How Can Cities Better Support Indigenous Youth and Emerging Artists?

On Monday July 23, an important conversation took place at Inkdigenous Tattoo Studio in Toronto around how the city can better support Indigenous youth and emerging artists. The dialogue involved 20 people in attendance and was moderated by Joey Stylez and Niki Ineese-Nash who encouraged ideas and experiences to be exchanged. TakingITGlobal partnered with Inkdigenous Tattoo Studio in hosting this this event as part of community outreach linked to an apprenticeship program supported by Miziwe Biik Aboriginal Employment and Training.

Toby Sicks, the owner of Inkdigenous Tattoo Studio, opened the conversation by talking about his activism work and his goal at Inkdigenous for artists to be showcased. Niki Ineese-Nash is an academic and community worker who focuses her work on helping uplift youth and community. Joey is a musician and activist from Treaty 6 who has used his voice and platform to uplift youth across Turtle Island. Everyone was able to introduce themselves and talk briefly about their experiences in life. Special thanks to the participants who joined the conversation including: Tasunke Sugar, Ben Kicknosway, Nazarene Pope, Shaun Hunt, Michael Keshane, Amica McFarlane Scott, Kara Jade, Shelby Rain, and Will Reich. Jeff Hewitt shared aspects of overcoming many challenges and appreciation for the opportunity of joining as an Apprentice at Inkdigenous Tattoo Studio. Nyle Miigizi Johnston also shared reflections on the the helpers in his path who have supported his journey in becoming a full-time artist and his recent exhibition featured at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

The discussion questions that were talked about were why it is so important to create more platforms for Indigenous youth to have their voices, ideas, experiences and hopes both expressed and heard, how can Indigenous artists be given more opportunities to thrive, what recommendations would you like to have amplified to ensure more support is provided to Indigenous artists living in both remote and urban communities, and how can we support one another as community members to showcase our unique talents, cultures and strengths?

Some of the things that were discussed in response to these questions were the barriers that are in place to prevent Indigenous youth from succeeding. Some of these barriers include lack of support in the grant writing process and not having access to funds to succeed. Joey touched on how he dictated his success by wanting it more than anyone else. Ben Kicknosway talked about how he personally knows artists that are more talented than himself, but due to the barriers in place, they don’t have a chance to succeed like he has. They don’t have the skills to write a grant or seek out alternate sources of funding to pursue their dreams. He also touched on the lack of available resources available in his community of Walpole Island First Nation.

Amica McFarlen-Scott talked about the issues she has seen in her community of Scarborough. Amica alluded to the fact that there are not a lot of resources available in her community as all of the Indigenous organizations are located in downtown Toronto. The resources these organizations have available for youth aren’t easily accessible for those that don’t have transit to downtown.

The conversation wrapped up after everyone had a chance to speak on these issues. A lot of good ideas came from this conversation and the youth left feeling inspired and motivated to continue to work on the projects they had already begun.

Drawing of Turtle Island Grandfather Teaching by Artist Jeff Hewitt

You can watch the recorded conversation on Livestream.

Check out #RisingYouth Community Service Grants at if you’re between 15–30 and are interested in leading an arts-based community project!