OCAD & CPAR launch Foodprints exhibit at Canada Blooms

Wednesday, March 17, 2010 - 4:00am

(Toronto — March 17, 2010) From a unique partnership comes a uniquely placed installation, at this year’s Canada Blooms flower and garden festival. The Ontario College of Art & Design’s faculty and student design team ‘Frogpond’ and the non-profit organization Canadian Physicians for Aid and Relief (CPAR) have teamed up to launch Foodprints: Edible Environments, Sustainable Gardens, a feature garden installation at Canada’s largest flower and garden festival, opening in Toronto this week.

The partnership originates from early discussions between the Sustainability Office at OCAD, which has a mandate to cultivate sustainability awareness through on-campus and outreach projects, and CPAR, which is committed to engaging the public on issues related to its international development work in Africa.

Frogpond is an interdisciplinary, hands-on extra-curricular forum that grew out of OCAD’s Think Tank program, bringing together students, alumni and faculty on real-life projects responding to the theme, “design for humanity.” Frogpond is lead by Keith Rushton, Chair of OCAD’s Graphic Design program, and Bruce Hinds Chair of OCAD’s Environmental Design program, and comprises of undergraduate students, recent graduates and OCAD Think Tank faculty members Zahra Ebrahim, Carl Hastrich and Andrew Nisker. The project provides students with a practical opportunity to consider sustainability issues in a context where scarce resources are often about survivability and making creative use of materials to enhance community livelihoods.

Foodprints draws inspiration from African farmers’ own design of edible gardens to generate sources of income, nutritious food for their families, and soil and water conservation measures that help small farmers remain resilient in the face of such challenges as climate change and HIV and AIDS. As a design challenge, Frogpond students and faculty embraced the stories, images and approaches employed by the farming communities that CPAR works with in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Malawi and Uganda to promote food security.

“We are thrilled to be undertaking this project with CPAR,” said Sheila Waite-Chuah, Coordinator of OCAD’s Sustainability Office. “Taking a concept through to implementation is a critical part of the learning process. Our students have contributed huge amounts of time and creativity to this project. They’re excited to be helping create awareness about the challenges and successes of farmers in Africa.”

The mobile exhibit challenges the public to examine the connections between the global and the local. With the growing interest in community gardens and locally sourced, organic food here in Canada, one of the important ‘lessons from the field’ promoted by the exhibit is that growing healthy food grows healthy communities, no matter where one lives.

Creatively employing savaged and renewable materials found at renovation sites throughout the city, and with an eye to a reusable and natural aesthetic for the exhibit, Frogpond students have generated a living, colourful and thought-provoking piece sure to attract interest at this year’s Canada Blooms festival. Foodprints will, post-Canada Blooms ‘go mobile’ — with plans to land at farmers markets, events and on the invitation of members of the public interested in issues of sustainability and local-global food security connections. The exhibit, and the real-life stories which inspire it, can be explored further on CPAR’s new website www.puttingfarmersfirst.ca. (launching Wednesday, March 17).

“This was really a dream collaboration in a lot of ways” notes Anna Miller, CPAR’s Director of Programs. “Not only did the Frogpond students and faculty approach this challenge with a trained eye to sustainable design, but they truly ran with the real life stories and approaches used in communities we work with in East and Southern Africa in such a sensitive and thought-provoking way.”

The CPAR-OCAD partnership was formed in early 2009, and will continue to engage students in practical projects focusing on real life, everyday design solutions faced and employed by the African communities with whom CPAR works.

Foodprints: Edible Environments, Sustainable Gardens will run at Feature Garden #9 at the Direct Energy Centre at Exhibition Place in Toronto from Wednesday March 17 to Sunday, March 21, daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday). For more information about Canada Blooms visit www.canadablooms.com.

About Canadian Physicians for Aid and Relief (CPAR)
CPAR (www.cpar.ca) is a non-profit organization that supports community efforts to ensure access to clean water, adequate food, primary health care services and a safe and healthy environment. Founded in 1984, and staffed at field level by a dynamic team of local African staff and specialists, CPAR works in partnership with vulnerable communities and diverse organizations to overcome poverty and build healthy communities in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Malawi and Uganda. CPAR’s latest project, a 5-year program entitled ‘Farmers First: Community-led Food Security’ and is funded by CPAR donors and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Putting Farmers First (www.puttingfarmersfirst.ca) will be launched on Wednesday, and will feature further information about the ‘Foodprints’ exhibit, the OCAD-CPAR collaboration and the farmers that inspired the exhibit.

About the Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD)
The Ontario College of Art & Design (www.ocad.ca) is Canada’s “university of the imagination.” OCAD is dedicated to art and design education, practice and research and to knowledge and invention across a wide range of disciplines. The university is building on its traditional, studio-based strengths, adding new approaches to learning that champion cross-disciplinarity, collaboration and the integration of emerging technologies. In the Age of Imagination, OCAD community members will be uniquely qualified to act as catalysts for the next advances in culture, technology and quality of life for all Canadians.

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For more information and images please contact:

Sarah Mulholland, Media & Communications Officer, OCAD
416.977.6000 Ext. 327 (mobile Ext. 1327)

Anna Miller, Director of Programs, CPAR
416-369-0865 Ext. 27 (mobile: 647-241-8714)