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Ontario College of Art & Design University
OCAD University Logo.png
Logo of OCAD University
Other name
OCAD University
Former names
Ontario School of Art (1876–86)
Toronto Art School (1886–90)
Central Ontario School of Art and Industrial Design (1890–1912)
Ontario College of Art (1912–96)
Ontario College of Art & Design (1996–2010)
Motto Imagination is Everything
Type Public university
Established 1876
Endowment C$15.5 million
Chancellor Salah Bachir
President Ana Serrano
Academic staff
Administrative staff
Students 6,072
Undergraduates 4,882
Postgraduates 250
Location , ,

43°39′11″N 79°23′28.3″W / 43.65306°N 79.391194°W / 43.65306; -79.391194Coordinates: 43°39′11″N 79°23′28.3″W / 43.65306°N 79.391194°W / 43.65306; -79.391194
Campus Urban
Affiliations AICAD, UnivCan, CBIE, COU, IAU,

Ontario College of Art & Design University (French: Université de l'École d'art et de design de l'Ontario), commonly known as OCAD University ( OH-kad), is a public university of art and design located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The main campus is adjacent to the Art Gallery of Ontario, within the Grange Park neighbourhood. The school is Canada's largest and oldest educational institution for art and design. OCAD U offers courses through the Faculties of Art, Design, Liberal Arts and Sciences, and alternative programs. The enabling legislation is the Ontario College of Art and Design University Act, 2002 (previously the Ontario College of Art & Design Act).


Ontario College of Art - 1931
Inside a class at the Ontario College of Art in 1931.

The institution was established by the Ontario Society of Artists in 1876 as the Ontario School of Art, whose objective it was to provide professional artistic training, and further the development of art education in Ontario. The Ontario Society of Artists passed the motion to "draw up a scheme" for a school of art on 4 April 1876, and the first School of Art opened on 30 October 1876, funded by a government grant of $1,000.

In the late-19th and early 20th centuries, the institution was renamed three times. From 1886 to 1890 the institution was renamed the Toronto Art School. From 1890 to 1912, the school was renamed the Central Ontario School of Art and Industrial Design. In 1912, the institution became the Ontario College of Art (OCA). The institution remained the Ontario College of Art until 1996, when it was renamed the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD).

In 1971–72, Roy Ascott radically challenged the pedagogy and curriculum structure of the College.

In 2008, OCAD president Sara Diamond changed the pedagogy. She emphasised academics over studio time and required full-time instructors to hold an advanced degree. There was some controversy as two faculty members resigned over the changes.

In an effort to better reflect its status as a university, the institution adopted the term university in its name, formally becoming the Ontario College of Art and Design University in 2010. In the same year, Tom Traves, then president of Dalhousie University in Halifax, conducted a confidential review of how OCAD was managed. He found that the number of senior faculty and administrators was excessive. Diamond adopted most of his 30 recommendations, including increased Decanal autonomy. OCAD University was awarded full degree awarding powers including honorary degrees on 1 July 2020 by the Government of Ontario.


New Textile Building, Toronto
205 Richmond Street is one of three buildings that form OCAD's southern campus.

From 1952 to 1957 OCA was located at the Wood Manor at Bayview Avenue and Lawrence Avenue East.

The current OCAD campus consists of a north campus and a south campus. The north campus includes the Main Building and Sharp Centre for Design, the adjacent Butterfield Park, the Annex Building, the Rosalie Sharp Pavilion, the Student Centre, the Inclusive Design Institute, and the Continuing Education Centre. The south campus consists of buildings that are physically situated on Richmond Street West, plus the proposed Mirvish-Gehry development further south on King Street.

Buildings at OCAD are referred to by their street addresses. Some buildings are also assigned a building number that is encoded as the first digit in 4-digit room numbers.

Academic buildings

The Main Building traces its roots to the first building that the school constructed, which was also the first building in Canada specially built for art education. Now known as the George A. Reid Wing, the building was designed by the school’s principal George A. Reid in the Georgian style and opened on 30 September 1921. On 17 January 1957, the first extension, a modernist building known today as the A. J. Casson Wing, was completed and was opened. Two more extensions to the building were subsequently added in 1963 and 1967.

OCAD Ontario College of Art and Design Toronto CA 1979 (4026151268)
View of the university's Main Building and the Sharp Centre for Design. The Sharp Centre is an extension of the Main Building that hangs off the ground.

In 2000, funding was secured from Ontario’s SuperBuild program to build a fifth extension to the Main Building. Through Rod Robbie of Robbie/Young + Wright Architects, Will Alsop of Alsop Architects was made aware of the project and was eventually selected in 2002. A joint venture was formed between the two firms and the new extension, now known as the Sharp Centre for Design, was completed in 2004. The design, which came out of a process of participatory design, consists of a box four storeys off the ground supported by a series of multi-coloured pillars at different angles and is often described as a tabletop. The $42.5-million expansion and redevelopment has received numerous awards, including the first Royal Institute of British Architects Worldwide Award, the award of excellence in the "Building in Context" category at the Toronto Architecture and Urban Design Awards, and was deemed the most outstanding technical project overall in the 2005 Canadian Consulting Engineering Awards.

Libraries and galleries

The main library on campus is the Dorothy H. Hoover Library, located in the Annex Building. The Learning Zone, also located in the Annex Building, houses the OCAD Zine Library, Art & Design Annuals and the Visionnaire periodical collection.

A number of galleries or exhibition spaces exist both on-campus and off-campus; a faculty gallery is also planned as part of the proposed Mirvish-Gehry development. The existing major exhibition spaces are:

  • Onsite [at] OCAD U. Created in 2007 as the OCAD Professional Gallery before taking on its current name in 2010, Onsite [at] OCAD U is features works by national and international professional artists and designers.
  • Student Gallery. The Student Gallery curates and features works submitted by current OCAD students and recent alumni. The Student Gallery used to be located at 285 Dundas St. West and 76 McCaul Street. It was created in the early 1970s
  • Graduate Gallery. The Graduate Gallery is a gallery for graduate students and research faculty.
  • Xpace. The OCAD Student Union runs a gallery called the Xpace Cultural Centre, located off-campus. (Hence Xpace, which stands for "external space.") It aims to provide students and emerging artists a space to exhibit their work in a professional gallery setting, and to better respond to "contemporary issues in theory and aesthetics" in the community through the use of shorter time frames in its programming.
  • Open Gallery. The Open Gallery is an exhibition space inside the Inclusive Design Institute building at 49 McCaul Street.


Demographics of student body (2017–18)
Undergraduate Graduate
Male 26.1% 28.7%
Female 73.9% 71.3%
Canadian student 86.3% 85.9%
International student 13.7% 14.1%

OCAD offers a Bachelor of Arts (Visual and Critical Studies).

The school combines a studio-based education with liberal studies, which is recognised with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), a Bachelor of Design (BDes), an Interdisciplinary Master's in Art Media and Design (MA, MFA or MDes), a Master of Fine Arts in Criticism and Curatorial Practice (MFA), a Master of Design in Strategic Foresight and Innovation (MDes), an Executive Master of Design in Advertising (EMDes), a Master of Design in Inclusive Design (MDes), and a Graduate Program in Digital Futures (Graduate Diploma and MA, MDes, MFA).


OCAD conducts research under the umbrella of the Digital Media Research + Innovation Institute (DMRII) which focuses on creative applied research in digital expression, digital immersion, digital experience and digital media industries. It consist of 19 research labs, including:

  • the Ambient Experience Lab, focusing on experience design
  • the Art Research Centre
  • the Inclusive Design Research Centre (IDRC), focusing on inclusive design with an emphasis on information and communications technology
  • the Social Body Lab, focusing on the interaction between the human body and the external world, which includes material research and wearable technology
  • the Game:Play Lab, which explores, critiques, and expands the nature of the gaming experience through play, theory, and practice

In addition to research centres within the school itself, OCAD also belongs to a number of research networks, including:

  • the Centre for Innovation in Information Visualization and Data-Driven Design (CIV-DDD), led by York University and funded by the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation, is a 5-year research initiative launched in March 2010 to address "innovation and training in information and scientific visualization in Ontario" and consists of a team each from York University, OCAD University (directed by Sara Diamond) and the University of Toronto, 14 industry partners, and a number of international collaborators; and
  • the Inclusive Design Institute (IDI), directed by Jutta Treviranus and funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation, is a regional research network for inclusive design founded in 2008 and officially launched on 24 May 2012, with the aim to "address the challenge of designing our information and communication systems (ICT) so that they work for all potential users, including users with disabilities, varying language needs and diverse cultural preferences"; it consists of eight core postsecondary partners (OCAD University, University of Toronto, Ryerson University, York University, University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Sheridan College, George Brown College and Seneca College) and over 100 collaborating organizations.

Commercialization of research is supported by two incubators:

  • the Imagination Catalyst, directed by the AVP Research and Graduate Studies and coordinated by the Digital Futures Implementation office, which provides incubator support for students, alumni, and faculty and was established in August 2011 through the merger of the Digital Futures Accelerator and the Design Incubator; and
  • the MEIC convergence centre, an industry mobile incubator directed by the MEIC, a not for profit association of mobile industry stakeholders and academia.
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