Toronto volunteer Phyllis Novak has spent the last two decades trying to maximize the creative potential for at-risk and homeless youth. In 1996, her efforts materialized into Sketch, an art studio that offers marginalized young adults, aged 15 to 29, the chance to express themselves through the arts, from painting to sculpture, photography to music recording.
“The underlying assumption behind every welcome or entrance [into Sketch] is that we just assume people are creative and that they have something to contribute,” Novak tells Samaritanmag. “That’s not always something that homeless people or marginalized young people hear. They don’t hear that they have capacities that the rest of the world needs to learn from. They hear that they have deficits and that they need to get those taken care of, and then they can participate as a full member of society.”
One of the central motives behind Sketch is to expand the opportunities for homeless and street-involved youth. It offers the chance for struggling young adults to get relief from the conflicts and pressures of an underprivileged life, and just let loose creatively and become part of a community.
“People first know how to be themselves and feel good about being themselves, and then feel okay about interacting with each other and building cooperation and communication skills with each other,” Novak says of the learning framework after which Sketch is modeled.
“And then the people [start] getting excited about the potential of using the arts to participate in the world, making stuff to show and to sell, or writing a song and performing it in public.”
* Samaritanmag.com is an online magazine covering the good deeds of individuals, charities and businesses.