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Image: Measure of one (2020) by Azza El Siddique. Steel, expanded steel, water, unfired slip clay, slow-drip irrigation system, EPDM pond liner, cement bricks. Installation view at the Gardiner Museum, Toronto. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid

Azza El Siddique, who graduated from OCAD University’s Material Art and Design program in 2014, is among the the five artists shortlisted for the 2022 Sobey Art Award (SAA) The Sobey Art Foundation and the National Gallery of Canada recently announced.

As a member of the shortlist, El Siddique has been awarded $25,000 and is in the running for the grand prize of $100,000 — an amount that places the Sobey among the most valuable honours in the contemporary art world.  
The prestigious list has been whittled down from 25 visual artists from five regions across Canada. That longlist was announced earlier this year and included Stephanie Temma Hier, a 2014 OCAD U Drawing and Painting graduate.  

Globally recognized, the Sobey Art Award is a catalyst for the careers and work of Canadian artists. In addition to the monetary prize, shortlisted artists will be featured in an exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) in Ottawa from October 28, 2022 until February 2023. The winner of the SAA will be announced at a gala this fall hosted by the National Gallery. In 2019, Integrated Media graduate Stephanie Comilang was announced as the winner of the grand prize.  

Celebrating its 20th year, the awards are adjudicated by an independent jury consisting of curators from Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Ontario, the Prairies and the North, and the West Coast and Yukon, in addition to an international juror, who oversees the selection process for each round of the competition.  

Born in Khartoum, Sudan, El Siddique’s family immigrated to Vancouver when she was four. She later moved to Toronto where she briefly studied fashion design at Toronto Metropolitan University before enrolling at OCAD U. Since then, she has completed graduate studies in Sculpture at Yale University’s School of Art and now splits her time between Connecticut and New York.  

El Siddique is known for her sensual engagement with materials, including vinyl, water, clay, glass and steel. The materials she works with often change once installed in the gallery, evolving throughout a given exhibition.  

“Things are calculated but at the same time it’s important to me for materials to have their own agency,” noted El Siddique in a 2020 Canadian Art Magazine article.  

“I don’t necessarily dictate how that form is going to collapse, where the water is going to penetrate, the way it decides to fall, the way it completely dissolves or the way it’s still standing but is missing a part. Those are the surprises.” 

Through sculpture and installation, she creates environments that often consider and stimulate the senses, beyond the visual. Her work is inspired by a wide range of sources including anthropological texts, mythology and a perennial confrontation of mortality.  

News Summary
OCAD U graduate Azza El Siddique is among the 5 artists in the running for the $100,000 grand prize to be announced this fall.
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A cubic steel structure with white clay vessels on its shelves.

The OCAD University’s Material Art and Design program is pleased to announce Debut, an exhibition showcasing a selection of art and design works by 16 locally-based graduating students from the program in 2021. The works are on display in the Craft Ontario’s feature windows now until July 10.

Participating students are: Anthia Barboutsis; Si Chen; Camila Garzon; Ellene Fu; Aichoucha Haidara; Melody Juthamongkol; Summer Lee; Yucan Liang; Leah Liu; Kaushika Nayyar; Moraa Stump; Ziyi Wang; Nathan Whitefield; Yuki Wong; John Xu; and Sia Zhang.

For information about each student’s work, please see

Craft Ontario will announce its reopening information and how to book a visit on their website When permitted, please visit the exhibition to congratulate the Material Art and Design 2021 graduating students on flourishing under the difficult circumstances and delivering absolutely stunning outcomes. Currently, the works can be viewed in the front vitrine from the street.

To see more works by the graduating students from the Material Art & Design program, including those outside Canada, please visit and

Venue & Address
Feature Windows, Craft Ontario
1106 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6J 1H9
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MAAD Grad Exhibition at Craft Ontario #1
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This year, the Toronto Outdoor Art Fair (TOAF), Canada’s largest and longest-running contemporary outdoor art fair turns 60! TOAF has always reserved a portion of the Fair to emerging and student artists, and this year, we’re excited to share that ten talented OCAD U students/grads will be exhibiting their work in an online curated showcase from July 2-11. 

Congratulations to all the recipients of the OCAD U Toronto Outdoor Art Fair (TOAF) Career Launcher! 

As of yesterday, the public will be able to get to know the juried artists, browse thousands of artworks, start planning their art purchases, and get a sneak peek of all the exciting programming celebrating TOAF60.   

Visit the OCAD U Curated Collection here. 

Left to right: Walking in the Cloud by Michael Highway. Icing on the Cake by Meegan Lim. In Flow by Anthia Barboutsis.  


Since 2018, the RBC Centre for Emerging Artists & Designers has partnered with the Toronto Outdoor Art Fair to create the TOAF Career Launcher award. This opportunity for students and recent alumni in the Illustration, Material Art & Design, Photography and Printmaking/Publications programs offer a free showcase opportunity to nurture excellence, entrepreneurial spirit, and to showcase contemporary work to the general public.  


TOAF Logo in purple

News Summary
Ten talented OCAD U students/grads will be exhibiting their work in an online curated showcase from July 2-11.
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TOAF 2021
Nithikul Nimkulrat, acting chair, Material Art & Design program, OCAD University
Left: Cosplay of a Black Plague doctor by Kuma Kum. Plague doctors wore a mask with a bird-like beak to protect them from being infected by deadly diseases such as the Black Death in the mid 1300s. The long beak was packed with sweet smells, such as dried flowers, herbs, and spices. 
Right: Mask created by Apoorva Varma (2017 MAAD grad) textile print design titled Lady of the Night (2020). The mask was created in collaboration with Le Galeriste. Photo by Apoorva Varma.

Throughout human history and across different cultures, masks have taken on diverse forms and functions, from costume accessory, to spiritual accoutrement, to safety gear, to fashion apparel.

The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has introduced a dynamic new chapter in humanity’s multi-millennia old relationship with face masks.

Nithikul Nimkulrat, acting chair, Material Art & Design program, OCAD University
Nithikul Nimkulrat, acting chair, Material Art & Design program, OCAD University

“There are many uses and purposes for making and wearing masks,” says Nithikul Nimkulrat, acting chair, Material Art & Design program, OCAD University and a textile practitioner-researcher. Their meaning has changed slightly during the pandemic.”

A mask for every occasion

Encyclopedia Britannica notes that historically, some peoples in Africa, East Asia and Oceania wore masks for religious and social ceremonies pertaining to fertility rites, weddings, funerary customs or protection against disease. Mask wearing also featured prominently in folk celebrations in Europe, shamanistic ceremonies in Korea, and harvest blessings by Indigenous peoples.

In military contexts, ancient Greek and Roman warriors and Japanese samurai donned grotesque masks to intimidate their enemies. Masks have also been worn as costumes in the performing arts—in the courts of ancient Middle Eastern Kings, the masquerade balls of Shakespeare’s works, and the spicy scenes of “Eyes Wide Shut.” Today, we wear them at street festivals—Mardi Gras in New Orleans, the Day of the Dead in Mexico, Carnival in Brazil—and for holiday celebrations such as Halloween and Purim.

The wide range of purposes for masks is matched by the plurality of their materials, which have included wood, metals, shells, fibres, ivory, clay, horn, stone, feathers, leather, fur, paper cloth and even corn husks.

Masking for safety

Well before the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the globe, wearing a surgical mask for safety—one’s own and that of others in society—has long been a cultural norm and common hygiene practice in many parts of Asia.

“In countries like China and Japan, when people get sick, it’s common for them to wear masks, because they don’t want to infect others. People are more considerate of others,” Nimkulrat, says.

The onset of the 1918 influenza epidemic led many cities worldwide to introduce mandatory masking orders. In Japan, complying with this order was viewed as an act of modernity and national obligation; in Canada and the U.S., some viewed compulsory mask wearing as infringing on their civil liberties.

Masking for style

At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, we mainly turned to standard surgical/medical masks to protect ourselves against catching and spreading the virus. They are designed to tightly fit the face and filter out large air particles.

But before long, more stylish options emerged that quickly became popular, even though they may not offer the same level of protection. Nimkulrat notes function is being superseded by other concerns.

“Once we had to wear masks regularly, we got bored of the basic option…People need more pleasure in their lives, so they go for more stylish masks, or designs that project a desired social status,” says Nimkulrat, noting that this trend has been amplified by media coverage of celebrity mask choices and the rise of mask chain jewelry.

Multi-meaning masks

In some parts of the world, masks have become political as some people use them to make statements about their views, or reject wearing them altogether in protest of “government overreach” or due to a distrust of science.

At the same time, we have seen innovations in face coverings that address the needs of people with disabilities, such as the government of Thailand introducing versions with see-through mouth areas that enable deaf people to communicate.

Nimkulrat also observes how the ubiquity of masks today weakens criticisms of face coverings worn for religious purposes.

If it’s OK to wear a mask to protect ourselves against a contagious disease, it makes us rethink why it’s not OK to do so for religious beliefs,” she says. “Masks may have helped take away the stigma.”

News Summary
Nithikul Nimkulrat, acting chair, Material Art & Design program, OCAD University and a textile practitioner-researcher discusses the evolution of masks through the ages.

This workshop will be led by Ken Vickerson, a cigar box enthusiast and a professor in the Material Art and Design Program at OCADU. Ken will share his passion for this humble instrument, discuss its history and impart tips and tricks for making and playing your own CBGs.

Tools will be provided. It is suggested attendees bring their own cigar box but laser cut plywood boxes will also be available. Experience with hand and power tools is not required but it is an asset. Children under 13 years of age must be accompanied by a parent.

Registration is limited to 12 participants.  Material fees (approx. $45) will be payable in cash to Ken at the end of the workshop. 

Click on link to Register:


$100 registration Fee and $45 supplies
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The Ontario Arts Council (OAC) has appointed Erika Iserhoff as new Indigenous Arts Officer. Iserhoff holds a Bachelor of Design in Material Art & Design from OCAD University, where she also taught in the Indigenous Visual Culture program.

Iserhoff is a founding member of the Chocolate Woman Collective, a group of artists with a shared interest in research, exploration and practical application of Indigenous aesthetic principles in all areas of the dramatic arts. She is also the co-founder of the Setsuné Indigenous Fashion Incubator, which promotes the creation and exhibition of new works by Indigenous artists working in fashion, textiles and crafts. Iserhoff was associate producer of Tributaries, the opening night of Toronto’s 2017 Luminato festival, at which she was also announced as the Emerging Laureate of OAC’s Indigenous Arts Award. In 2009, she received a Dora Mavor Moore Award for her work in costume design in Indigenous theatre.

Iserhoff is of Omushkego and Eeyou Cree heritage, and is a member of Constance Lake First Nation. She is based in Toronto with her family.

Erika succeeds long-time OAC Indigenous Arts Officer Sara Roque, who stepped down in 2018.

Alumni Faculty of Design INVC Centre
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