Camille Isaacs

My research is focussed in the Black Atlantic region, everything from the Black British idiom as shown in Zadie Smith's work, to West Indian inclusion in the Harlem Renaissance, to the burgeoning Black Canadian literature of Esi Edugyan. I am also especially interested in how identity shifts between ethnic and racial markers, particularly for blacks in North America.


"(Whitey) Fern Gulley" by Olivia McGilchrist. Image courtesy State of Blackness Conference.
Work by Abdi Osman. Image courtesy State of Blackness Conference.

OCAD U’s Faculty of Art is host to The State of Blackness, an interdisciplinary event bringing together artists, curators, academics, students and the public to discuss diasporic artistic practice, representation and arts education in Canada. The conference, which takes place Saturday, February 22, combines accessible panels open to everyone with a series of closed working sessions specifically for delegates from across Canada, the U.S. and the Caribbean.

“As a curator, I’m concerned that the visibility of black artists has fallen off,” said conference lead, Andrea Fatona, an instructor in the Criticism & Curatorial Practice program. “The idea of hosting a conference came to me when I was doing my dissertation looking at arts funding, particularly black arts funding in Canada, and I feel it’s important to examine both what’s going on and how we produce knowledge about art.”

Fatona designed the conference program as a means to gather a network together and also create a space for ongoing discussion. She hopes the event will help identify pedagogical innovations and best practices that broaden our understanding of cultural capital in the knowledge economy. 

“We haven’t had a conference like this in a very long time,” said Fatona, who cited cultural theorist Stuart Hall and his recent passing as an inspiration for the conference. Hall was instrumental in thinking through multiculturalism and issues of representation both in galleries and education, and what practices might look like. His work in developing practices around positioning equity and diversity may act as a model for some of the thinking at the conference. “We want to develop practical pedagogical tools not only at OCAD U but also across the country,” said Fatona.

The conference was developed in partnership with The Ontario Arts Council and with support by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

Learn more:

Attend the conference

Conference website

Read the New York Times profile of Stuart Hall