Photo by William Nyguen/The Remix Project.
Relatively speaking, Toronto is not a city known for successful urban (read: hip-hop) acts. Nonetheless, in the heart of the city there’s a space open to those willing to take a chance. The Remix Project is open to youth aged 16–22 who are interested in pursuing careers in urban arts. About more than becoming the next big rapper, Remix uses hip-hop as an engagement tool and gives aspiring artists and entrepreneurs practical tools to turn dreams into goals, and goals into reality.
Amanda Parris, in charge of outreach and community partnerships for Remix, has been working with the project for almost two years. “It’s been really incredible to see someone come in with just a hint of something they’re sort of interested in and go from that to building a concrete plan, and see real, tangible things come out of it,” she says. “There’s a lot of personal development that we don’t necessarily promote in our brochures, but it’s still definitely one of our primary goals—the social development of the young people that come into the building.”
Photo by Roxanne Garaway/The Remix Project.
Upon submitting an application form, participants are selected based on talent, creativity, drive, and need. At the onset of their six-month program, participants meet with program staff to identify their goals and create a plan of action. While in the program, participants have access to mentorship from industry professionals and internships with various companies (when available), in addition to grant support, co-op for high school credit, workshops, and networking opportunities.
The Remix Project has its roots in Inner City Visions, an organization started by Gavin Sheppard back in 2000 when he noticed a void in recreational programming at a local community centre in South Etobicoke. Through Inner City Visions, the centre began offering diverse after-school programming where kids came out for freestyle sessions, DJ workshops, B-boy/B-girl battles, and weekly discussions with industry professionals. Eventually, recording artist Derek “Drex” Jancar joined Sheppard, helping expand programming to include a recording studio, and in 2006, The Remix Project was officially launched.
Parris says Remix has come to a crucial transitional stage. With a move planned for August 31 and the end of a three-year period of grant funding approaching on September 1, the organization will be reviewing what worked, what didn’t, and how to move forward.
Remix continues to garner attention from national and international organizations: MTV Canada has come on board as an official media sponsor, and the project has been recognized by the UN for best practices in helping increase safety within cities by a youth-led initiative. This past June, the organization managed to raise an impressive thirty thousand dollars at the launch of its “Give Money, Make Change” fundraising campaign.
“I feel really privileged to be part of the process,” Parris said. “Not only going through what it was, but also helping to create what it’s going to be.”