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GradEx 109: Toronto's largest free art and design exhibition returns May 1 to 5

The background is dark blue that graduates to blue green with the words in yellow, May 1 to 5 repeated. In the foreground in pink thick bubble lettering, is the word on three lines: GRA/DEX/109

One of Toronto’s favourite events, OCAD University’s annual graduate exhibition, returns from May 1 to 5, showcasing work by more than 800 emerging artists, designers and digital media makers.

The city’s largest free art and design exhibition opens on Wednesday, May 1 at 6:30 p.m. with a celebration and party in Butterfield Park at 100 McCaul St. This year’s presenting sponsors are Hullmark and BGO, along with sponsor Fitzrovia and media sponsor blogTO. 

GradEx 109 features work by graduating students in every undergraduate program, with sales of artwork and a special exhibition of medal-winning student work in the Great Hall at 100 McCaul St. A supplemental online exhibition will also launch on May 1 at 

“When you visit GradEx 109, you will be inspired and moved by the tremendous talent, creativity and ingenuity of these emerging artists and designers who are poised to contribute to Canada’s creative industries and other sectors, including advertising, manufacturing, product design, gaming and sustainable technology,” says OCAD U President and Vice-Chancellor Ana Serrano. 

On Friday, May 3 from 12 to 5 p.m., the TIFF Lightbox Gallery at 350 King St. W., will be converted into a screening lounge where the public can watch short films by graduating students in the Experimental Animation program. 

Visitors will also get an introduction to the marketplace, a collaboration between OCAD U and the Fineline Co-operative, from May 2 to 5 in the auditorium at 100 McCaul St. This new art marketplace offers meaningful art for purposeful homes and accelerates OCAD U alum art businesses. 

Among the artists, designers and digital media makers showing their work at GradEx 109 are:

  • Artist and designer Pixel Heller, whose creative journey is deeply influenced by her identity as a woman of Afro-Caribbean descent. Her larger-than-life work features two seven-foot-tall prints depicting her as the Moko Jumbie, a traditional masquerade character with roots in West Africa. 
  • Sculptor Douglas Free who has created classical-style plaster busts of family members who have recently passed, including his grandfather Douglas Free, a World War II veteran and draftsperson who helped design the Avro Arrow in the 1950s. 
  • A Digital Futures team who designed an easy-to-use mobile app using augmented reality that acts like a virtual assistant to help young people access trusted mental health resources.
  • Environmental designer Esther Lin who tackles the housing crisis with a new vision for housing in Toronto’s West Don Lands. Her design includes townhouses, a communal building and a communal garden using energy-efficient and environmentally friendly materials. 
  • Industrial designer Connor Dudgeon who is a race car photographer and owner of the new design shop ‘grays’ on Toronto’s Dundas St. West. He has cleverly designed a self-sustaining plant wall for the inside of autonomous cars to naturally improve air quality and reduce stress in urban traffic.
  • Ukrainian-Canadian artist Zoryana Khrouchtch who has created a series of paintings that highlight cultural traditions now at risk as the war in Ukraine continues for a bloody third year.

GRADEX 109 HOURS – 100 and 115 McCaul St.

  • Wednesday, May 1: Opening Night Celebration in Butterfield Park/Auditorium at 100 McCaul St. from 6:30 to 11 p.m.; exhibition open to the public during the same hours.
  • Thursday, May 2: Exhibition open to the public, from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Friday, May 3: Exhibition open to the public, from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Special Animation program screening lounge at TIFF Lightbox from noon to 5 p.m.
  • Saturday, May 4 and Sunday, May 5: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.