May 29

Violet Chum and Patrick DeCoste on: indigenous connectedness, colonialism, and their artistic practice

Earlier this past year OCAD University teamed up with the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA, and, with the support of the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa created ‘We Are All Related’, a calendar featuring artwork by students and recent graduates of the two schools involved in the project. Recently we took some time to catch up with two of the artists who were involved in the making of We Are All Related, Violet Chum and Patrick DeCoste.

SITE-SPECIFIC: In your view, why is the ‘We Are All Related’ Calendar project important? 

VIOLET CHUM: The ‘We Are All Related’ Calendar project is important because it unites artists collectively, especially for Indigenous artists. Our art work communicates with one another to bring an understanding of our own personal and political views within the world. Each artist expresses their own view of their culture creatively through various mediums of art and because of this, it establishes a form of connection. It was great meeting some of the artists in person from Santa Fe, New Mexico.

PATRICK DECOSTE: The ‘We Are All Related’ Calendar project is important to me because it connects my Nova Scotia Métis heritage to a larger North American community of indigenous artists. Bonnie Devine (Anishinaabe, Serpent River First Nations) taught me in her Indigenous Cultural Studies class in the OCAD U MFA Program of the importance of land. Naming your people and where you are from ‒ where you live ‒ is not simply a cultural act, but also a political act. Colonizers (especially the Government of Canada) have been taking land from First Nations People since Jacques Cartier staked a holy cross in the soil of the ‘New World’ in 1534 to the dismay of Iroquois chief Donnacona. This practice continues today, especially when resources like oil and lumber are concerned. ‘We Are All Related’ is a reminder that indigenous people still live all across this land. The calendar can foster dialogue so that we indigenous and non-indigenous people alike, can better understand each other, regardless of where we come from or who we are related to.

Violet Chum, Home Sweet Home, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36 inches

Violet Chum, Home Sweet Home, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36 inches

[image description: painting looking upwards at the blue sky through the top of an also blue teepee and its supporting poles]

S: Tell us about your piece and some of the themes or issues you explore though it.

C: My art work in the ‘We Are All Related’ Calendar project, Home Sweet Home, and Sliding Party explore the themes nature and lifestyle. By exploring this, it was my intention to portray the feeling of warmth through the surrounding of nature and family. Home Sweet Home invites the viewer to take a look of nature through a warmth setting of the light beaming on the teepee poles and the light blue sky. The many shades and tones of blue in the Sliding Party offer a more airy, cool atmosphere, and a sense of warmth through the family who are enjoying the winter wonderland.

D: ‘Wolervine Map’ 2013, acrylic and thread on wolverine skin, 36 x 48 inches. The piece is created on a wolverine skin with acrylic paint and red thread. It connects to the fur trade and is based on the maps of explorer Champlain during his visits to Canada in the early 1600s. The piece is a self-portrait, tracing my movements, similar to Champlain’s, from where I was born in Antigonish Nova Scotia to where I currently live in Toronto and Georgian Bay. Early colonial movements in Canada, while destructive then and now, also populated the country with mixed blood people, and in my Métis case, French and Mi’kmaq.

Patrick Decoste, Wolverine Map, 2013, acrylic and thread on wolverine skin, 36 x 48 Inches

Patrick Decoste, Wolverine Map, 2013, acrylic and thread on wolverine skin, 36 x 48 Inches

[image description: painting of a map of southeastern Canada on a wolverine’s hide; with red thread tracing a pattern of travel]

May 06

Sarah Butterill, Mary Katherine Mcintyre, and Zeesy Powers on: critical pedagogy, research, and knowledge production

In late March OCAD University’s Dorothy H. Hoover library hosted the Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon. Now that the dust from the keystrokes has settled we’re getting caught up with Sarah Butterill, Reference Intern at the Dorothy H. Hoover Library who organised the Edit-a-thon along with fellow participants and editors Mary Katherine Mcintyre and Zeesy Powers.

Edit-a-thon Image[Image description: black and white image of a woman calling out the word ‘edit’, written atop a stylized megaphone]

SITE-SPECIFIC: What was the Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon and what was the idea behind it?

SARAH BUTTERILL: The Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon was an event that we held here at the OCAD library on Saturday, March 22nd, 2014. It was a follow-up to a larger, international event that happened in February, organized by a group of activists in New York (more information here). On that day, hundreds of volunteers at dozens of events around the world (often in art school libraries) gathered to teach each other how to create and edit Wikipedia articles and added more than 100 women artists to Wikipedia, in an effort to make up for gender imbalances in Wikipedia coverage and in Wikipedia writers/editors.

On that day in February, one of the international satellite events took place here in Toronto, at Art Metropole. The women who organized that event, artists Amy Lam and Ella Dawn McGeogh, later approached me about hosting future edit-a-thons here at the library, in order to continue the work of that day and make use of the library’s resources for the project. Everyone at the library loved the idea, and we were really happy to be able to introduce the OCAD community to the project and get students involved. It was also exciting for participants to have access to our collections and databases. We began the event with a tutorial about Wikipedia and then spent the rest of the afternoon working on articles about women artists who either have bare-bones Wikipedia pages or do not have Wikipedia pages at all. In many cases it’s surprising which artists don’t have pages. For example, Toronto artists Diane Borsato, Tanya Mars, and the collective FASTWÜRMS have entire books published about them, but do not yet have Wikipedia pages.

SITE-SPECIFIC: What interested you about the Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon and why did you participate?

MARY KATHERINE MCINTYRE: This past semester I took a 3rd year course called Cross-Cultural Currents in Craft (VISC 3B41). The first assignment was to research and write a Wiki for a craft-related subject not already published on Wikipedia. The meta-purpose of the assignment was to make us aware of the fact that relatively few women artists, and literally only a handful of women in craft practice, are represented on Wikipedia. When OCAD announced an Edit-a-thon at the Library, I saw this as a perfect opportunity to see if I could actually get published the article I wrote for class, on the Canadian silversmith and educator Lois Etherington Betteridge.

ZEESY POWERS: I love Wikipedia, and use it regularly as a starting point for research in a wide variety of topics. The lack of representation for women artists (not to mention women scientists, authors, etc.) is a big problem, especially as the initial stages of research shift to online formats. The content available on Wikipedia is entirely volunteer-generated, so if you see there is a gap in representation and you don’t do anything about it, there is a good chance that that gap will be perpetuated.

“I think the questions raised by the event are ones that we can always apply to our cultures/sub-cultures, such as who is overlooked and why? Who and what is celebrated or challenged? Who is writing the articles?”

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May 01

Yijin Jiang, Julie Buelow, Arief Yulianto, and Taghreed Al-Zubaidi on: Reimagining Accessibility

“We must understand and practice an accessibility that moves us closer to justice, not just inclusion or diversity … We need to think of access with an understanding of disability justice, moving away from an equality-based model of sameness and “we are just like you” to a model of disability that embraces difference, confronts privilege and challenges what is considered “normal “on every front. We don’t want to simply join the ranks of the privileged; we want to dismantle those ranks and the systems that maintain them.”
– Mia Mingus, Changing the Framework: Disability Justice

Re-Imagining Logo Finalists with the Countess of Wessex, Lieutenant Governer of Ontario and Sara Diamond[Image Description: Reimagining Accessibility Design Challenge finalists with the Countess of Wessex, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario David C. Onley, and Dr Sara Diamond]

Yijin Jiang, Julie Buelow, Arief Yulianto, and Taghreed Al-Zubaidi, all students in the Inclusive Design Graduate Program at OCAD University, were finalists in the 2013 Reimagining Accessibility Design Challenge hosted by OCAD U. The design challenge’s intent was to create an inclusive logo to replace the traditional International symbol of access – a solid blue square overlapped with an image of a white stick figure – a wheelchair user.

International Symbol of Access[Image description: traditional International symbol of access – a solid blue square overlapped with an image of a white stick figure – a wheelchair user.]

Jutta Treviranus, director of OCAD U’s Masters of Design in Inclusive Design program, introduced the 2013 Design Challenge: “Symbols we use are not passive statements… (rather) powerful means of framing our attitudes and promoting specific points of view. Accessibility has a human face… it is active, social and requires our evolving creativity… something benefiting us all individually and as a society.”

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Apr 24

Audrey Hudson on: hip hop, intersectionality, and education

Image of OCAD U Faculty Adurey Hudson

Image of OCAD U Faculty Audrey Hudson

SITE-SPECIFIC: Hip-Hop & Convergence Culture is a new course at OCAD U that you will be teaching this summer. Can you tell us more about it and what led you to conceptualizing this course?

AUDREY HUDSON: I graduated from OCAD in 2002 from the Faculty of Design, with a major in Material Art & Design. I took courses from a wide variety of programs, trying to find my voice as a mixed race Black female in a historically Eurocentric field of study. When I was doing my undergraduate work, I did not have very many courses that spoke to me on a personal level, but I always tried to bring my lived experiences into my practice. Two years ago when I was invited to teach at OCADU, I was ready to come back and share my knowledge with students through the experiences I gained as an artist/designer, educator and graduate student. I knew, that in coming back to the school that I loved, I wanted to insert my voice into the curriculum, and have the stories of Black, Indigenous and artists of colour to be heard in the art/design world. My aim behind this course is to connect this subculture of post-modernity we call hip-hop, to design, media and education.

S: How can hip hop be used as a tool for decolonizing education?

H: Colonization was (or arguably is), a long, painful process, and decolonizing is an even longer one. The history of colonization and settler colonialism in Canada is often silenced and unspoken about in curriculum. In order for the process of decolonization to begin, we need to acknowledge the need for Indigenous sovereignty and work together, Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, to make this a reality. This means, educating one’s self about the knowledges that are silenced, and bringing them back into educative spaces. For me, hip-hop is a way to bring these rich knowledges and voices into pedagogical spaces and discuss histories of colonization, race, representation and sovereignty. I view hip-hop as a tool to begin decolonizing education because of the attention to minority voices and to the powers it speaks back to. Hip-Hop artists such as, A Tribe Called Red, JB the First Lady, Shad, K’Naan, and Wab Kinew are just a few Canadians who have taken up the work in their music. Here is an example:

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