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Archival photo of students engaged in still life drawing.


Established in 1876, OCAD U is Canada's largest and oldest educational institution for art and design

Archival photo of students engaged in still life drawing.


OCAD University was originally established in Toronto in 1876 by the Ontario Society of Artists. Back then it was called the Ontario School of Art. In 1912, it was incorporated as the Ontario College of Art, becoming the first school in Canada dedicated to exclusively to the education of professional artists in fine and commercial art. In 1996, the name changed to the Ontario College of Art and Design, reflecting the growth of design programs. In 2010, to reflect the institution’s status as a university granted in 2002, the school became officially known as OCAD University.

OCAD University acknowledges the ancestral and traditional territories of the Mississaugas of the New Credit, the Haudenosaunee, the Anishinaabe and the Huron-Wendat, who are the original owners and custodians of the land on which we stand and create.

Distinguished Leaders and Alumni

OCAD U is shaped by the international art and design leaders who lead, teach and study here. Our history begins with celebrated painter George A. Reid, designer of the original Grange Park campus, and The Group of Seven’s Arthur Lismer and J.E.H. MacDonald, who led the institution as vice-principal and principal, respectively. Other notable faculty and alumni are:


Barbara Astman, Rebecca Belmore, Shary Boyle, George Bures Miller, Ian Carr-Harris, Graham Coughtry, Fred Hagan, Kristan Horton, Jock Macdonald, Doris McCarthy, Gary Neil Kennedy, Gordon Rayner, David Rokeby,  Michael Snow, Joanne Tod, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Colette Whiten


Debbie Adams, Carl Dair, Theo Dimson, Allan Fleming, Helen Kerr, Jeremy Kramer, Scot Laughton, Ken Rodmell, Donald Stuart


Marcos Chin, Gary Clement, Anita Kunz, Clair Stewart, Gary Taxali

Film and photography

Douglas Ball, Floria Sigismundi

Today OCAD U is the third largest of the 40 professional art and design universities in North America. Read facts and figures and find out more about OCAD U’s president and executive.


1876: The Ontario School of Art opens, 14 students: 14 King Street West, Toronto, Canada
1882: Relocation: Present site of Ryerson University
1886:  Relocation: Queen and Yonge
1890:  Relocation: Princess Theatre, 173 King Street West
1910:  Relocation: 1 College Street
1912:  Funding: The Act Incorporating the Ontario College of Art: Annual Ontario government grant of $3,000
1912:  Relocation: Gould Street
1920:  Appointment: G.A Reid (a painter) named Principal
1920:  Appointment: Arthur Lismer (of the Group of Seven) named Vice-Principal

1921:  Expansion: first owned building: Grange Park
330 students, 7 instructors, 6 visiting instructors, 3 assistant instructors
1929: Appointment: J.E.H. MacDonald (of the Group of Seven) named Principal.
1933: Appointment: Fred S. Haines (a painter) named Principal (remains until 1952).
1945: Expansion: Design School, broadened curriculum.
1951: Launch: The first OCA Student Council forms.
1957:  Expansion: the Main Building opens: 100 McCaul
1963:  Expansion: Nora E. Vaughan Auditorium added.
1967: Expansion: Two new floors and an atrium added.

1976: Launch: The first Florence Off-Campus Studies Program in Italy.
1976:  Launch: New York off-campus studio opens.
1976:  Launch: OCA Alumni Association.
1979:  Launch: OCA’s first fundraising campaign.
1976:  Expansion: OCA purchases the Stewart Building, 149 College Street
1994: Appointment: Peter Caldwell named OCA’s first Vice-President, Administration.
1995: Appointment: Alan Barkley named President.
1996:  Renaming: OCA becomes the Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD).
1996:  Restructuring: Three faculties: Foundation Studies (first-year), Art and Design.
1996:  Relocation: Stewart Building classes moved to expanded main building.

1997: Partnership: Open University confers Bachelor degrees in Fine Art and Design.
1998: Appointment: Dr. Catherine Henderson named President.
1998:  Expansion: Two new buildings. 113 and 115 McCaul Street
1998:  Naming: 115 McCaul Street named the Rosalie Sharp Pavilion                  
1998:  Expansion: Integrated Media production and post-production studios open.

2000: Expansion: $24-million investment from the Province of Ontario’s SuperBuild Program
2000:  Launch: IDEAS NEED SPACE capital campaign to raise $14 million for building expansion.
2000:  Appointment: Ron Shuebrook named President, Peter Caldwell, Executive Vice-President.
2000: Partnership: Alsop Architects and Robbie, Young +Wright begin new centre for design
2001:  Funding: $5-million donation to IDEAS NEED SPACE from alumna Rosalie Sharp and her husband, Isadore Sharp
2001:  Building naming: The Sharp Centre for Design

2002: Status: OCAD begins conferring Bachelor of Fine Art (BFA) and Bachelor of Design (BDes) degrees.
2002: Appointment: Dr. Sarah McKinnon named Vice-President Academic.
2002:  Relocation: The OCAD Gallery, 285 Dundas Street West
2002:  Building construction: Groundbreaking for the Sharp Centre for Design.
2003: Funding: IDEAS NEED SPACE capital campaign increases private sector goal to $17 million.
2003: Status: Record first-year student admission: 1,165 offers accepted.

2004: Expansion: The Sharp Centre for Design opens. Ribbon-cutting celebration closes McCaul Street.
2004:  Appointment: Rosalie Sharp named OCAD’s first chancellor.
2005: Funding: $2.5-million grant from Nancy Young to support the Beal Centre for Strategic Creativity.
2005: Appointment: Dr. Sara Diamond named President.
2006: Status: Membership in the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC).

2007: Funding: $2-million annual investment from the Ontario Government announced.
2007:  Program: Development of the new Digital Futures Initiative.
2007: Launch: The Student Centre, 51 McCaul Street.
2007: Appointment: The Hon. James K. Bartleman, former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, named Chancellor.
2007: Expansion: Historic New Textile Building acquired. 205 Richmond Street West.
2007: Appointment: Dr. Michael Owen named first Vice-President, Research & Graduate Studies.
2007:  Programs: Graduate degrees in Criticism & Curatorial Practice, Design and Interdisciplinary Art, Media & Design.

2008: Funding: $1.456 million from the Ontario government’s Campus Renewal Fund.
2008: Funding: $1.8 million in funding for the renovation of 205 Richmond Street West and The Learning Zone from the Ministry of Training, Colleges & Universities (MTCU).
2008: Program: Master’s in Strategic Foresight and Innovation.
2008: Launch: Graduate studies programs welcome first cohorts.
2009: Launch: Indigenous Visual Culture studies
2009: Program: Continuing Studies begins.
2010: Funding: $636,720 from the Ontario government to expand the Aboriginal Visual Culture Program.
2010: Expansion: Purchase of two new buildings, 230 and 240 Richmond Street

2010: Renaming: Ontario College of Art and Design becomes OCAD University.
2011: Launch: Onsite [at] OCAD U opens storefront gallery, 230 Richmond St. W
2011: Launch: Imagination Catalyst opens to help support student entrepreneurs.
2011: Program: Digital Futures Initiative Program welcomes first student cohort.
2011: Partnership: OCAD U hosts inaugural meeting of the Canadian Colour Research Association.
2011: Program: Masters in Inclusive Design
2011: Launch: Euphoria and Dystopia new media study by Dr. Sara Diamond (with Sarah Cook).

2012: Appointment: Dr. Sara Diamond named to the Order of Ontario
2012: Launch: OCAD’S Strategic Plan 2012-2017 approved by the Board of Governors.
2012: Appointment: Catherine (Kiki) Delaney named Chancellor.
2012: Program: Digital Painting and Expanded Animation Program.
2012: Program: Publications specialization.
2012: Launch: Inclusive Design Institute opens.
2012: Partnership: Inaugural Urban Ecologies Conference held on campus.

2013: Expansion: Mirvish + Gehry development with new OCAD U visual arts centre proposed.
2013: Launch: Taking Ontario Mobile study by Dr. Sara Diamond (with Vera Roberts).