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OCAD U mourns the loss of former faculty member Robert Hedrick

A black and white portrait of the late Robert Hedrick.

The OCAD U community celebrates the life of sculptor, painter and visionary educator Robert Hedrick who passed away on February 24, 2021 at the age of 91. 

“Robert lived a full life and his commitment to art making was lifelong. He was a true exemplar in many ways, as an artist, educator and experimenter,” remembers Min Sook Lee, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Art. 

Hedrick taught at OCAD U when it was the Ontario College of Art, in the Drawing and Painting department. From 1985 to 1995 he led courses in painting, drawing, colour theory and sculpture. He also taught at Guelph University from 1979 to 1984.  

About Robert Hedrick

Born in Windsor, Ontario, Hedrick grew up in rural Essex County. He first trained as a commercial artist at H.B. Beal Secondary School in London, Ontario. Following graduation, he designed labels for Wright Lithographing Company. In 1951, Hedrick moved to Mexico to study painting at the Instituto de Allende in San Miguel, four hours north of Mexico City. While there he studied under Italian-American artist Rico Lebrun.  

In the 1950s, he lived in Toronto and was among several young artists who contributed to the city’s vibrant art scene. At that time, his works were exhibited at Isaacs Gallery, a major hub for avant-garde art, that also exhibited works by prominent artists Michael Snow and Joyce Wieland. 

Throughout his career, Hedrick exhibited widely at galleries including Picture Loan Society, the first gallery in Canada to operate on a system of low-cost commission, making the purchase of art more affordable to clients by renting artworks while providing affordable exhibition space for artists. He also exhibited at the Jerrold Morris International Gallery, the Dorothy Cameron Gallery, the Koffler Centre and Gallery Moos, all in Toronto. 

In 1965, Hedrick co-founded the New School of Art with Dennis Burton, Toronto’s first alternative post-secondary art school. The school’s founding was driven by Hedrick and Burton’s shared dissatisfaction with conventional arts education and their shared love for contemporary painting.  

The two also founded Arts' Sake Inc., the Institute for Visual Art with Diane Pugen, Gordon Rayner, Dennis Graham Coughtry, Paul Sloggett, Ross Mendes and Paul Young, all former OCAD U faculty members. The artist-run independent art school operated in Toronto from 1977 to 1983. 

As Pugen reflects on Hedrick’s career, “Robert was very deliberate when choosing his words when he spoke. I think that the consideration he gave -- choosing his words carefully and making certain that his meaning was clear -- contributed to his ability to communicate his thoughts when teaching.” 
His works are represented in numerous gallery collections including the Museum of Modern Art (New York), National Gallery of Canada, Dalhousie Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of Ontario, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Mackenzie Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of Hamilton, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  

Photo Credit:
Toronto Star obituary, March 6 , 2021. 

Toronto Star 
Christopher Cutts Gallery, Press Release