Galen Ward, a graphic design major and future mogul, gives insight into how black history has impacted his life as a creative.   

Tell us a little about yourself (what major/aspirations/background)
My name is Galen Ward. I am a 24-year-old graphic design student. I originally started off as an artist and painter but now got into Design. I have a care for photography, prints, editorial design and cinema. That’s pretty much what I am doing, coming from Brampton, if that counts for anything. And yeah that’s pretty much the jest of me. I am trying to create my own clothing line and magazine at some point, in the phase of creating an empire.
How has western art influenced the history of slavery? Positively or negatively?
 I think that it is tricky. I would say right now the main form of art that is being portrayed is photography. I think in the world of photography, or at least in social media, I don’t think there is much of a niche for it or how it’s being presented. There is not much of a trend for it right now so it kind of gets shoved to the side. Also, I don’t think there’s really any voice for black history in Western culture. That’s my view on it, but that is as far as I have seen. Again, I’m very ignorant because I don’t really follow too many black people anyways so I don’t see much of a niche for it right now, in the art world.
Has your background influenced your desire to pursue a career of being a creative; how so?
I would say more so I have been influenced by my family background rather than my cultural background. I’m pretty much the only artist in the family, everyone else is a nurse or a teacher, working those kind of jobs. I am pretty much the only creative one, so I wouldn’t say any of my background has influenced me to be an artist. Maybe in reverse psychology, where I was like I wanted to be the only creative guy, but otherwise I wouldn’t say my background has created me as the artist I am today, per se.
Do you feel OCADU has provided a welcoming and open space to discuss issues and ideas related to race? Does your voice feel heard among your peers and professors?
At OCAD you’re allowed to speak up, I guess about any background today. But I think that there are so many backgrounds and people are really open to learn and understand. But I don’t think anyone really cares enough – not everyone – but most don’t care enough to act on it. But it could just be because of the platform we are on right now. We are students and we have other things to worry about or because we are the generation of a short attention span and also we’re just very busy, so I don’t think that it’s really a place to expect a great response. But I do think this is a great platform to at least know that your voice is heard, even briefly. (Elaborating on the short attention span part) I think that because we’re just used to taking in a lot of information every day and with all the information that’s being thrown at us we definitely have enough to regurgitate what has been said to us and maybe create a deeper dialogue into it, but it doesn’t happen often enough. Its more so, these are 50 things that happened today, maybe if it had to do with civil rights or history, it would be very briefly retained in the memory. If someone was throwing 50 balls at you, you’re going to be able to catch the first few, that you might retain and you might drop a few, those are just other thoughts that got pushed to the side, and you might drop one of the previous balls just to catch the one at the end, but I think like that, with all the information that’s being thrown at us, it’s very hard to stay focused or passionate about some of those things, unless it’s something that really grabs our attention, which is very rare, I think. That’s my perception of that.
Do you feel, specifically in art history at OCAD U, that the past of your ancestors etc. are presented in an equal factual manner?
I like the history teachers that I have right now. I think our professors now are trying their best to give us a multi perspective of art history rather than just having specifically a western perspective. I think that, from what I’ve seen, so far they’ve mentioned some pieces of work from a western perspective of some artists that tried to create artwork that helped the abolishment of slavery at the time so I think it’s good that they’re trying to expand how we perceive art history and including colonialism and all that jazz. I’ll leave it on the note that they are trying and slowly succeeding.
What artists are you inspired by, POC or otherwise?
Me, myself because I look at artists, I look at photographers, cinematographers and clothing designers, I kind of have to look at pretty much the top people that I like or reblog. Just to kind of narrow down the people that I’m interested in; there’s Nirav photography on Instagram. I like Peter Lindberg, Kat Irlin, Thomas Babeau, and a local guy from my old place from Brampton, Sean Brown. These are some people that I kind of look at and feel influenced by, but not specifically anyone that are people of colour. I look at what artwork I like and either try to replicate it or just feel inspired by it.
What does black history month mean to you? How do you feel about its acknowledgement today? Are there any things that need to be discussed that haven’t been discussed?
From my perspective with black history month, just like with anything you learn in elementary school, it is good to get it out there and let people know that it exists. And if people care about it, the more they’ll obtain, or pursue it later on. So, with black history month I think it is a good the way to teach in elementary schools, they have the assembly, etc. I think it’s good for black culture to see that people have had worse situations and have come out greater than even their own current mind can fathom. It gives them a hero that they can see their face in. I think it’s good for them to have someone to look up to so that they can maybe even potentially relate to, even if it is just down to physical attributes. But, I think as adults, if you care enough, you’ll pursue or at least learn more about it. I don’t think that the month is necessary, but I don’t find a need for it, per say. The awareness is great but I don’t find it a necessity.

Photography by Sophia Choi and Valerie Poon