Artist, activist and teacher Alex Janvier and art collector and curator Kenneth Montague were awarded honorary doctorates at OCAD University’s convocation ceremonies on June 10.
Janvier is widely known as a pioneer of modernist Indigenous art with his paintings rendered in bright colours and imbued with spirituality. A survivor of the residential school system, Janvier pursued formal art training at what is now the Alberta College of Art and Design, where he graduated with honours. Janvier’s prolific work has influenced generations of Native artists.
Montague is sometimes described as a “Renaissance man” whose passion for art and philanthropy match his renowned dentistry skills. In 1997, Montague founded the non-profit Wedge Curatorial Projects, which promotes themes of culture and identity in art – particularly within the diasporic African and Black communities – through exhibitions, lectures and discussions.
“It is so fitting for Alex Janvier to receive this degree from OCAD University, which he had hoped to attend as a young man. His amazing body of work, from monumental murals to dazzling watercolours, has made a lasting impact on Canada’s visual culture,” said Dr. Sara Diamond, OCAD University’s president and vice-chancellor. “Kenneth Montague’s curatorial projects explore important issues of identity in art and society, whether in his own home here in Toronto or at galleries as far flung as London’s Tate Modern.”
Alex Janvier, from Cold Lake First Nation in northern Alberta, is one of Canada’s most acclaimed contemporary painters. His 50-year career is distinctively informed by his Indigenous heritage and modernist abstract painting style. His Morning Star mural painted on the domed ceiling of the Canadian Museum of History’s Grand Hall is seen by hundreds of visitors every day.
Besides being an influential artist, Janvier is a major figure and significant contributor to Indigenous visual culture. He was an art instructor, a cultural adviser and a member of the ground-breaking Professional Native Indian Artists Inc., also known as the Indian Group of Seven.
Janvier received multiple honours, awards and honorary doctorates; among them, the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts, the National Aboriginal Lifetime Achievement Award and the Order of Canada. This fall, the National Gallery of Canada will present a major exhibition of his work.
In the 1950s, Janvier applied to study at the Ontario College of Art (as OCAD University was then known) and was accepted. Due to government policy, however, he was not granted permission to leave the reserve to attend. On June 10, OCAD University will proudly recognize Janvier’s extraordinary accomplishments and welcome him into the university community with an honorary doctorate.
Kenneth Montague is a Toronto-based art collector and the founder and director of Wedge Curatorial Projects, a non-profit arts organization. Since 1997, Montague has been promoting both emerging and established diasporic African and Black artists via exhibitions, lectures and workshops. His focus is on contemporary art that explores Black identity, and he showcases these works in his Wedge Collection.
Montague is also a practising dentist who graduated from the University of Toronto's Faculty of Dentistry. He has repeatedly been voted "Best Dentist" in NOW Magazine readers’ polls, and his innovative downtown Toronto clinic provides dental care for many artists, designers and musicians. Montague is a founding member of the Association for the Advancement of Blacks in Health Science, and its Summer Mentorship Program for high-school students from African and First Nations communities has become a city-wide success. He has also established the Dr. Kenneth Montague African Diaspora Scholarship at the University of Windsor, where he began his post-secondary education.
Montague has served on the Africa Acquisitions Committee at Tate Modern, London (2012–2015), as well as the Advisory Board of the Ryerson Image Centre (2011–2014) and the Photography Curatorial Committee of the Art Gallery of Ontario (2009–2012). He is currently an AGO trustee and chair of the gallery’s Education and Community Engagement Committee.