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Celebrating OCAD University’s 2023 Medal Winners

Composite image of six photos. Top row left to right: President and Vice-Chancellor Ana Serrano speaks at the GradEx 108 podium, all medal winners on stage with President Serrano, Chancellor Jaime Watt speaks at the podium. Bottom row left to right: people taking photos of some of the artworks inside a room, OCAD U community chatting amongst themselves in Butterfield Park with a few blue umbrellas set throughout, people looking at on-screen works in a room.

Top row left to right: OCAD U President Ana Serrano; OCAD U Medal Winners; Chancellor Jaime Watt. Bottom row: Photos from the opening exhibit and party.


Congratulations to OCAD University’s 2023 Medal Winners!


President and Vice-Chancellor Ana Serrano announced OCAD University’s 2023 Medal Winners during the Celebrate Excellence Reception on May 3, which marked the official launch of GradEx 108, the University’s annual graduate exhibition.

“To this year’s recipients, I commend all of you for the hard work you done to receive the OCAD University Medal. The judges have concluded that your work represents the best of your program,” said OCAD U President Ana Serrano. “I hope you are proud of what you have achieved because we certainly are proud of you!”


GradEx 108 is an annual showcase of remarkable talent and creativity of more than 800 emerging artists, designers and digital media makers. The exhibition is open to the public from Thursday, May 4 to Sunday, May 7.


In his welcome to guests gathered for the opening party, Chancellor Jaime Watt congratulated and offered encouraging remarks for all of the graduates, and spoke about the tremendous impact of their work.


President Serrano thanks the support of the GradEx 108 presenting sponsors, Hullmark and BentallOakGreen. Mitch Gillin, Vice-President, Asset Development at Hullmark, representing both presenting sponsors, spoke to the crowd. 


“Congratulations to the graduating class!” he said. “The graduating class came to OCAD U as little, tiny caterpillars, and now they are graduating as beautiful butterflies, and we are going witness that beauty in all of their exhibits this weekend and in the coming days.”


Almost 7,500 visitors attended the opening night festivities, which included live entertainment from DJ Paper Skies (student Daniel Sanchez), a musical performance from Trash Panda Bass, live sculpting from student Luis Cisneros and painting from student Ben Bui, catering by the Food Dudes, and beer and wine sponsors Collective Arts Brewing and 13th Street Winery.






Laura Arango is an art director in-the-making with a love of typography and a knack for motion design. Laura’s work is driven by culture, curiosity and foresight...oh, and shower thoughts. Other things that inspire her include Andy Warhol, niche internet archives, ads from the 80s and MTV indents. Her final project Intune is an advertising campaign for an app, which she designed, that helps teens understand their emotions by using AI to track a user's mental state based on their listening habits.


Creative Writing

Blaine Thornton is a non-binary writer from Sudbury, Ontario. Their book Here’s to Letting Go is a fusion of creative non-fiction and poetry that offers an intimate and introspective exploration of the intersectional experiences of queerness, homelessness and mental illness. Through a blend of poetic language and personal narrative, the book and performance offer an intimate exploration of a journey towards acceptance and healing. 


Criticism & Curatorial Practice

Ella Taylor is a curator, writer and artist based in the traditional territories of the Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabeg, Wendat, and the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nations in Tkaronto. Ella is currently completing a year-long curatorial residency with WIAprojects and is working as lead curatorial researcher alongside OCAD U faculty member Dr. Pam Patterson and two graduate students at the University’s 113 Research Gallery. 


Cross-Disciplinary Art

Bridget Lu is a Chinese Canadian artist, science enthusiast and aspiring medical illustrator. Her practice includes painting, sculpture, printmaking and digital media, often taking form in multi-media works. In her thesis work “the weight of perception is a red pocket”, Bridget redesigned the Chinese lion dance costume to make space for female, queer and non-binary identities in the traditional dance performance, which is typically male dominated. She has made several interventions in the construction and performance, such as moving the bars closer together to make it sit better on her shoulders, leaving half of it open so she can be seen and swapping the pants for a skirt.  


Digital Futures

Christina Chen’s work explores visual communication, creative tools and data in different forms. Christina follows her curiosity, and the things she makes reflect the ever-changing questions floating in her mind. Christina has created a Snapchat filter with 200,000+ plays, studied decentralized finance, and completed an urban design workshop in Paris, France. Christina’s internship experience has included working for Addepar, Cisco and RBC, where she designed enterprise software, conducted research studies and built tooling for design systems in the financial and cybersecurity sectors.


Drawing & Painting

Hayley Chiu specializes in oil painting. For her, home is where she falls asleep and where she wakes and is not defined by a place but by her being. Her series, Snail’s Home, explores and celebrates the relationship with the self that gives her a feeling of fullness and satisfaction. Combining high realism and overtly overlaid images, Hayley breaks the illusion that her paintings are direct representations of reality, but one that explores the mythologies we create to add charm in a mundane life.


Environmental Design

Sayeh Ghahari has designed a paediatric epilepsy clinic that optimizes the healing process of patients and their families, responding to the pressing need for specialized care clinics that can cater to the mental health needs of children with long-standing epilepsy in the Durham region, particularly in areas like Whitby where the population of children is increasing at a rapid pace. As a designer, she believes in the importance of putting the user first. She strives to create designs that are user-centered, sustainable and inclusive. 


Experimental Animation

Kim Luong has created a memorable and moving animated short film, Until We Meet Again, which explores the process of grief and the struggle to find acceptance. She is graduating from the Experimental Animation program with a minor in Games and Play. Her animated short takes the viewer on a journey of grief and acceptance, showing them that loss is part of the cycle of life. She has various experiences within the animation production timeline and has taken on roles as a director, producer, storyboard artist and animator.


Graphic Design

Donald Zhu’s VECTOR, SPIN, STROKE is an ongoing project that explores the role of tools within design investigations. The work includes three tools he has constructed that can be used in a graphic designer’s process, especially in typography. The STROKE tool, for instance, allows the user to attach two different writing of drawing utensils to create the same shape on two different spots on the page. His design practice prioritizes an investigative, systematic and bottom-up approach to any problem. As someone interested in type, type design and programming, he seeks to involve iterative mechanisms to generate an extensive number of outputs.



Gabrielle Schwartz’s work, Saccharine Living Things, illustrates whimsical creatures pursuing a lifestyle among humans. Her mediums of choice are dip pen and ink, alcohol markers, acryla gouache and Adobe CC software. She enjoys bringing to life whimsical characters, designing stickers and posters and trying a wide range of colour palettes. Her works are often influenced by her interests, including watching thriller B movies, reading comics and drinking coffee.


Indigenous Visual Culture

Grace Point is an interdisciplinary artist from Akwesasne who is completing the Indigenous Visual Culture (IVC) program. Her work explores themes of embodied knowledge, body sovereignty and the land as teacher through the decolonized lens of the Indigenous Research Paradigm. She acknowledges that the creative process of the IVC program and feedback she received have informed reflections on her identity as an Indigenous artist. 


Industrial Design

Erin MacGregor’s project focuses on how AI tools such as Dall-E 2 will impact and change the creative process. Through research and clinics, Erin created an effective way to harness these tools, and generated one hundred chairs in the style of the famous design house, Knoll, and in the end, a new creative methodology. She crafts everything, from mid-century Gothic furniture to domino tequila bottles, to talking makeup compacts, to AI design apps and vampire stakes.


Integrated Media

Shaughn Martel is a queer, aphant, new media artist currently practising in Toronto. Focused on the performance of media and digital technology, they push the boundaries of form and content through bugs and breakages of digital tools, using the flaws of a medium as the grounds for art making. In 2022, Shaughn was the first recipient of the James Bailey Award through NAISA North and a 2022 Ada Lovelace Fellow. Shaughn’s work, Videocloth, 3D uses cloth physics simulations as a transitional mechanism for digital video.


Material Art & Design

Miao Xuan Liu’s work explores sculpture, ceramic and textiles. Referring to Taoism, ecology, spirituality, traditional Chinese medicine, ontology, and the grotesque, Miao’s project plays with a logic through which closed doors can be traversed, not by willpower or obedience but because the doors are now made of smoke.



Amir Abdolizadeh is a lens-based artist whose work explores narrative documentary. With a focus on finding meaning in simple objects, places and individuals, Amir's practice involves the exploration of different approaches in photography shaped by newer version of documentary techniques. Amir’s work, After Winter, comprises a photo book and prints regarding the identity of Iranian culture and society through a personal and poetic approach, with 60 photographs sequenced on 88 pages.


Printmaking & Publications

Brandon Latcham has created a story world that references family histories and our relationships with labour. Brandon’s sculptures speak to the intergenerational weight created by poverty and illness. To better understand these heavy stories, Brandon has crafted objects that represent the structures tied to gender, disability and class, which led to an inquiry into art processes that use machines or methodologies entangled with labour. 


Gustav Bulzgis constructs sculptures whose logics stem from components of transportation and architecture. Each work is a specific material frame that seeks to highlight contours of the world that ordinarily fade into the background of perception. Through this process, Gustav seeks to disclose the ways in which the production of everyday life is choreographed by armatures of standardized forms and protocols whose designs take on an omnipresent quality. Gustav’s senior thesis was guided by Ariana Reines’s collection of poetry titled The Cow and Robert Smithson's site/non-site distinction.


Visual & Critical Studies

Shannon Molenaar has developed her writing skills while thinking deeply about what art is doing today, and how this 'doing' connects to and reflects back our world. For her undergraduate thesis project, she was attracted to the camera obscura for its simple everyday magic as well as its rich cultural and historical significance. This fall, she will begin OCAD U's Contemporary Art, Design, and New Media Art Histories (MA) Program. Shannon wants to continue writing about current and recent cultural production while interrogating the everyday. 




OCAD U’s graduate degree programs offer the next generation of artists, designers and industry leaders a level of scholarship that is virtually unmatched in Canada. The following graduate students received the 2023 OCAD University Medal for their program: 


Contemporary Art, Design & New Media Art
Wei Zhang

Criticism & Curatorial Practice
Paige Stephen

Design for Health
Mariam Al-Bess

Digital Futures
Joanne John

Inclusive Design
Laryn Van Dyk

Interdisciplinary Master’s in Art, Media & Design
mihyun maria kim

Strategic Foresight & Innovation
Nicole Brkic