Actor Elizabeth Morris on inclusive design for theatre and film 

Elizabeth Morris
Elizabeth Morris

Elizabeth Morris
Elizabeth Morris

Actor Elizabeth Morris’s latest role is in Jean Giraudoux’s satirical play The Madwoman of Chaillot at the Stratford Festival. Like any performer, she works hard to captivate audiences through strong acting and stage presence. Her work is expressed primarily, however, in American Sign Language (ASL).  

Morris’s substantial resume of theatre and film production credits includes a wide range of ASL storytelling, visual work, miming and stand-up comedy: “Sometimes I have ASL interpreters on hand to voiceover for me, for hearing members to hear, but my body language and facial expressions are very clear and big, so non-signers can pick up some of my signs,” she says. 

Morris also works as an ASL coach, an accessibility consultant, and an inclusive designer for theatres and films. She is a member of ACTRA and CAEA union.  She decided to attend OCAD U’s Inclusive Design program to research ways to make live theatres more accessible and inclusive for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and for their families.  

Elizabeth Morris
Elizabeth Morris

“I believe that if you want a change to happen, you have to be the person to change it,” says Morris of her research. In becoming an inclusive designer through the program, she hopes to reduce gaps in accessibility and forge new solutions specifically suited to theatre and film: “This research will always be evolving. I plan to open minds and help theatre companies be more willing to try new things.”  

Through interviewing Deaf actors and directors as part of her investigative process, Morris discovered different perspectives on accessibility issues: “Each individual is different,” she says. “The research is not only biased based on my own experiences, it’s inclusive of Deaf and Hard of Hearing who may have different levels of hearing loss.” She says that the program also made her more aware of accessibility issues for the blind.  

In film and theatre environments Morris works with ASL interpreters so that rehearsals and shows are accessible both to her and everyone else she’s collaborating with. Within the Inclusive Design program, OCAD U provided an ASL interpreters and a note taker for the same purpose, and much of the program is delivered through an online technology and learning system. Prior to attending OCAD U she completed her BA in Elementary Education and Educational Drama at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., which remains unique as the only liberal arts university for the Deaf in the world.  

Find out more: www.Actor-ElizabethMorris.com 

 

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Donghia Scholarship recipient Simona Turco

Simona Turco

Simona Turco
Simona Turco

Environmental Design student Simona Turco works in interior architecture and interior design on sustainable concepts and installations, using design techniques and conventions from around the world.

She is most inspired by creating unusual spaces that push boundaries and create new tensions and interesting experiences. Her thesis, “In Between,” was a design concept for a public residence with a public gallery and live-in laneway studios on one side of the site. She describes it as an examination of “the thresholds that exist between spaces, programs and forms and how these liminal spaces can become more than the spaces that exist in transition.” The design features a square gallery space surrounded by asymmetrical galleries that can be visited sequentially. This design encourages passing through spaces to challenge the idea of adjacencies and highlight the juxtapositions of workspace with living space, and public with private space.

While at OCAD U, Turco also worked on a colour intervention concept for a campus stairway that would reflect patterns of pink, orange and purple light. She built a model for a Toronto Island community retreat space that promotes healthy and mindful living. And she created an interior design concept featuring a system of high-contrast colour, braille millwork and acoustic variation to enable people with visual impairments to easily use and enjoy a home space.

Simona Turco - In-Between
Simona Turco - In-Between

Turco was a recipient of the prestigious, $25K Angelo Donghia Scholarship. Named after the renowned New York interior designer, the scholarship is awarded to the most promising interior design students in North America.

 

She chose to study at OCAD U because she says she felt it exuded the most creativity and freedom. “I was excited to be part of what became a very tight-knit and personal learning experience, with small classes and helpful instructors,” she says. She also enjoyed working on design assignments while in the outdoor spaces around OCAD U, including Grange Park.

 

Turco’s plan is to work abroad to refine her skills and learn as much as she can about the built environment. “I would love to become a member of a small- to medium-sized firm, doing architectural and interior design projects that are interesting, new and innovative,” she says.

 

Find out more: simonaturco.format.com 

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Colin Rosati on the Internet as research

Colin Rosati - Clean My Mac
Colin Rosati - 360 Selfs

Colin Rosati - Clean my mac
Colin Rosati - Clean my mac

Integrated Media student Colin Rosati’s award-winning programming, electronics, video and installation works take ideologies to their extremes. He describes it as similar to how science fiction exaggerates ideas and creates speculative scenarios to drive people to examine what’s happening now. “I’m interested in the notion that art is about creating new associations in order to find meaning in our lives rather than making new original aesthetic content,” he says. 

He works with a variety of technologies and analyzes how we engage with them in everyday life. If there’s a new technology he wants to address, he learns it. For example, he taught himself how to use the Facebook API (interface for building software applications) last semester to create a satirical web application that produces custom apparel. Then he exhibited the work, Gnothi Sauton, at Panke Gallery in Berlin as part of this year’s Wrong Biennale. He’s learning about electronics and physical computing to make installation art out of hacked consumer technologies, such as hacked disposable cameras and selfie sticks.  

His work often addresses misconceptions around technology. “My practice involves looking at relationships which are increasingly mediated by technologies that bias and facilitate particular ways of seeing and behaving,” he says, noting that he spends a lot of time on the Internet, YouTube and social media as research spaces. He sees the potential as well as the possible negative implications of the blending of art and life today.  

Colin Rosati - 360 selfs
Colin Rosati - 360 selfs

Rosati chose to study at OCAD U to gain broad-base knowledge in art, fabrication process and theory, and he also recognized that OCAD U would help introduce him to the Toronto art community and forge connections.  

In 2015 he won the Emerging Digital Artist Award sponsored by Equitable Bank for his interactive installation video work Autocidal After Image, which was exhibited at OCAD U’s Xpace Cultural Centre before it became part of the bank’s permanent contemporary art collection. He’s also shown works at Trinity Square Video, #Hashtag Gallery, Oz Studios, YYZ Artists’ Outlet and the Augmented Cinema Film Festival in Toronto, as well as in galleries in Montreal and Berlin.  

After graduation he plans to continue his research-based art and also work in software development, creating meaningful products with a similar sensibility to that of his creative practice.  

Find out more: colinrosati.com 

 

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Visual radical Barbara Astman

Barbara Astman - Furworks from the Newspaper series
Barbara Astman

Barbara Astman
Barbara Astman

Barbara Astman’s photo-based artworks question what it means to exist, and often in unexpected ways. “My art practice is considered a research-based practice in which process plays a huge role in the outcome of what I make,” she says. “I make images that relate to the practice of photography. It’s camera art, photo-based art and I use other media.” 

Astman is internationally recognized as a visionary who has radicalized visual culture, and she enjoys a variety of challenges. Along with her lengthy international exhibition history spanning four decades, she’s a Faculty of Art professor, lecturer, curator and researcher, and is active in the Toronto arts community, serving on numerous boards and advisory committees.  

She also makes public art works. “I work with developers to create something specific for a building. It’s a very different process and it has to be accessible to the public,” she says. Her public art commissions include a series of photo-based images for 217 windows at the Murano on Bay in Toronto (2010) and a public art installation for the Canadian Embassy in Berlin (2005).  

Barbara Astman - Dancing with Che
Barbara Astman - Dancing with Che

Her main interest is her own studio-based practice. She’s working on a new series created using glass bottles and other objects as negatives that she prints in her analogue darkroom. Her touring exhibition, Dancing with Che: Enter Through the Gift Shop (2011), is comprised of 30 images that she commercially reproduced onto coffee mugs, T-shirts, book bags, postcards, keychains, commemorative plates and other objects. 

“I’m very active with exhibitions,” Astman says, noting that her work is part of the Photography in Canada: 1960-2000 exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada and also on view at the Canada Council Art Bank this year. “It’s important for students to see exhibitions. You can learn a lot by showing up to see shows and getting out to see art in the city,” she says. 

Barbara Astman - Furworks from the Newspaper series
Barbara Astman - Furworks from the Newspaper series

Teaching is important to Astman, and she brings her experimental approach to the classroom. “I encourage my students to break rules, risk failure and not to stick to what they already know. That’s how they can grow as artists,” she says. 

She tells her students to keep their minds open, and to come in with a positive attitude and strong work ethic. “People think being an artist is an easy thing, but it’s not. It’s a lot of work. People go to an exhibition and think, well I could do that, but you didn’t, I did. Even for myself I try to keep my mind open to the potential of what’s out there and what you can discover as an artist.” 

Find out more: barbarastman.com

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Aqil Raharjo and the workplace nap

Aqil Raharjo's winning project
Aqil Raharjo - Polar Bears

Aqil Raharjo's winning project
Aqil Raharjo's winning project

The instructions for Schnap, the hammock Aqil Raharjo designed to fit under a work desk, begin: “Either you are a procrastinator, an ambitious human being or generally a hectic person, thank you for taking care of yourself.” This straightforward charm, together with a simple yet effective design solution garnered worldwide attention for Raharjo in 2016, when Schnap was featured on Mashable, Design Taxi, the Daily Dot and other popular online media outlets.  

Raharjo, who’s now in his fourth year of the Graphic Design program at OCAD U, created Schnap for a class assignment. Several of his other notable graphic design projects have also been featured on Behance. In 2016 he won the Cineplex Digital Media Award for Information Design from RGD Student Awards for his Save Polar Bears! poster. He’s the recipient of the Jan van Kampen Scholarship from OCAD U, and landed a graphic and UX design co-op placement for Summer 2017 at IBM Canada, and won the 2017 Adobe Creative Jam Competition People’s Choice Award. He’s also currently working as a graphic designer at The Young Astronauts. 

Aqil Raharjo - Polar Bears
Aqil Raharjo - Polar Bears

Raharjo was offered opportunities to study design at LASALLE College of the Arts in Singapore, and Binus International in Jakarta, but chose to learn and launch his exciting career at OCAD U. “Making something useful and aesthetically pleasing has always been my passion,” he says. “OCAD U has been my university dream since junior high, because who would not want to live abroad, let alone in Canada and study something one is passionate about?” 

Raharjo’s work is fueled by his interests in pop culture, sustainability, the environment, health and human rights issues. “I believe that design can change the way we perceive something,” he says. “It’s just a matter of delivering the intention to the audience effectively.” 

He’s motivated by the desire to blend playful, colourful form with function: “Every time I start a new project, I always ask myself how to make it useful. When someone sees my work, I want him or her to think, ‘how did I not come up with that idea?’ or ‘how did I live without this?’”  

Raharjo says studying at OCAD U has opened up design possibilities for him, and taught him new ways to tackle problems. For his thesis project, he made a children’s toy and storybook whose unique play experience is designed to build the “socially conscious generations of the future.” (He says, “Don’t ever underestimate a graphic designer!”) Upon graduation he hopes to travel the world, collaborate with creative people across the industry and contribute to popular culture.  

Find out more: www.qilart.com  

 

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There is always more than meets the eye: Toronto artist Amanda Clyne

Amanda Clyne - Erased
Amanda Clyne - Wallflower
Amanda Clyne - Wallflower

Erased - Amanda ClyneErased - Amanda Clyne

Toronto artist Amanda Clyne (Drawing and Painting, 2009) devotes herself to her full-time practice, working in her own backyard studio-gallery space. Her work is exhibited and reviewed around the world, and in 2016 she was recognized by the Ontario Arts Council with an Emerging Artist Grant.  

 

It’s a dream that almost didn’t happen — Clyne was a corporate lawyer in New York City who quit to pursue art. At first she studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York, but soon transferred to OCAD U. “I grew up in Toronto and envied everyone who went to OCAD U. It had a special aura about it,” she says. “When I was accepted into OCAD U it was one of the best days of my life.” 

Wallflower - Amanda ClyneWallflower - Amanda Clyne

Clyne was a Medal Winner in her program, for a large-scale triptych of historical and contemporary imagery from the room at the Prado Museum in Madrid where Veásquez’s Las Meninas is displayed. “The themes of my current work can be seen in the nascent stage in that painting, including my interest in the history of portraiture, the effect of textiles and couture and the representation of the feminine,” she says.  

 

After graduating from OCAD U she pursued an MFA in Visual Arts from York University, with the support of the Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). Since then her work has shown in solo and group exhibitions across Canada, the U.S. and Europe. Several of her works are included in corporate collections, including those of Holt Renfrew and Astra Zeneca. 

Wallflower - Amanda ClyneWallflower - Amanda Clyne

Clyne describes her work today as driven by her interest in portraiture, the limitations of the visual and the relationship of the feminine to representations of power and vulnerability. “My paintings are conceived as portraits of invisibility,” she says. “There’s always more than meets the eye.” 

 

Clyne is currently exploring two new bodies of work for future exhibitions, and is also frequently invited for artist talks and guest teaching, something she enjoys: “I’m very conscious of the vulnerabilities and doubts that students experience in making art and in wanting to be better, so I work to be as honest and helpful as my best instructors were with me.”  

 

Find out more: amandaclyne.com 

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Curator as artist’s assistant? Meet Veronika Ivanova

Veronika IvanovaVeronika Ivanova

Veronika Ivanova, an MFA candidate in the Criticism and Curatorial Practice program, is also the director and co-founder of Bunker 2 Contemporary Art Container, a contemporary gallery housed in a repurposed and mobile shipping container in Toronto. The gallery is committed to pushing curatorial and artistic boundaries and exhibiting emerging artists with diverse artistic practices.  

 

Ivanova focuses on similar themes in her own practice: “I’m interested in curating difficult, transgressive content, and I’m also interested in the ethical implications of doing so from a curator’s perspective,” she says. “How does a curator care for their varied publics? What are the ethical implications in exhibiting trauma? How can we bridge pedagogy and contemporary art through curatorial practice?” 

 

Ivanova is also an independent writer with a philosophy background. While studying at Portland State University, she wrote about the ethical implications of exhibiting transgressive art for her undergraduate thesis. She’s also written about the history of aesthetics, the Kantian sublime, failure as a subject of investigation, the liberating subversion of humour in art and beauty and contemporary art engaged with the everyday. She recently wrote a critique of the rise of the curator as an influential force, arguing instead to emphasize the role of the artist in shaping the exhibition. In fact, when asked what she envisioned as the ideal role and function of a curator in the world, she replied: “curator as artist’s assistant.” 

 

One of her recent curatorial projects, “The Bomb Party, or What Goes Up,” featuring work by Grayson Alabiso-Cahill, explored the relationships among, farce, spectacle, war and capitalism. 

 

Ivanova credits the Criticism and Curatorial Practice program for facilitating opportunities for her to take risks in her emerging curatorial practice and for providing her with the support she needs to succeed. While noting that the program is demanding, she says she finds the collaborative working space invaluable. “I talk through many, if not all, of my ideas with my cohort.”    

  

“The instructors I’ve had have all been incredibly generous with me,” she says. In fact, meeting the faculty was why she decided to study at OCAD U: “I was actually preparing to go into a Master’s of Social Work program when I met Dr. Andrea Fatona (through a graduate of the program). She’s extraordinarily kind, encouraging and supportive of her students.” 

 

Find out more: bunker2.ca 

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Mark Thoburn on patient-centred design

MT - butterflies
MT - wildflowers
MT - mood
MT - splash
Mark Thoburn

Mark Thoburn
Mark Thoburn

When Mark Thoburn applied to the Digital Futures program at OCAD U, he’d already completed an undergraduate degree at Trent, a graduate degree in Journalism at the University of British Columbia, a decade of work as a documentary producer and a residency at the Canadian Film Centre’s Media Lab. He chose to study at OCAD U to develop his skills as an entrepreneur.  


Mark Thoburn - Wildflowers

Upon graduation in 2013, he started Mobio Interactive with a goal to change people’s lives. He knew that it would require a unique team. “There’s designers, scientists and programmers, and it’s the combination that creates a complete experience. It takes a diversity of skill sets to create a medical experience that’s more than just an app,” he says.


Mark Thoburn - Butterflies

Mobio Interactive’s first product is its Wildflowers meditation app, which uses design, gamification, mood tracking and heartrate tracking to help people develop a meditation practice. “We looked at mindfulness meditation and reinterpreted it on a digital platform to create something that in a health context will demonstrate mental health benefits,” Thoburn says. Two controlled studies at the University of Toronto have demonstrated improvements in both stress resilience (among students at exam time) and physical endurance (among student athletes). 

The company has recently partnered with Dutch insurance company Achmea Zilveren Kruis to deliver mindfulness to its customers, and is now developing a mindfulness-based cancer care program. 


Mark Thoburn - Wildflowers

Says Thoburn: “The work I do in the company is a continuation of what I did as a student at OCAD U. It’s about design iteration, and human-centred design, although in our case we call it patient-centred design. As a company we align with and embrace OCAD U in a big way. OCAD U is a place where work is very experimental, playful and creative. It supports taking risks, and you don’t get that elsewhere.” 


Mark Thoburn - Wildflowers

Thoburn’s company is part of OCAD U’s Imagination Catalyst program for entrepreneurs. “The main benefit of the Imagination Catalyst is community,” Thoburn says. “There’s a huge diversity of companies and skills, so you’re in an entrepreneurial ecosystem where people are tackling problems from different perspectives.”  

Find out more: mobiointeractive.com

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Meet Digital Futures grad Leon Lu

Leon Lu Illustration depicting people sitting at table with phones
Leon Lu Illustration depicting people sitting at table with phones
Table designed by Leon Lu
Table designed by Leon Lu

Leon Lu Illustration depicting people sitting at table with phonesLeon Lu Illustration depicting people sitting at table with phones

How do you change people’s social behavior so they interact with each other face-to-face instead of with their screens? Leon Lu’s research in the Digital Futures graduate program is focused on problem-solving this very contemporary issue and addressing the socio-cultural impact of Internet-connected devices. “As a designer I’m very interested in interaction,” he says. “I want to change behaviour and get people to talk to each other so they can empathize with one another.” 

Using a theoretical framework based on the persuasive design and behavioral model posited by scientist BJ Fogg, Lu prototyped different interventions designed to limit certain behaviors and encourage other actions. To encourage face-to-face interaction, thus far he’s created a dining table with a surface that moves when it detects the presence of phones, and a chess board that won’t let players begin a game until their phones are put away.  

Leon Lu Illustration depicting people sitting at table with phonesLeon Lu Illustration depicting people sitting at table with phones

After earning an undergraduate degree in Chemistry from St. Stephen’s College in Delhi University in New Delhi, India, Lu worked in advertising, an experience he says helped push his career in a positive direction. “Advertising taught me how much good storytelling affects people’s behaviour and perception, and I started becoming interested in how perception affects our interaction with objects and tangible things in the real world.” 

Lu credits the collaborative atmosphere of the Digital Futures program for supporting his research: “For a university environment it’s unique. You can work with people from very different backgrounds in this program, so understanding each other is very important. Communication is definitely a good real world skill to have,” he says. “Getting feedback from my colleagues is very helpful, and I’ve been working closely with a student with a background in Industrial Design. We all put in a lot of work together in this program and build close relationships.” 

Table designed by Leon LuTable designed by Leon Lu

Lu also enjoyed the opportunity to work as research assistant in the Visual Analytics Lab at OCAD U, where he tackled design problems, analyzed data and provided insights for companies, including The Globe and Mail. “It’s real world work, not just research for research’s sake,” he says. 

Table designed by Leon LuTable designed by Leon Lu

Leon is currently a Resident Research Fellow at NYU Shanghai, where he spends his time teaching and working on his own research. 

Find out more: madebyleon.co 

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Joseph Muscat and the fine art of picture-building

"Do Not Pass, GO" Artwork by Joseph Muscat. Acrylic on Paper. 2015.
"SCrude" Artwork by Joseph Muscat. Acrylic on Paper. 2017.
"SCrude" Artwork by Joseph Muscat. Acrylic on Paper. 2017.

"Do Not Pass, GO" Artwork by Joseph Muscat. Acrylic on Paper. 2015.

Joseph Muscat (Fine Arts, 1981) studied art at OCA, as it was then known, graduating in 1981. He describes the experience at OCA at the end of the seventies as a period of change and renewal, both for himself and the college.  “It was an ideal school for aspiring artists who wanted to have access to courses in both academic drawing, painting, sculpture and printmaking as well as in experimental studios” he says. “The combination prepared me well and emboldened me to start my career in visual arts.” 

Unlike the majority of his fellow students, Muscat came to OCA after completing a BA degree in Sociology from Glendon College, York University. “I was part of a group who thought we were the new revolutionaries at the time. We would meet weekly in each other’s studio and critique each other’s work; that’s where our drive and motivation seemed to come from. Four of us formed a collective, which we called Bearded Mens’ Club, where we organized exhibitions, did installations together, and even dabbled in performance art.”  These four exhibiting artists have had a solid track record and are still very active in the arts community, well represented by established galleries in Canada. In 2006, Mr. Muscat organized a 25-year reunion show at Propeller Gallery to celebrate the important milestone. 

"SCrude" Artwork by Joseph Muscat. Acrylic on Paper. 2017.

Though Muscat’s style is ever evolving, he does see thematic threads running through his 40-year practice. “I’m eclectic in my work. I paint, draw and combine media; I also like to combine representational imagery with abstraction. The subject matter for my work tends to relate to environmental issues and awareness” he says. “I favour a kind of symbolism in my picture- building often lightened with wit or whimsy” 

Muscat showed a new 50-foot wrap-around installation mural at his Fenix Studio and Gallery in February 2017. And in October 2017, he exhibited another such installation work, a 27-foot long mural to custom fit three adjoining walls of the David Kaye Gallery in Toronto. Over the course of his career, he has shown his work in solo and group exhibitions in Canada, USA and Europe, and many of his paintings reside in public, corporate and private collections, including the Canada Council Art Bank and the City of Toronto. He remains very involved in professional artists associations, arts juries and artist-run galleries where he has served on their boards of directors. 

"SCrude" Artwork by Joseph Muscat. Acrylic on Paper. 2017.

Muscat has lectured at the University of Toronto, and for many years he enjoyed teaching part-time at various Toronto secondary schools. At his teaching retirement send-off, Joseph Muscat directed his retirement gift toward an OCAD U scholarship, The Joseph Muscat Scholarship, a prize awarded annually to a Fine Arts student who breaks the rules and creates something unique. “It gives me a lot of pleasure to know every year that a student is being helped in a small way to cover the many costs for art supplies and living expenses because I know how much the scholarship I received while studying art helped me.” 

Find out more: josephmuscatartist.com 

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