Across the GTA (Halton, Peel, York, Durham, and Toronto), Black youth are spearheading grassroots initiatives that use the arts to tackle serious issues that affect them. Spoken word, dance, animation, painting, graffiti, photography and video art are but some of the mediums young people are leveraging to affect change. Unfortunately, their drive to make a difference is often overlooked by the wider public, as are the specific challenges they confront.
The Scratch & Mix Project seeks to help amplify their work by using the power of the arts to make the invisible experiences and achievements of Black youth visible. With the help of more than 50 grassroots arts and community organizations, the project has inspired Black youth from across the GTA to create artwork that tells their stories, raises awareness about challenges they face, and offers tangible solutions.
The groundbreaking initiative features an interdisciplinary exhibition, a youth solidarity forum, and a community-driven youth action project. In so doing, it is offering a new platform for youth to connect directly with the arts community, business, government, academia, law enforcement, social service agencies and the broader public. Together, they leverage the power of the arts to ignite lasting change in the GTA and beyond.
Between April 18 and August 30, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) hosts the Scratch & Mix Exhibition. It features the work of eleven young artists who participated in the project’s GTA-wide youth arts competition and were selected by a jury. Their work offers each artist’s unique take on the theme “Empowering the Black Community.” Each piece is also inspired by the AGO’s Jean Michel Basquiat Exhibition: Now’s The Time, and reflects an intergenerational collaboration between the artists and a seasoned artist mentor. Learn more about the artists here.
The Youth Solidarity Forum
The Scratch & Mix Exhibition served to ground a dynamic Youth Solidarity Forum, where youth, community leaders, and representatives of key sectors convened. Over the span of five hours, they developed strategies that can empower Black youth to use the arts to address issues identified through a community-wide consultation conducted by the Environics Institute’s Black Experience Project. Issues discussed include community safety, physical and mental health, education, and employment.
The Youth Community Action Project
The Youth Community Action Project will serve as a vehicle to implement the recommendations that emerged from the Youth Solidarity Forum. They will be used to formulate a three-year community-driven action plan. The Michaëlle Jean Foundation and the NIA Centre for the Arts will work together on supporting grassroots organizations wanting to implement the action plan in their neighbourhoods.
The project is made possible thanks to a partnership among the Michaëlle Jean Foundation, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), the Environics Institute’s Black Experience Project (BEP) and NIA Centre for the Arts.
The Scratch & Mix Project is the latest edition of the Michaëlle Jean Foundation’s national program, 4th Wall: Make the Invisible Visible, which opens the doors of Canada’s leading cultural institutions to showcase the artwork, experiences and transformative ideas of underrepresented youth.
The project is also an integral part of the BEP, being led by the Environics Institute, which is conducting an unprecedented GTA-wide study to better understand the lived experiences of individuals within the Black community, and the factors leading to their success and challenges.
The Scratch and Mix Project draws its inspiration from the AGO’s Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibition, which showcases the artist’s work and his desire to address issues of social justice—including racism, materialism and exploitation.