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Toronto’s largest free art and design show attracts record attendance

Four photos showing GradEx 109, including a group shot of medal winners and opening night celebration.

Top left: OCAD U medal winners with President Ana Serrano and Mayor Olivia Chow; top right: visitors at GradEx 109; bottom left: visitors in OCAD U lobby; bottom right: opening night celebration in Butterfield Park. 

Over 41,000 people attended Toronto’s largest free art and design exhibition held at OCAD University from May 1 to 5, the third-largest crowd in over 100 years and the largest since before the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The University’s 109th annual graduate exhibition – GradEx – featured work by more than 800 emerging artists, designers and digital media makers.

“This year, we welcomed a huge number of visitors to our campus who witnessed first-hand the tremendous talent, creativity and ingenuity of artists, designers and digital content creators who are poised to contribute to Canada’s creative industries,” says OCAD U President Ana Serrano. “At a time when other arts and cultural festivals are experiencing challenges, this exhibition shows the strong interest people have in the art and design created at OCAD U.” 

Artists and designers included artist Kayla Bullen who designed workwear for women employed in the trades; sculptor Douglas Free who created classical-style plaster busts of family members, including his grandfather who helped design the Avro Arrow; industrial designer Julien Benghozi who designed an app to help people make informed financial decisions; environmental designer Esther Lin who tackled the housing crisis with a new vision for housing in Toronto’s West Don Lands; and animator Stephany Camba whose 3D animated short film tells the story about a young girl who wants to eat cake, no matter the cost.

The online version of the exhibition is still available for people to view, including work by 18 medal winners. Opportunities to buy work from these artists and designers are also available.


On May 1, OCAD U kicked off the five-day GradEx 109 with an opening night celebration in Butterfield Park. The event included a screening of short films by Experimental Animation students at the TIFF Lightbox Gallery and introduced the marketplace, a collaboration between OCAD U and the Fineline Co-operative. This new art marketplace offers meaningful art for purposeful homes and accelerates OCAD U alum art businesses.

This year’s presenting sponsors were Hullmark and BGO, along with sponsor Fitzrovia and media sponsor blogTO.