Expanded Context: Black Canadian Curators at the 56th Venice Biennale

Expanded Context: Black Canadian Curators at the 56th International Art Exhibition, the Venice Biennale 2015 was a forum which brought together black Canadian curators and critics at the 56th Venice Biennale in order to build transnational networks and promote black Canadian visual art. The forum sought to ameliorate the invisibility of the works of black Canadian artists, curators, and critics within the international sphere.

The goals of Expanded Context: Black Canadian Curators at the 56th International Art Exhibition, the Venice Biennale 2015 were as follows:

  • To foster greater awareness, understanding and opportunities for partnerships and collaborations between culturally diverse curators and the visual arts establishment, negotiating progression pathways for the new generation of leaders in visual arts.
  • To promote Canadian black artists and develop an engaging dialogue between Canadian art and the international stage
  • To allow Black curators a space for critical reflection, research, dialogue, experimentation, and exchange
  • To provide access to ideas, artists, and artworks that can be developed for curatorial research
  • To develop partnerships for future exhibition opportunities

Expanded Context: Black Canadians Curators at the 56th International Art Exhibition, the Venice Biennale 2015 was a unique professional development opportunity for Black Canadian curators and critics. It was a two-day gathering (held May 7th and May 8th, 2015) which addressed the politics and practice of curatorship in a globalized world.

The program of engagement included networking meetings and interviews with artists, curators, gallerists and collectors, as well as the opportunity to visit Biennale exhibitions and collateral events. The participation of Black curators and critics at the 56th Venice Biennale served to correct the visible absence of Black Canadian curators at key international arts events. The Expanded Context project provided an international platform for connecting Black Canadian curators, and created a global forum for these professionals to share projects and initiatives.

Participants included: Julie Crooks, Pamela Edmonds, Andrea Fatona, Sally Frater, Dominique Fontaine, Gaetane Verna, Camille Turner, Rinaldo Walcott.

Participants were selected from the group of curators and academics who attended the State of Blackness : From Production to Presentation conference. Keynote speakers included curators Bisi Silva and David Bailey

This project has been the subject of an article, “Questioning Citizenship at the Venice Biennale: Responses and Interventions” in C Magazine, Issue 128, and a podcast, "New Point of View at the Venice Art Biennale" by Fresh Arts International, Fresh Talk Series.

Other Resources:
The State of Blackness Website
 The State of Blackness on Youtube

  • We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, which last year invested $153 million to bring the arts to Canadians throughout the country.
  • Nous remercions le Conseil des arts du Canada de son soutien. L’an dernier, le Conseil a investi 153 millions de dollars pour mettre de l’art dans la vie des Canadiennes et des Canadiens de tout le pays.


The State of Blackness Logo - text and a gradient in stacked rectangles from black to gray
Canada Council for the Arts logo
Ontario Arts Council Logo
Wednesday, December 6, 2017 - 10:45am
Lab Member: 
Andrea Fatona

The State of Blackness Database

Photo of community meeting participants by Anique Jordan.

The State of Blackness Database project is a searchable, web-based, annotated catalogue of key visual art productions, analytic essays, oral history interviews, research papers and colloquia presentations – produced by and about black Canadian artists, critics and curators from the late 1980s to the present.  The database seeks to provide visibility, and make accessible, information pertaining to black Canadian visual arts productions.

The State of Blackness Database will create a centralized site to house scholarly information and works by and about black artists and cultural producers. The database will provide access to material created by black artists, curators, and critics who, because of racial difference, have historically been at the margins of Canadian art production. It will centralize and disseminate knowledge from a cross section of disciplines including fine arts, design, and curatorial practice. The database will be made available in multiple modalities (text, image, and audio).

The database will provide insights into transcultural and transnational knowledge production in the context of Black Canada, highlighting its relationship to art education, the politics of representation, and inclusivity.

Content of The State of Blackness Database will include:

  • A listing of curators, contributors, and Black artists
  • Headshots, bios, and links to curators’ and artists’ website
  • Artworks
  • Past and current exhibitions projects curated by and about Black Canadian artists
  • Digital versions of exhibition catalogues
  • Essays, interviews, and papers on black Canadian visual art

This project will provide access to scholarly information on Canadian black visual art productions. It will also increase the visibility of black visual art and develop the Canadian discourse on Canadian black visual art. The project was inspired by discussions held at The State of Blackness: From Production to Presentation Conference.

Phase I (completed October 2017)

Vtape supported Phase 1 of the State of Blackness Database project. Vtape is a distributor of historical and contemporary media arts work by local, national, and international artists. It houses a research centre that caters to curators, scholars, educators, and the public. Vtape is also a world leader in the preservation and archiving of video art. The organization is committed to education and provides technical and research training to undergraduate and graduate students, cultural workers, and community groups through their internship programs.

Website: www.vtape.org

Guided by Andrea Fatona, and Vtape’s Artistic Director Lisa Steele, researcher Elisha Lim compiled data on Black Canadian video production and presentation activities that have taken place between the early 1980’s through 1999, cataloguing key visual and media arts curatorial projects, analytic essays, oral history interviews, research papers and colloquia presentations — produced by and about black Canadian artists, critics and curators from the late 1980s to the present. The research included an exploration of the programming archive at A Space Gallery and the Vtape holdings.

A community meeting was held in late October to discuss and vision ways in which end users of the information- black artists, cultural producers and community members -  can contribute to the processes by which new categories are developed to describe the materials. Preview access of the Vtape catalogue and a list of holdings by black artists were given to all attendees.

Other Resources:
The State of Blackness Website
 The State of Blackness on Youtube
The State of Blackness: From Production to Presentation Conference


Group photograph of attendees at T.S.O.B. Vtape meeting
Wednesday, December 6, 2017 - 10:30am
Lab Member: 
Andrea Fatona

Pam Patterson

My practice is performative and engages with/in diverse locations of/in culture. It is a practice that honours the self, the other(s) and the knowledge that is co-created. It is a practice that engages the self as a whole, a conversation among multiples -- diverse perspectives, experiences, modes of thinking and expressing. My study is in flux, in motion, as a place of multiple, interdisciplinary arts practices.

Creator Within: A Gathering of Indigenous Artistic Expressions Festival

Creator Within
Wednesday, November 19, 2008 - 5:00am to Sunday, November 23, 2008 - 5:00am

The Association for Native Development in the Performing & Visual Arts (herein referred to as ANDPVA) mandate is to provide access, stimulate and promote creativity in the arts for artists/creators/producers of Native ancestry working in any discipline - by facilitating workshop & training opportunities, programming events, information services and networking opportunities, by advocating for Native art and Native artists, creators and producers, by rendering experienced and informed counsel, and by providing professional opportunities - to ensure Native art and artists a place of integrity within the Native and non Native community.

ANDPVA presents "Creator Within: A Gathering of Indigenous Artistic Expressions Festival", including participation by Faculty of Liberal Studies Instructor Tannis Neilsen.

Festival takes place at various locations in Toronto, please visit the website for a complete schedule.


Health & Safety for Visual Artists

Wednesday, October 15, 2008 - 10:30pm

Health & Safety for Visual Artists is a workshop designed to help visual and media artists develop safe
and healthy professional practices. Many visual artists repeatedly expose themselves to toxic and
potentially harmful chemicals and situations in order to produce their work and make a living. What are
the consequences? What can be done to create a healthier working environment?

Workshop participants will learn about:
• Toxicity in artists’ materials
• Health and safety in the studio
• Strategies for exposure reduction and risk management in art practices

Ted Rickard, MLS, MEd, CRSP, Manager of Health & Safety at Ontario College of Art & Design (1988-
While at OCAD Ted’s educational mandate reached all aspects of health and safety within the university including teaching students, faculty and staff. A leading expert in this field, Ted has advised on health and safety issues for many individuals, institutions and organizations including Art Gallery of
Ontario’s Conservation Department, Art Hazards Resource Association, Harbourfront Craft Studios and of
course past presentations with AHCF and CARFAC. He has published over thirty booklets and articles for
various arts and occupational health and safety journals, a number of in-house policies and procedures
manuals and audio-visual training kits marketed across North America and around the world. Ted continues to offer independent training services to the larger arts community through his work with T.J Rickard Safety Consultancy.

Workshop Fee: $25 / Students & Seniors: $15
To register please contact us at:
Phone: 416.351.0239 | Email: info@ahcf.ca
Or visit our website to fill in an online registration form at: www.ahcf.ca

For your comfort, this is a scent-free workshop. Please refrain from wearing any perfume, cologne, aftershave
or scented products.

Venue & Address: 
InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre 9 Ossington Avenue, Toronto, Ontario

Mukwa Geezis 2008

Friday, March 28, 2008 - 4:00am to Sunday, March 30, 2008 - 4:00am

The Association for Native Development in the Visual & Performing Arts (ANDVPA) presents its annual gathering at OCAD.

Venue & Address: 
Various locations at OCAD 100 McCaul St., Toronto, Ontario

Fourth-Year Week: From Theory to Practice, Taking your Visual Arts Career to the Next Level

fourth-year week
Tuesday, March 11, 2008 - 7:00pm to 9:00pm

Kristian Clarke, Executive Director of the Ontario chapter of Canadian Artists' Representation/Le Front des Artistes Canadiens (CARFAC) will talk about taking your visual art careers to the next level.

Presented by Alumni Relations.

This week is all about YOU, the fourth-year student'to recognize your accomplishments as you near the end of your final year. Fourth-Year Week is a way for OCAD to say thank you and celebrate the valuable contribution you make to the OCAD community and beyond.

We welcome you to participate as your schedule allows.

March 10 to March 14, 2008

Connect, engage, reflect and have fun!

Check the Events Calendar for daily activities and watch for posters and a Fourth-Year Week brochure!

Venue & Address: 
Room 1320 113 McCaul Street, Toronto, Ontario


An early model of the three Mirvish+Gehry towers, Courtesy of Gehry International, Inc.
Peter Kofman, Vladimir Spicanovic, Dr. Sara Diamond, David Mirvish and Craig Webb, Photo: Martin Iskander
Another early model of the three Mirvish+Gehry towers, Courtesy of Gehry International, Inc.

Picture a vibrant new gallery space and learning centre in the heart of Toronto’s cultural core that will bring OCAD University to the world. That’s a hope for the future for the OCAD U campus, and on February 14 Dr. Sara Diamond, President and Vice-Chancellor announced the name of the 25,000-square-foot facility: the Princess of Wales Centre for Visual Arts at OCAD University.

It’s appropriate this announcement was made on Valentine’s Day, because of the passions it’s awakening in everyone involved and connected to it. The use of the name was approved in a letter of permission sent on behalf of the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry: “Their Royal Highnesses are extremely grateful to you for raising this matter,” read the letter, “since Toronto always held a very special place in their mother, Diana, Princess of Wales’s heart.”

The new arts-dedicated facility will honour a legacy that associates the creative and socially transformative components of art with the Princess of Wales’s dedication to young people, intergenerational exchange and social concerns such as violence, poverty and HIV education. These themes resonate in contemporary art practice and OCAD U’s engagement with contemporary ethics and art in the social sphere. 

“There are very special moments as a leader when your heart both leaps with excitement and warms with profound gratitude,” said Dr. Sara Diamond, OCAD U’s president at today’s announcement. “The day that David Mirvish called me and shared his hope that OCAD U would become his partner in the creation of a transformative King Street development with world-renowned architect Frank Gehry was such a life moment.”

The facility, part of the Mirvish+Gehry Toronto initiative, is slated to be built at the north east corner of King and Duncan streets in downtown Toronto. The plan proposes a myriad of opportunities for Toronto and international public to engage with the legacy that OCAD U represents.

Like the Sharp Centre for Design designed for OCAD U by Alsop Architects and Robbie/Young + Wright Architects Inc., the Mirvish + Gehry development will be visually unique. Craig Webb, one of Frank Gehry’s partners described the vision as three towers, each with its own identity, emerging from a cloud-like podium structure onto the Toronto skyline.

“Our goal is to define ourselves and our ambitions,” said David Mirvish, who compared the community spirit of the project to that of NYC’s 92nd Street Y, Manhattan’s renowned cultural community hub. “We’re building a neighbourhood that will serve the whole city, and we’re hoping the core of the gallery can be free to the public.” 

"This space will be about more than places to see and experience art,” said Vladimir Spicanovic, OCAD U’s Dean of Arts. “It will also be a place to study, curate and create artboth for OCAD U students and for the public.”

Imagine a space where you can:

  • See OCAD U’s permanent collection of more than 6,000 prints, paintings, sculptures, textiles and photographs by more than 250 notable Canadian artists
  • View exhibitions by curatorial students
  • Attend performances and the president’s lecture series in a 254-seat theatre-in-the-round
  • Access OCAD U’s expansive collections by master printmakers and archive of artists’ books
  • Study and research criticism, curatorial practice, art history, printmaking and publications
  • Produce publications in a hands-on studio for layout, editing, bookbinding and print-on-demand bookmaking

Find out more:


Georgia Dickie wins Toronto Friends of the Visual Arts Artist Prize

Work from Georgia Dickie's thesis series, Findings, 2011.
Thursday, April 17, 2014 - 4:15pm

Toronto Friends of the Visual Arts announced this year’s prize winners, offering a range of prizes recognizing achievement and supporting projects. Among this year’s recipients is 2011 Sculpture/Installation medal winner Georgia Dickie, who will receive $10,000.

“Georgia Dickie’s practice seems to transcend time and ordinary language and therefore propels us towards a future, where everything is malleable, where transformation is the only constant,” said the TFVA news release.

OCAD U names new facility at Mirvish+Gehry Toronto The Princess of Wales Centre for Visual Arts

Thursday, February 14, 2013 - 5:00am

(Toronto—February 14, 2013) OCAD University announced today that it will name its new 25,000-square-foot facility at the proposed Mirvish+Gehry Toronto project The Princess of Wales Centre for Visual Arts at OCAD University. The new facility is one of two cultural centrepieces of a multi-year, multi-phase project announced in October that will transform Toronto’s downtown arts and entertainment district.  The Mirvish+Gehry Toronto project, which will also feature a new Mirvish Collection museum, is the largest and most significant urban commission to date for Toronto-born architect Frank Gehry.

“The Princess of Wales has long been associated in Toronto with excellence in the arts,” said Dr. Sara Diamond, President and Vice-Chancellor of OCAD U. “This new arts-dedicated facility provides a means to honour a legacy that associates the creative and socially transformative virtues of art with the Princess of Wales’s legendary dedication to young people, intergenerational exchange and social concerns such as violence, poverty and HIV education.”

OCAD University received approval to transfer the Princess of Wales name, originally granted in 1993 to the Mirvish family to name the then-new Princess of Wales Theatre, which will be replaced as part of the project plans. The letter sent on behalf of Their Highnesses, The Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry, reads: “Their Royal Highnesses are extremely grateful to you for raising this matter, since Toronto always held a very special place in their mother, Diana, Princess of Wales’s heart.”

The Princess of Wales Centre for Visual Arts at OCAD University’s proximity to the Mirvish Collection museum provides an unprecedented opportunity for partnership and collaboration.

“It is wonderful news that the Princess of Wales presence will continue its historic relationship to our cultural projects that began in May of 1993 with the Princess of Wales theatre,” said David Mirvish. “OCAD University, its staff and students share a broad range of interests that coincide with mine. I can imagine a collaboration that starts with curatorial studies and extends to shared public lectures. Our relationship will be an evolution where we will work together to find opportunities.”

The university also released more details about the vision for the Princess of Wales Centre for Visual Arts, which will become an arts showcase and learning facility, featuring studios, seminar rooms, gallery facilities and a public theatre and lecture hall to promote and enable the making, study and exhibition of art.

“This project will transform Toronto’s downtown cultural district and advance the area’s future as a thriving creative centre,” said Dr. Diamond. “OCAD University shares David Mirvish’s vision in, through his extraordinary collection and the educational programing we will bring, creating a valuable resource for the public and our students that will enrich the downtown experience.”


Mirvish+Gehry Toronto:
On October 1, 2012, David Mirvish, founder of Mirvish Productions, and world-renowned architect Frank Gehry unveiled the conceptual design for the mixed-use project that will bring new cultural, residential and retail spaces to a site immediately next to the Royal Alexandra Theatre and create a new visual identity for the city’s premier arts district.

Mirvish+Gehry Toronto is the vision of David Mirvish, who through his family’s support of the arts has helped make the city a major international centre for performing arts and has transformed the downtown King Street Entertainment District. Bordered by many of Toronto’s leading cultural institutions including the Royal Alexandra Theatre and Roy Thomson Hall to the east, the Toronto International Film Festival Bell Lightbox to the west, and the John Street Cultural Corridor to the west culminating at the Art Gallery of Ontario to the north, the project will have at its centre The Princess of Wales Centre for Visual Arts at OCAD University and the Mirvish Collection museum.

The Princess of Wales Centre for Visual Arts at OCAD University
A dedicated entrance off the east side of Duncan Street will take the public and students to the third and fourth floors of the development. At the heart of the 25,000-square foot, two-storey space will be a 250-seat in-the-round theatre/lecture hall to be used for performance art, lectures, dialogues and equipped for videoconferencing.

In addition, the Centre will house the following programs and initiatives:

Exhibition and Visual Research Centre

  • Public Gallery to showcase the university’s permanent collection (currently in storage and inaccessible)
  • Faculty Gallery dedicated to showcase current faculty work in art and design
  • Visual Research; a collaborative experimental studio for the community
  • Artist in Residence studio
  • Documentation room / photo studio

Art History, Curatorial and Critical Studies Centre

  • Criticism and Curatorial Practice workshop space
  • Gallery space for exhibiting student-curated exhibitions
  • Curator in Residence studio

Publication and Printmaking Research and Production Centre

  • Layout and editing workspace
  • Bookbinding studio
  • Publication project meeting space
  • Publications Research lounge with displays 
  • Writer in Residence studio

Printmaking Studios & Archive

  • Screenprinting and relief studios with a digital editing suite
  • Rapid Prototyping and 3D printing studio

Continuing Studies

  • Digital media lab and two seminar rooms geared to Continuing Studies

Print Archive and Print Sales

  • Print OnDemand bookmaking service centre (serving the OCAD U community, visiting researchers, artists and general public) 
  • Print archive exhibition space, sales program and storage

All residence programs will have community engagement and outreach projects at the core of their mandates, with activities to take place in a collaborative experimental studio.

The university’s undergraduate programs in Printmaking, Criticism and Curatorial Practice and a new Publications specialization will be rooted at the Princess of Wales Centre for Visual Arts, along with graduate studies in Criticism and Curatorial Practice as well as undergraduate art history students and graduate students in the Master of Arts in Contemporary Art, Design and New Media Art Histories.

The Princess of Wales Centre for Visual Arts continues the south campus of OCAD University, which has classroom, gallery and office space at 205, 230 and 240 Richmond Street West. The university is also developing a new professional gallery at street level of 199 Richmond Street West as part of the Studio Condominiums project current under construction at that site.


OCAD University (OCAD U):
OCAD University (www.ocadu.ca) is Canada’s “university of imagination.” The university, founded in 1876, is dedicated to art and design education, practice and research and to knowledge and invention across a wide range of disciplines. OCAD University is building on its traditional, studio-based strengths, adding new approaches to learning that champion cross-disciplinary practice, collaboration and the integration of emerging technologies. In the Age of Imagination, OCAD University 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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Sarah Mulholland, Media & Communications Officer
416-977-6000 x327 (mobile x1327)