OCAD: An insider look at downtown Toronto's campus for the creative


OCAD University. Photo by Claudia Hung

Jonathan Carroll, 24
Integrated Media

OCAD University is steps from the financial district and bordered by vibrant Queen Street West to the south and Chinatown to the north, right in the middle of downtown Toronto. Named after its predecessor (the Ontario College of Art and Design), OCAD U is a place where you can get an education in—and in between—disciplines such as design, art, entrepreneurship, technology and more.

The name suggests you will learn to be an artist or a designer, which is a difficult thing to teach. Along with learning the techniques for making and creating, you will spend four-plus years exploring what a career in art or design means to you. You’ll figure out where you and the things you do fit in the OCAD U community and the world around you after graduation. I’ve learned that being an artist is like being an entrepreneur, and OCAD U has taught me to ask the same kinds of questions about my creative practice that someone starting a business would. In art and design, there’s a lot of uncertainty about a career after graduation, but if you’re self-motivated, OCAD U will provide you with the tools to follow your passion.

If you want to create, the most important thing is to find the right people to work with. OCAD U provides many opportunities to grow your network. It’s worth making the effort to meet people through groups like the Student Union, where you can run for office, the Student Press, where you can learn how to publish, performance-art collectives like Tough Guy Mountain, and two galleries dedicated to showing the work of students: the OCAD Student Gallery and Xpace Cultural Centre. Making your community is as important as the rest of your education, so print some business cards and make some contacts. Oh, and your student ID acts as a pass to the nearby Art Gallery of Ontario.

City Vibe
Just like OCAD U, Toronto is incredibly diverse and offers many opportunities to an artist or designer who is willing to put themselves out there. Find a place to live near the things that are important to you: school, galleries, parks, food—each of the city’s many neighbourhoods provides its own perks. Rent is generally expensive, and the farther away from the hot spots (like downtown and Queen Street West) you live, the cheaper it tends to get, but living near a subway or streetcar line makes commuting feasible.

The Skinny
Xpace, OCAD U’s off-campus, student-centred gallery, hosts workshops about everything from .gif making to grant writing, and posts useful info about the Toronto art scene at Xpace.info.