A transformation is underway at OCAD U. Our urban university powerhouse of creative thinking and production has always been outward-facing — embracing change and creating it, too. But at no time has this been more apparent than in 2016, when a gift of $27 million from the Government of Ontario added exponentially to the success of Ignite Imagination: The Campaign for OCAD University. With the resulting Creative City Campus, we are investing in existing facilities and programs and constructing new buildings that not only support and inspire the meaningful work of the university, but also engage our city’s communities, help define our civic identity and increase our impact internationally.
Studio education and research insist that environment and tools are paramount to learning. The Government of Ontario’s 2016 gift of $27 million to OCAD University will make possible renovations and additions to our studios, shops and fabrication technology on McCaul Street. It will also allow us to breathe new life into historic George Reid House on Grange Park, which has been used by the institution since 1920 for a host of studio activity and collaboration.Students working in the metal shop. Photo by Claudia Hung
A Mohawk illustrator from Montreal, Kaia'tanoron Bush is studying Indigenous Visual Culture (INVC) at OCAD U. Already armed with dual college diplomas in Fine Arts and Illustration & Design, the INVC program is what brought Bush to Toronto: “I’d always envisioned getting the most education I could, so attending university after college was a natural extension. And while I loved where I was studying previously, the one problem that stood out was the claim made by one of my instructors: that there were no such things as Indigenous art history or Indigenous design. I knew that Indigenous contemporary art practices existed, so the history and scholarship had to be there too; people just weren’t teaching it. I was right. I was also right to be upset.”
OCAD University’s Indigenous Visual Culture program prepares students to engage in complex and evolving global discourses in Indigenous history, art history and contemporary art practice across a range of expressions, material and media. It can lead to a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree or an interdisciplinary minor. The unique curriculum is designed to develop Indigenous and Non-Indigenous students’ critical and aesthetic responses and practical expertise in Indigenous culture and artistic practices. Art and design students are introduced to the fundamentals of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit art and design, located within Canadian and international contexts.
With respect to both the program and these larger contexts, Bush is incredibly outward-facing: “We’re learning painful things about Indigenous history in my classes and although expected, it’s still overwhelming. The thing is, I’m overwhelmed in good ways as well as bad. Toronto is such a hub for Indigenous design and art. There’s so much happening — particularly with the INVC program. And I want to do everything.”TKARONTO vs AKWE:KON shirts designed by Kaia'tanoron Bush
Bush sees tremendous possibilities in these contexts and outside of them too, and it’s no surprise that her interests are passionate and varied: fine art, forensic art and illustration, publishing of all kinds, science and politics. She raves about a research assistantship she completed recently, which was funded by the Delaney Family Foundation through Ignite Imagination, and overseen by INVC Chair Ryan Rice. And she’s happy to talk too about the t-shirts everybody is talking about, which she designed as part of an INVC fundraising initiative on Rice's suggestion. They reference the etymology of Toronto, re-vamping the popular ‘Toronto Vs. Everybody’ tees with the Mohawk inscription ‘Tkaronto Vs Akwe:Kon.’ The shirts have been a big hit with both the media and consumers, and probably represent one of the reasons that Bush is inclined to say, of her experiences at OCAD U: “I feel really validated here.”Every Man Gets His Wish, Digital illustration, 2015, Kaia'tanoron Bush
Work by Kaia'tanoron Bush
Phased renovations were well underway in 2016 at OCAD University’s Experiential Learning Centre — our first glimpse of the future of the Creative City Campus. At the Ignite Imagination Campaign’s public launch event in 2015, long-time benefactors Rosalie and Isadore Sharp pledged a remarkable $3 million in support of the building, which is situated at the geographic centre of Toronto’s culture and innovation corridor. This flexible, multi-use student complex will provide dedicated, maker-based work areas, as well as spaces for collaboration and engagement with visiting artists and designers.
If creativity creates new knowledge, innovation is what applies it, and both are as necessary to the OCAD U culture as teaching and learning. Here, everyone innovates, whether as a researcher in one of our 16 labs, an undergraduate student in Environmental Design or Digital Painting, or a master's degree candidate in Inclusive Design, Digital Futures or Strategic Foresight and Innovation.
2016 Imagination Catalyst pitch competition. Photo by Martin Iskander
All OCAD U students are encouraged to pursue opportunities that place them in real-world situations offered in partnership with cultural organizations, industry, community service agencies and creative producers. The university’s Experiential Learning Placements Program in the Centre for Emerging Artists & Designers facilitates and supports these placements inside of curriculum. It also offers extra-curricular resources that enhance career development. In 2015/2016, 90 students participated in one such initiative: OCAD U Career Launchers. Career Launchers are high-profile industry-supported opportunities that help new graduates get a start on their professional practice.
Digital Painting Atelier residency participant Kyle Hittmeier
MeU, an open-source wearable LED display
Also enhancing careers in 2015/2016 was OCAD U’s innovation hub, the Imagination Catalyst — which, along with the university’s Research Office, provides strategic advice on commercialization, as well as business development support for professional artists and maker- or design-focused entrepreneurs. The Imagination Catalyst’s free, one-year business incubator program has the capacity to support two dozen start-ups engaged in the creating, building, designing, making and inventing of innovative products and services.
Imagination Catalyst entrepreneur Yi Jiang(BDes, Industrial Design, 2013) with Drumi, the pedal-powered washing machine that won the Canadian Dyson award for design engineering in 2015
Illustration grads Meg Dearlove, Jean deMers, Keight MacLean and Kyle Stewart launched their professional lives in 2016 with an astonishing gift: a year’s worth of dedicated studio space in the locally famous, heritage-designated 401 Richmond St. W. Even more amazing? The gift was made anonymously through OCAD U’s Career Launchers program. Here’s what the illustrators have to say about what that has meant…Left to right: Jean deMers, Studio, Risograph print
A key component of the Creative City Campus project launched in 2016, the Art and Design Library for the Future will grow and enhance the library experience.
The revitalized OCAD University library will serve the needs of undergraduate and graduate students by expanding the institution’s highly specialized collections of art and design books, catalogues, periodicals and audiovisual resources. Students, faculty and outside scholars will be able to access special collections of significant historical and educational value, including thousands of original 19th-century drawings; rare art, design and photography annuals; limited edition and signed portfolios; folios of original medieval and Oriental illuminated manuscript leaves; folios of textile and colour samples; and other treasures. As part of the engagement process for the project, the OCAD U community, together with its librarians, will be assisting Creative City Campus architects in identifying optimal approaches to resource sharing. This means of supporting experiential learning will add to facilities already in place at OCAD U, such as the Inclusive Design Institute’s Collaboration Room, which enables unique and participatory resource sharing in multiple modalities. Photo courtesy OCAD University Archives
OCAD University Life Studies student Emily Greer is excited about this year’s Joan and Clifford Hatch Foundation gift of medical equipment to augment her program’s contemporary art approaches to studies of the body.
Medical equipment? It's not as surprising as you might think. A fundamental principle of the Faculty of Art’s cross-disciplinary Life Studies specialization is the understanding that scientific methods and creative processes often align. Traditional figurative study in art institutions renders the human form through studio techniques grounded in historical practices. These observational investigations of the body are not only a basis for figurative painting and sculpture; they also have roots in scientific methodologies generally. Says Greer, “Most people think of science as the truth, concrete and factual, and with art it’s emotional and irrational. But driving both is the effort to explore — to discover what the world is and then express or explain your findings.”
A recipient in 2015/2016 of the Delaney Scholarship, Greer is full of gratitude — both that the program exists and that she’ll have help to complete it. “I’ve been interested in science for pretty much my whole life, but once in high school I had difficulty with the math. It was so disappointing. But I started working on my art skills and then, amazingly, I came across this program. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to go to university and I was worried about the debt — now I can really focus.” Studio critique. Photo by Christina Gapic
Faculty of Art Professor Natalie Majaba Waldburger, who is the Ada Slaight Chair Of Contemporary Painting And Print Media, shares an anecdote from the Life Studies classroom: “We were able to borrow microscopes last year for an exercise in dissecting cow eyeballs. This additional level of visual access provided by the microscopes gave our students greater insight into the anatomical structures of the eye, principles of evolution, cellular make-up of the body and comparative anatomy. The ability to augment and amplify our approach to visual data illuminated a whole other level of sensitivity to the real world and our perceptions of it.”
Animation by Lola Landekic
The Hatch Foundation gift will further empower Life Studies students this year as they prepare to represent the first post-secondary art faculty enrolled in the Biodesign Challenge, which famously brings together students from universities such as Oxford, Harvard and Stanford. The Biodesign Challenge invites students to envision future applications of biotechnology in a competition that highlights student work, and comes with the possibility of showcasing that work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Ultimately, its objectives are similar to those of the Life Studies specialization at OCAD U — forging links among art, design, medicine and science.
At OCAD U, studio-based learning is supported by the delivery of historical, critical and breadth-focused Liberal Arts & Sciences courses and programs such as the university’s Bachelor of Arts in Visual and Critical Studies. The Creative City Campus project will explore design solutions that optimize lecture theatres, looking specifically at the integration of technologies and the accommodation of flexible class sizes and OCAD U events. These will help further our engagement with the public at large — creating additional space for events such as DEEP 2015: Designing Enabling Economies and Policies, or one of our many university Speakers' Series talks, which last year brought to the community such renowned guests as art-as-social-change advocate Mel Chin.
OCAD University expanded its engagement in 2015/2016 in art and design research and creative practices through a diversity of perspectives, methods and approaches — all of which are paramount to our growth as an institution through the Creative City Campus expansion. In 2016, groundbreaking curator, author, artist and educator Dr. Gerald McMaster was named Tier 1 Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Indigenous Visual Culture & Curatorial Practice, making OCAD U the first Canadian art and design university to receive a Tier 1 CRC appointment. McMaster has held prestigious curatorial positions at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, and in 2006 was appointed to the Order of Canada.
Sonia Tagari is an artist, designer and MDes candidate in OCAD University's new graduate program in Design for Health. She's sparky and articulate, and in 2016 began her career at OCAD University armed with a Manchee Foundation scholarship and duel degrees from the research-heavy University of Michigan in Art & Design and Neuroscience.
In late 2015, the Manchee Foundation donated more than $500,000 in support of Tagari's program, the university's newest graduate offering. The generous gift marks a growing, cross-sector acknowledgement that designers can affect the quality of life and well-being of entire populations through the designs they create, and it comes as the OCAD U embraces game-changing education and research to dramatically improve design practices related to healthcare environments, medical technologies and public health policy and communication. Significantly, it will endow two yearly scholarships in perpetuity.
“In my undergrad,” explains Tagari, “the two degrees I undertook were kept at a distance. But I saw themes emerge in my art practice that were mirrored in my science degree. Design for Health not only exposes me to different ways of thinking and more practical skills, it also allows me to see if a strong link can be forged — connecting art, design and healthcare. I want to act on that link."
In inviting designed solutions to health challenges, the MDes program explores four primary themes — each of which is investigated in studio and via partnered projects: the health context, which develops domain knowledge specific to health, healthcare delivery, communications and technology; research and application, which applies qualitative, co-designed and evidence-based techniques to health challenges; design and innovation, which creates ethical and sustainable solutions; and proficiency and leadership within interdisciplinary collaborations.
"Design for Health provides me with the opportunity to apply art thinking and practice in a way that transcends the personal," says Tagari. "That has benefits beyond myself. It also helps me see differently by expanding the singular approach of the clinician.” The relative simplicity of what she wants — “to be useful” — belies a fierce list of interests that includes lithography, printmaking, illustration, typography, publication design and the human body. Unsurprisingly, she sees huge opportunities in her field for collaboration, and is particularly interested in addressing patient-communication issues in healthcare. “Designers understand the typographical relationship between reader comprehension and negative space," she says, “whereas a scientist might regard as ‘incomplete’ a research poster that incorporates negative space in order to make information more accessible. This actually happened to me during the presentation of a poster I'd created.”
Tagari is the youngest student in her MDes cohort. While she sometimes finds that daunting, she also believes it will further her learning. It’s a very multi-disciplinary group — one that includes architects, web designers, product designers and healthcare practitioners. And as for Manchee scholarship? “I’m completely honoured,” Tagari says. “It really does help.”
'Am I more than a system of cells? Is my body so different than yours?'
Sonia Tagari’s Corporeal (2016) is a multi-media installation that addresses the relationship between a physical and psychosocial identity. It serves as an archive of limited medical data that investigates the level of access one has to personal information and the limitations in knowledge of something so immediate as one’s body. The installation encourages the viewer to investigate the data stored in the cabinet and desk drawers, allowing the audience to search for files, prints and videos in the same way the artist searched for medical information. All records and diagnostic images are sourced from the artist, creating a biological self-portrait. Together, the images explore the intimate and impersonal, familiar and foreign understanding of human physiology.
Installation components: medical records, diagnostic images, lithographic prints, woodblock prints, CNC cut woodblocks, 3D printed skull + spine, video, lab equipment, found furniture, light boxes.
Fostering healthy connections that realize potential — that’s the goal of the new, sustainable student spaces of the Creative City Campus.O-Days 2014. Photo by Sarah Mulholland
OCAD U has long supported the professional training of Indigenous artists — leaders such as Tom Hill, Rebecca Belmore, Terrance Houle and Bonnie Devine have all studied at the institution. Today, the Indigenous Visual Culture (INVC) program offers minor and major courses of study and spearheads Indigenization efforts all across the university. Those efforts were given a significant boost with the announcement in late 2015 of a $2-million gift to the Ignite Imagination campaign from OCAD U Chancellor Kiki Delaney on behalf of the Delaney Family Foundation. In addition to funding undergraduate and graduate student scholarships, this donation will help fund the INVC program: its curriculum, research, outreach and campus-wide activities, as well as the Delaney Chair in Indigenous Visual Culture occupied by curator Ryan Rice. What’s more, with the Creative City Campus project, the program itself will be getting a dedicated home in the Indigenous Visual Culture Centre at OCAD University.
A remarkable gift in 2016 from the Chandaria family to OCAD University has established the IArts Project. Created in honour of the late Arti Chandaria, this unique cultural exchange and residency program will bring the richness of Indian visual and material arts to the Creative City Campus.
For six weeks each year beginning in May 2018, OCAD U will be host to an emerging artist from India. While in Toronto, the artist will create work on site at one of our studios, interact with students and faculty, and build broader relationships within Toronto by connecting its artistic and South East Asian communities. Through a variety of interactions with the artist, students will be encouraged to expand their perspectives — exploring legacy processes and contemporary ones too, and generating collaborative experiences together. The project will strike a unique IArts Residency Advisory Committee to ensure the benefits of the program are maximized across Toronto and nationally.
“A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.” This was the phrase that Arti Chandaria (1960–2015) included at the bottom of every email she sent. She lived her life by it, and was indeed that candle for many. A patron of the arts since her arrival in Canada in 1985, Arti worked tirelessly to expand South Asian art offerings at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and also organized free cultural events through Friends of South Asia. She was committed above all to supporting young and emerging artists, whatever their field or discipline, and was herself always driven to learn. ROM Senior Curator Dr. Deepali Dewan had this to say at the January 2015 celebration of Arti’s life: “She had incredible breadth of knowledge but remained a life-long learner and was never afraid to take the role of the student.”
The IArts project at OCAD University will celebrate that desire to keep learning. It builds on the tremendous success over the years of international residency programs such as Nomadic Residents, which brought to our community such influential artists as Rirkrit Tiravanija, Ann Hamilton, ORLAN, Hal Foster, Adel Abdessemed, Ghada Amer and Reza Farkhondeh, Candice Breitz, and Pedro Reyes.
Interdisciplinary zones created by the Creative City Campus project will remove and reorganize classroom space in OCAD U’s signature Sharp Centre for Design, supporting the university’s ongoing move away from a discipline-focused education towards collaborative, community-based learning.Industrial Design students. Photo by Marin Iskander
We changed the landscape of Toronto once and we will do it again, this time with the Creative City Campus. Last year, dozens of talks and conferences — as well as ideas- or technology- or even play-based meetups — joined the myriad art and design exhibits open to the public at OCAD U. Together, they are a taste of what we offer the broader community: an open hub for invention, outreach, interdisciplinary study and knowledge creation.
OCAD U’s growing Galleries System is made up of a number of spaces on and off-campus, including the Student Gallery, the Ada Slaight Gallery, the Graduate Gallery and Onsite, the university’s professional gallery. With support from the DeGasperis Family of Aspen Ridge, and the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund at Canadian Heritage, construction was underway in 2015/2016 on Onsite Gallery’s new, 8,000 square-foot exhibition space. Beginning in 2017, the gallery will again be host to powerful exhibitions by Canadian and international creators of art, design and digital media — stimulating public conversations on the critical issues facing Toronto and the world. It will also exhibit a curated selection of the university’s permanent collection of artworks by past faculty and students, including G.A. Reid, J.W. Beatty, J.E.H. Macdonald, Fred Haines, Jack Bush, and David Bolduc.
Last year also saw the announcement of a campaign donation to OCAD University that would dramatically further its galleries' mandate. As a result, Francisco Alvarez joined us recently as the new Dorene & Peter Milligan Executive Director, OCAD U Galleries. He brings to the institution extensive experience in the arts, heritage and cultural sectors, and has shared his visions for our galleries here.
Video by Martin Iskander
Video by Martin Iskander
To date, OCAD University’s Ignite Imagination
campaign has raised a remarkable
Launched publicly in 2015, the campaign supports the student experience, faculty innovation, the enrichment of academic programs and infrastructure.
OCAD University’s Creative City Campus will add, renovate and revitalize space at OCAD U — focussing on classrooms, studios, fabrication areas and the library, and creating important social/gathering places.
In 2015/2016, 291 undergraduate students benefitted from $723,300 in donor-funded bursaries and scholarships. An additional 155 awards were given to fourth-year thesis students.
As a result of federal government support, Dr. Gerald McMaster now occupies a Tier One Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Visual Culture and Curatorial Practice at OCAD University.
The Creative City Campus will give our students and faculty the space and technology they need to engage in the studio-based and experiential learning that is essential to the development of artists, designers and digital media practitioners.— Dr. Sara Diamond, OCAD U President & Vice-Chancellor
The MDes program in Design for Health exposes me to different ways of thinking and more practical skills.— Sonia Tagari, MDes scholarship student in Design for Health
I’m delighted that in 2016, the Government of Ontario acted on our vision of reinforcing OCAD University’s downtown presence and global impact, and invite the wider community to support us in achieving the fundraising goals of Ignite Imagination.— Leslie Gales, President and Chief Investment Officer of the Midland Group of Companies and OCAD University Campaign Chair.
It's a great privilege to be working with our outstanding faculty, students and alumni — as well as the national art, design and new media communities — in the creation of exhibitions and events that celebrate innovation and creativity.— Francisco Alvarez, Dorene & Peter Milligan Executive Director, OCAD U Galleries
I was worried I wouldn’t be able to go to university and I was worried about the debt — now I can really focus.— Emily Greer, Life Studies student and scholarship recipient
Toronto is such a hub for Indigenous design and art. There’s so much happening — particularly with the INVC program. I want to do everything.— Kaia'tanoron Bush, Indigenous Visual Culture student and research assistantship recipient