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OCAD U receives more than $500,000 in research funding

Photo of Aga Khan Museum with a work of art projected onto the building at night

The image above shows an outdoor digital projection at the Aga Khan Museum. Digital projection was the subject of one of the research projects that received agency funding. 


OCAD U receives more than $500,000 in research funding

OCAD University researchers received $551,462 in research grants in 2023-24, supporting the University’s goal in fostering a world-class research environment.


Mapping Cultural Resistance: Digital Humanities Research of Musical Theatre in the Third Reich received $70,836 from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) in the February 2023 Insight Development Grant competition.


This digital humanities project, led by Associate Professor Dr. Helmut Reichenbächer with Professor Isabel Meirelles, reveals and disseminates patterns of cultural resistance in Nazi Germany with a specific focus on theatre directors by allying digital mapping, data visualization, and archival research. 


The project tracks and analyzes the repertoire shifts in music-theatre (opera and operetta) from the Weimar Republic through the Nazi period. As a result, it investigates not only the impact of Nazi censorship but also the creative channels through which individual theatre directors were able to withstand and, in some cases, evade political pressures.


The research objectives include establishing a digital baseline for the extensive music theatre repertoire performed during the Weimar Republic as the starting point for understanding the later patterns of Nazi suppression.


From there, it investigates and analyzes the patterns of repression and the impact of censorship during the Nazi era on the performances of music-theatre repertoire. Ultimately, it explores the important resistance strategies of theatre directors who bravely programmed the repressed repertoire the longest.

The project’s innovative methodology brings together expertise from musicology, theatre studies, and archival studies with expertise in the digital humanities, information design, and data visualization to arrive at new insights about censorship mechanisms of the period.

Mobile Projection Mapping and Communities: Reinforcing Diversity and Cultural Heritage through Urban Artistic Projects, received $55,716 from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation’s John R. Evans Leaders Fund in March 2023.

The project’s team members include Chair of the Experimental Animation Program and Associate Professor Philippe Blanchard, Associate Professor Wrik Mead and Assistant Professor Veronika Szkudlarek.


In the last decade, digital projection (“projection mapping”) has been used by cities worldwide as a form of cultural or technological branding to showcase recognizable architecture or downtown neighbourhoods. However, the infrastructure required for large-scale projection mapping is complex and expensive, which raises accessibility issues, shutting out marginalized artists and communities. 


The project will research mobile architectural digital projection as a current cultural and technological phenomenon with international impacts on urban culture and community. 


It will open access to projection mapping infrastructure (hardware and software) to emerging artists from underrepresented backgrounds and the communities where they live and work, enabling them to tell their own stories with new technology.


This research project builds on OCAD U projects to program mobile, temporary projections in Greater Toronto Area neighbourhoods. As part of the project, projections in the community will be facilitated through existing partnerships with the City of Toronto, the Toronto Animated Image Society, the Aga Khan Museum and AVA Animation.


Digital animations and films will also be commissioned from local emerging media artists, including current students and alumni, with a focus on training new experts with this technology, and promoting animation work by artists who identify as Indigenous, Black and Persons of Colour, LGBTQIA2S+ and other underrepresented groups.

The Crossing Fonds Symposium received $24,962 from the SSHRC Connection Grant program for the symposium submitted by President Emerit Dr. Sara Diamond and Associate Professor Dr. Andrea Fatona.

The Crossing Fonds Digital Archives Symposium is being held from April 25 to 28, 2024 in Metro Vancouver and online. This symposium will share two years of collaborative efforts and stimulate reflection on both the SSHRC Partnership Development Grant-funded Crossing Fonds platform/ecosystem and the opportunities and challenges of digital archives writ large.


This gathering unites academic, GLAM (gallery, libraries, archives and museum) and community-based experts who bring knowledge and practice in digital archive platforms and interface design, visualization, critical archival theory and practice, principles of OCAP and CARE, an ethics of care, participatory and co-design methods and expertise with digital records, particularly from media arts and culture.


The symposium combines face-to-face and online presentations and dialogues featuring archival projects from Indigenous, Black and People of Colour, queer, disabled, and other equity-deserving communities. Preliminary workshops will allow a deep dive into the Crossing Fonds ecosystem, its tools, visualization approaches, and critical archival methods. 

A Transboundary Gathering: Digital Ecocultural Mapping in the Salish Sea, led by Adjunct Professor Colin Clark, was awarded $24,980 from the SSHRC Connection Grant program for an Indigenous-led collaborative working meeting and coalition-building event held in Lummi territory, Washington State, in August 2023.

The intention of the project was to bring together Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers, designers, students, and government officials from Canada and the United States to consider approaches to ecocultural mapping that respect cultural safety, address issues of data sovereignty, protect sacred knowledge, and ensure Indigenous leadership. 


Digital ecocultural mapping provided visualizations and storytelling about natural, cultural, and historical sites including ancestral village sites, camps, reef net locations, food sovereignty, and Indigenous stewardship systems. 


Taking place on the ancestral land of the Indigenous Lummi people, the Transboundary Gathering acted as a catalyst for establishing an ongoing collaborative partnership to support cross-cultural ecocultural mapping efforts in the Salish Sea region, and to share tools and resources that will support similar efforts elsewhere.


The project, Thinking Through Craft and the Digital Turn: Writing Our Future, was awarded $179,807 in 2023 under the SSHRC Partnership Development Grants November 2022 competition. 


The project director was Adjunct Professor Dr. Lynne Heller with Associate Professor Dr. Dorie Millerson and Instructor Kathleen Morris as co-applicants.


This project was a collaboration between OCAD University, Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Tasmania and brought academic faculty, students, practitioners and community members together to examine how digital technologies intersect and combine with traditional, mechanical and hand fabrication processes, particularly the possible affordances of digital technology through embodied learning: a pedagogy of the whole body and not just the intellect. 


The project interrogated the concepts of re-, de- and upskilling, a central concern to many pedagogical endeavours throughout academia. Through understanding the intersection of craft and digitality, the project sought to answer questions about future labour practices. What are the ramifications for skill-based work in an era of digital ubiquity? How well-matched is the academic environment to the workplace? And are there a range of sites, from classroom to makerspaces, to enact these new modalities of learning and skill building?

The outputs of the project were to include documentation of practices, substantive data pools, effective theories and multimedia visualization of processes, data analysis and synthesis. Knowledge was to be disseminated to instructors, administrators, students, technicians, cultural workers, the public and leaders in the art, design, and craft worlds, to advance the integration of craft and the digital. Students participating in the project were to be trained in data collection through interviews and studio visits, analysis and synthesis, and in research and communication methodologies.