phases shine through in our initiatives:


  • Easy-to-engage Artmaking welcomes new artists, art focused on self-care;

  • strategic programs increase equity and inclusion in all SKETCH activities.


  • four ten-week art sessions in multiple disciplines (textiles, music recordings, culinary arts, movement arts, visual arts, and more);

  • arts workshop series with established artists.


  • Community Artists Leadership Program (paid year-long training opportunities for youth ready for leadership)—see next section;

  • Independent Studio connects more-established youth artists with their own focused studio time to accomplish larger projects;

  • mentorship to special youth-led initiatives like CUE, YSI, and STREET VOICES.  

Through all these opportunities, youth engage in arts exploration and self expression, skill and capacity building projects, career development, and leadership training—all while participating in a lively and vibrant community of young art makers. 

The Community Artists Program: the keystone of Platform phase

For nine years, SKETCH has hired street-involved youth in full-time employment as Community Artists (CA's).

The CA Program is a year-long paid internship for four emerging artists experiencing poverty and marginalization. CA's build on and refine their artistic portfolios, learn community arts-based facilitation skills, and immerse themselves in business-planning strategies. Equal parts community-arts practice and “artrepreneurship,” this program gives youth access to mentors, placement opportunities, studio time and professional CV development—all to set them on the path to community leadership.

Funding and Program Partners:

• The City of Toronto—Investing in Neighbourhoods

• Youth Employment Services 

• TD Financial Group

• generous SKETCH donors

• and 20/20 Visionaries.

Program Impact

Since 2007, SKETCH has employed and trained over 80 young people through the Community Artist Program.  After their internship, many youth have moved on to find work or placements at OCAD, George Brown College, Daniel's Spectrum, art stores and printing firms. 

Watch the video at the top right of this page to learn how Joel used his CA training to start his magazine, Street Voices.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program:

"...a year-long 2010 study discovered that many workers coming into the sector are focused more on survival than on growth, and lack the entrepreneurial mindset and essential business skills they will need to thrive. Consolidating...the currently fragmented training opportunities that do exist...will help to ensure that the sector is able to continue to contribute to the Region's prosperity." 

SKETCH's Community Artist Program addresses a number of Vital Signs® indicators.  The CA Program is focused on working with young people who are thriving on new found skills and having access to an all-in-one training in management, communications and leadership. It is essential that youth who come to SKETCH get the paid training they are requesting, so that they are well equipped to enter into employment, start community-arts based projects or launch entrepreneurial careers.

Participant Vignettes: 

"At SKETCH I was able to work on music and develop skills as a social-service worker, doing outreach, program planning, and learning a lot about anti-oppression practices."

Oddane, SKETCH Community Artist (2014-15)

"I am a singer, MC, actress, spoken-word poet, dancer, facilitator and all around entertainer...SKETCH came into my life at a time when I was feeling very lost…Without art, I honestly don’t even think I’d be here right now, actually I know I wouldn’t. It’s my constant therapy."

—Dynesti, SKETCH Community Artist (2012-2013) and Toronto entertainer

$100,000 funds four Community Artists every yearWhat You Can Do

Make a change: Become a 20/20 Visionary and Transform Lives

We invite you to celebrate 20 years of artful transformations by becoming a 20/20 Visionary. We are inviting 20 unique individuals and families to join our exclusive 20/20 Visionary Program and invest $20,000 over four years towards the Arts Platform keystone: the Community Artist Program.

This multi-year pledge is an investment that directly impacts the lives of youth at a pivotal point in their journey as artists, entrepreneurs and leaders in the arts community. 

Your own transformation

As a 20/20 Visionary, you'll be taken on a curated journey that will connect you on a deeper level to the transformations experienced by youth through our three-phase framework.

In Arts Engage, participate in an arts-based workshop to discover the transformational power of the arts; in Arts Incubate take anti-oppression training workshops to learn principles and practices you can use in your daily life; in Arts Platform collaborate with youth and strategize around how to share your experience as a Visionary with your own network and beyond.

For more information, download our 20/20 Visionary Program now, or call Executive Director, Rudy Ruttimann to arrange a SKETCH tour and conversation.  Rudy can be reached at or 416.516.1559, ext 3201.  

Activities and impact your investment will support

Over a four year period, your investment in the Community Artist Program will provide four youth per year with a full year of reliable and consistent 30-hour-week employment.  As young leaders they will deepen their capacity by building skills through effective facilitation and training programs.

Being a 20/20 Visionary will have a direct impact on expanding positive effects on the community: youth homelessness and isolation will decrease among CA's as employment enables them to lay down a foundation of home, health and skills. You'll also be building connections for CA's to employment or entrepreneurial projects.  

With a stronger organizational background, CA's can lead community-arts programs in our neighbourhoods, and pass their skills on to other youth who may also be experiencing poverty and marginalization.  

In addition, this is a unique opportunity to work directly with young people experiencing the systemic barriers and learn from each other what impact that has on managing and navigating life on a daily basis.  It will be a very strong experience for everyone as you work collaboratively with your peers and with youth leaders from the SKETCH community.


Rudy Ruttimann
Executive Director
416.516.1559 x3201
Charitable Number: 859128332RR0001

Finance & Governance


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