Attention artists, creators, and innovators! Our community remains relevant and connected through support and interest in the work of everyone involved. It’s undeniably important to keep yourself informed on what’s being produced and put forth by your fellow creative professionals. Don’t worry, Chiaroscuro’s done all the work for you! Unfortunately, art and design students are often far too busy to go about explicitly discussing their everyday lives in a step-by-step process, so we’ve done some research to help keep you up to date. Curious to learn about GradEX, or what’s to come once you’ve graduated? A great deal of art and design students experience backlash or scrutiny regarding their pursuit of an unconventional degree; “What on earth are you going to do with that degree once you graduate?” “How will you make money?” “So you’re going to work as a Starbucks barista for the rest of your life?” Don’t fret though, because many OCAD alumni have achieved a great deal of success in the workplace – yes, it is most definitely possible to make a living doing what you love! OCAD U offers graduate programs? We sure do, and the students involved are making phenomenal work that’s fresh and experimental — all you have to do is keep reading!
We know you have the time to read now since it’s that time of year again! Just as spring is starting to begin (or would be in ideal circumstances) we see the fourth year students at OCAD emerge from the caves of months of preparation and step into the sun. Their business cards are fresh off the presses, the websites are just finished rendering, and the thesis students are getting ready to show their best work off to the world. Just being in the room for presentations is an incredible thing; having witnessed the Advertising thesis presentations, the caliber of work that comes out of that program, amongst others in this institution, is astonishing. Each presentation took the air right out of the room, and witnessing this community of students moving on to the next stage of their career was a beautiful thing. Our fourth years are finally leaving the nest, and if they truly engaged in the education they have been provided, they are going to be just fine.  
Stepping back from the graduates at OCAD this year, this issue of Chiaroscuro will be coming out at a time of happiness for all other students studying here; summer vacation! One of the best feelings of the year — unless you’re taking summer courses. In that case, I apologize sincerely. It is also, however, one of the most stressful times of the year because students will be getting their final marks. Exams are a sad time for the average student, taking away time with friends, frequently leaving the group chat in the hopes that they can cram more info into their brain. At the end of the tunnel is freedom, or at least after your marks get back. That is the final hurdle of stress that must be defeated. One of the scariest things haunting the mind of a student about to read their marks is the life of a starving artist, living in a slum, barely paying rent, and trying desperately to get their work noticed. It’s often a thought that crosses an OCAD student’s mind, after doing poorly on a project or test, scared of whether they are ready to enter the workforce. We’re here to relieve a little of that fear and anxiety by introducing you to OCAD alumni that have succeeded in the workplace — people you may be aspiring to become. The objective is to realize that graduation and employment are both very realizable goals.
Alex McLeod, an incredible renderer of environments in digital space, will appeal to all environmental design students. His work has been exhibited in galleries across Canada, and is an example of how digital space is becoming a popular tool in a designer and/or artist’s arsenal. There is a magnitude of scenarios that can be explored outside of what the real world can offer.
A less conventional graduate from OCAD that has recently performed and exhibited her work during Nuit Blanche 2016 is Rebecca Belmore. She applied clay to a large rectangular matt; the clay was dug up from a river bed in Manitoba, and during the night, the matt would slowly be filled with the clay. This is a very different approach to performance art than what is usually seen today, where things are done to shock the public and grab their attention. Instead, she gains attention in the most passive way possible, letting viewers seemingly walk in on her personal workshop.
An even less conventional example is Jason Ho, an actor and singer that has released 25 albums for a Chinese audience, and was in countless Chinese films and TV series. He may not be the most relatable OCAD alumni, but definitely one of the most interesting. On the other hand, who knows, maybe in 20 years OCAD students will be amazed that one of our current peers has become an international superstar.
For those that aren’t satisfied by an undergrad and want more from OCAD, there are also graduate studies. After dedicating approximately four years to an undergrad, it is reasonable to assume students are not necessarily going to volunteer to spend more time exploring a graduate degree. However, OCAD U shouldn’t be considered a traditional institution. OCAD offers graduate degree programs which allow students to further explore their practices in a manner that encourages experimentation and challenges the conventional. Graduate students have the opportunity to display their work in OCAD’s galleries, including the Open Space Gallery, the Ignite Gallery, and the Graduate Gallery.
Wendy Whaley, an MFA candidate, has worked to display an exhibition at the Open Space Gallery entitled Coenesthesia: Affect as an Aesthetic of Healing Through Hybrid Reality Art. Whaley’s work involves a virtual reality headset and an interactive environment, intended to channel positive energy into a virtual world with the help of a meditation pod; the piece consciously aims to empower those who experience the work to achieve balance with their internal physiological and psychological being. Other MFA candidates, including Tara Krebs, have worked to display exhibitions at the Ignite Gallery; Krebs’ exhibition, titled You’ll Distract The Boys, invites viewers to be immersed in a non-linear storybook. Viewers take on the lives of different women and are met with conflicts and interactive choices which are responsible for altering, and inevitably determining, the outcome of the story. Krebs’ work addresses how the patriarchy dictates the way women exist in society, and how literature can inspire compassion towards the lives of others. Yet another MFA candidate, Brianne Service, worked to orchestrate an exhibition called Memory and Fiction in Gothic Spaces. Service’s work examines how viewers experience Gothic interior spaces. Service is inspired by themes of the sublime and the uncanny which are brought about in a variety of works. Service adamantly encourages viewers to question and give consideration to both the real and unreal.
OCAD U grad students recognizably have a great deal of freedom to experiment and create unique works in a way that articulates thoughts and ideas to viewers with the artist’s personal diction and authority. OCAD is a community which thrives off of innovative ideas and creative minds that work to push boundaries. Although we are an academic institution, OCAD intends to empower students to create exceptional works that are unprecedented, well-received, and showcase confident experimentation.
For many of us, OCAD is the culmination of what we dreamed of as kids. A chance to use our passion for art and design to push us further. A conclusion to years of hard work and focus. But what OCAD truly is, is the beginning. A place where we are able to take our passion and love of the creative and better ourselves though academia. To find out how we can be better, and refine our skills, from some of the most qualified instructors in the business. Most importantly, the OCAD experience surrounds us in an environment with other creatives, where we push each other to compete, and collaborate. OCAD is truly unique, and when we decide to leave, we will all have, at least, learned something new.
Check out our thesis/graduating student interviews here:
Jia Sheng Lu (Jay)
Mira Marie
Samuel Kwan
Nicole Calzavara

 

Some advice from thesis and alumni:
Thesis Student Advice and Experiences

 

References:

https://canadianart.ca/reviews/rebecca-belmore-nuit-blanche/

Article by Tommaso Budani, Sydney Gittens, and Bri Robertson