2018/19 Recipients


Reinhard Reitzenstein

Faculty of Art – Reinhard Reitzenstein

Reinhard Reitzenstein has, and continues to make significant contributions to his artistic field since his graduation from OCAD University’s Sculpture Program in 1972. His significant practice began with artist representation in 1971 with the Carmen Lamanna Gallery in Toronto until its closure in 1991. He has since been represented by the prestigious Olga Korper Gallery in Toronto. His work is held in numerous private and public collections among them, The National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, Canada Council Art Bank, Art Gallery of Hamilton, University of Toronto, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Confederation Centre for the Arts, the Province of Ontario, The University of Western Ontario, Lutz Teutloff Collection, Bielefeldt, Germany, CONAC, and in Caracas, Venezuela. Reinhard has held more than 100 solo exhibitions and participated in almost 300 group exhibitions in North America and abroad. His work is represented in more than 50 public and corporate collections internationally. He has been a pioneer in the exploration of new ways to unite and interconnect with nature, culture and technology, working in several parallel areas: indoor installation and sculpture using cast, spun and welded metals, glass, wood, photography and other materials, large scale drawings, often of microscopic biological structures; large installations; and sound art, largely in collaboration with composers Gayle Young and David Keane.

An influential and committed educator, Reinhard has taught sculpture and interdisciplinary studies at the University of Guelph, Brock University, Queens University, and Sheridan College. He currently serves as the Head of the Sculpture Program in the Department of Art at the University at Buffalo, SUNY and the Director of Undergraduate Studies where he has made significant contributions to the development of arts curriculum, particularly in the areas of sculpture and installation, while also contributing to the development of innovative teaching methodologies. His commitment to the program and his students is shown through the many significant artists who have graduated under his generous mentorship.

A significant pioneer and contributor in the expanding field of sculpture and installation, Reinhard has developed innovative techniques for making, expanding and exploring new approaches to cross-disciplinary, hybrid practices as he collaborates with musicians, Indigenous practitioners, physicists, scientists, artists and craftspeople. His profound investment in and commitment to the arts, education and cultural critique along with his profound generosity as a community builder make him most worthy of the OCAD U Distinguished Alumni Award.

Roger Ball

Faculty of Design – Roger Ball

Since his graduation from Ontario College of Art (OCA), now OCAD U, in 1983, Roger Ball has gone on to make outstanding contributions to the design community in three different directions: direct product design, design academics and design research. 

As a student of design, Roger followed his OCA credentials with an MFA from the Domus Academy in Milan, followed by a PhD from the Faculty of Engineering from TU Delft in the Netherlands — bridging the longstanding chasm between art and science in design.

In product design, Roger holds top awards for his designs from IDSA, Red Dot, and Index, as well as twenty US and international patents.

As an educator, he has taught at OCAD U, Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Georgia Tech in Atlanta. While at Hong Kong Polytechnic, he became the first foreign faculty member to achieve full Professor status through the tenure process, as well as being the first-ever designer to win the prestigious Chinese government’s 1000 Talents Award, previously given only to scientists. As an educational administrator, Roger has led programs in Industrial Design, Human-Computer Interface, PhD tutoring; participating in curriculum development, budgeting, recruitment of staff, and the development of international industry partnerships and funding opportunities.

Above all, as a researcher, Roger has advanced the technical tools available to designers around the world, notably with his SizeChina ergonomic research project, which created new physical and computer-based head-forms, transformed design understanding of ethnic body-shape, and established a foundation for better safety gear for a literally a billion people.

He continues to explore the implications of parametric product design for body fit, developing bras, shoes and eyewear that realize the long-deferred promise of mass-customization. Continuing to work at the same time as an educator, he merges research into his teaching practice, making it an integral part of the development of a new generation of young designers who will lead design practice in years to come.

In an important sense, Roger’s career development can be seen to mirror the development of his beloved alma mater, which since 1980 has also gone on to advance higher education and advanced research as key areas that will transform the future of art and design.


Sean McCormack

Faculty of Art – Sean McCormack

During his time at OCAD University, Sean was already looking to the future and before graduation he saw the potential in Hamilton and its art scene renaissance. With his family in tow he made the move to Stoney Creek and began his search for the location for what has become Art Aggregate. Art Aggregate is a beautiful space in the area locally known as Nashdale, where you will find Sean building one-of-a-kind furniture, and producing his own sculptures. It is also a space catering to Hamilton’s artists, makers and other cultural innovators. Through the provision of infrastructure, a positive work environment, and cross-disciplinary interaction, Art Aggregate re-examines what constitutes the ideal space for the contemporary creator seeking to eliminate the boundaries associated with running an independent studio.

Sean has also created a business model around “Quit your Day Job” a statement he proudly declares when talking about his life in and around Hamilton. Sean is innovative and “one to watch” in his ability to engage, encourage and mentor small business success. He currently mentors, hosts workshops and is immersing himself in the Arts & Culture scene of Hamilton to not only build his business but to contribute to the betterment of the community.

Katya Romanova

Faculty of Design – Katya Romanova

Katya has grown immensely during her time as a student, and in the two years that have passed since she completed her courses at OCAD University. During her thesis year at OCAD U, Katya worked full-time as a head designer at VISO Inc. Shortly after, she was scouted by an up-and-coming agency where she became lead designer and art director. Katya’s thesis, Between Homelands, a narrative on immigration and adaptation, won three RGD (Association of Registered Graphic Designers) awards in the field of print design and communication. Shortly after graduation, Katya created branding for several local businesses, including the three-story Vivorosa store a block away from OCAD U. The opportunities to decorate, improve, and innovate Toronto continued for Katya as she landed an art director position at Notable Life and Convey, where she continues to practice a contemporary humanist approach for many brands, such as Barry’s Bootcamp, ROAR Organic, INFINITI Canada, Jessyca Greenwood, and many more.

Katya continues to support OCAD U by reaching out to her professors in search of new talent, all the time. While building her career in a fast-paced and competitive landscape, Katya doesn’t allow any biases to get in her way. Recognizing her position as a designer and artist in a rich multicultural community, Katya takes every opportunity to get involved.

Whether it involves branding local businesses or creating immersive experiential events, Katya’s work always comes back to connecting people. She is currently writing a book highlighting the various artists and designers which she has had the incredible opportunity to meet throughout her career.

Ryan Mason

Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences/School of Interdisciplinary Studies – Ryan Mason

Ryan Mason (BDes 2018) began accumulating prizes during his time at OCAD U, first with the Artistic Achievement award at Level Up 2018, followed by the Medal of the Digital Futures program. His work reached 374,000 views on Twitter and he has been invited to participate to shows and international conferences such as XOXO 2018 in Portland Oregon, and the 2018 Game Developer Conference’s Alt-Ctrl Festival in San Francisco, and locally at events like the Hand Eye Society Ball. 

Ryan was recruited through the University’s Digital Futures Bachelor program to join GM’s Canadian Technical Centre in Oshawa. As a “Virtual Prototyping Specialist/Advanced Technology Designer,” the only artist/designer in an engineering milieu, Ryan applies his skills in game design, 3D animation, digital prototyping and customer-centered design to enhance a multitude of advanced engineering projects. He is already making his mark with the creation of his Mental Health Awareness Simulator. Rather than propose a static Power Point presentation, Ryan produced a digital game where the player (an office worker) encounters a co-worker who is experiencing an anxiety attack. The game allows the participants to learn in a more visceral and realistic manner how to apply Mental Health First Aid to help a distressed person. The Mental Health Awareness Simulator received the 2019 GM Golden Safety Glasses Awards.

Ryan’s thesis project Cathode Mark 1, a platform for multi-channel games continues to attract attention, and game developers have started to develop games and content for it. His followers have multiplied since the workshop he held at the Electric Perfume, a local studio and event space for interactive and immersive projects.

Alwar Pillai

Graduate Studies – Alwar Pillai

Since Alwar Pillai (Nellai Alwar Manickvasagam Arumuganainar) moved to Canada from India in 2015, her peers and mentors have been consistently in awe of her commitment to making an impact and bettering the lives of those around her, most notably through her academic passions of inclusive design and user experience design. Alwar has excelled masterfully in the areas of technology, business innovation and social enterprise, all while balancing the many challenges encountered by any newcomer to Canada. After graduating from the Masters of Inclusive Design program at OCAD University in 2017, Alwar took on a role at Rogers Communications as a UX Designer. Moving quickly into the position of Accessibility & UX Manager, Alwar worked on products across the Rogers, Fido, and Chatr platforms with the goal of making them more usable for people living with disabilities. This role presented a synergy of her most practiced skills, between her undergraduate degree in UX Design at the Symbiosis Institute of Design in Pune, India and her master’s degree at OCAD U.

In late 2017, Alwar left Rogers, motivated to take things into her own hands to make real change for the better. In April 2018, Alwar founded Fable Tech Labs with classmate Abid Virani. The company aims to use inclusive design methodologies to help companies create more accessible digital products. Fable has created a crowd-sourced accessibility platform that digital teams use to engage with people with disabilities for quality assurance (QA) and user testing. By hiring people with disabilities on a flexible, hourly basis, Fable aims to create work opportunities for people with disabilities across Canada, while removing digital barriers for all. Since founding Fable Tech Labs, Alwar Pillai has been the fearless CEO and leads a growing team. The company has raised more than $500,000 in its first year of operation, and has learned from organizations like Slack, D2L (formerly Desire2Learn) and OCAD U’s Inclusive Design Research Centre. The team currently consists of five full-time employees and 40 people with disabilities across Canada working as part-time contractors. Fable is a participant in OCAD U’s Imagination Catalyst program and currently operates out of OCAD U CO’s space. Fable also took part in Communitech’s Fierce Founders Accelerator program in Kitchener ON, and in September, 2018, Alwar won 1st Place in the Fierce Founders pitch competition, earning the company $75,000.

Alwar has become a business leader to watch. Organizations focused on Women In STEM have featured Alwar, including a speaking engagement at the Move The Dial event at the DMZ in March. Fable Tech Labs’ most recent accolade was an Honourable Mention for Fast Company’s ‘World Changing Ideas Awards’ in the Social Justice category.