Indigenous Artists from OCAD
Congratulations to OCAD University’s class of 2019!
As a celebration of Indigenous students and their creative work, the Archives is highlighting a selection of artists who went to the Ontario College of Art or OCAD. You can find more information about their student days and their careers in the OCAD University Archives and the OCAD University Library Collection.
All of the Indigenous alumni we currently know about attended the Ontario College of Art in the 1950s or later. Before that time, the Indian Act and its system of reserves and residential schools made it impossible for most Indigenous people to access our institution, and the impacts of intergenerational trauma and the attempted destruction of Indigenous culture continue to raise barriers for Indigenous students today in many ways. We would like to acknowledge these trailblazing artists and their contribution to a better future for art and education.
- Robert Markle attended the Ontario College of Art in 1954. For most of his career, his painting focused on female nudes, but later in life he also explored his urban Mohawk heritage
- Arthur Shilling was one of the first OCA students to self-identify in print as a status Indian. He went on to be a well-known portraitist, painting friends and relatives from Rama First Nation in bold colours.
- Tom Hill from the Six Nations community in Brantford, Ontario, graduated from OCA in 1967. He supported many Indigenous artistic careers as the first director of the Cultural Affairs section of the federal Department of Indian and Northern Affairs. In 1982 he became the founding Museum Director of the Woodland Cultural Centre, where he nurtured the careers of many more Indigenous artists.
- Teresa Altiman of Bkejwanong Territory, known as Walpole Island, has exhibited her work throughout southwestern Ontario. She is known for her sculpture of the Great Turtle carrying the Grandfather Stone, located on the Herb Gray Parkway Trail in Windsor.
- R. Gary Miller is best known for his collection The Mush Hole Remembered, a series of paintings and drawings about his experiences of abuse in the Mohawk Institute residential school in Brantford.
- Rebecca Belmore’s solo exhibition, Facing the Monumental, ran at the Art Gallery of Ontario last year. She specializes in performance and installation art that engages with current issues.
- Mary Anne Barkhouse is a sculptor and belongs to the Nimpkish band of the Kwakiutl First Nation. Her installations involving vivacious wolves have been exhibited at the Art Gallery of Ontario, the McMichael Gallery and the Canadian Museum of History, among others.
- Bev Koski produces intricate, unorthodox beadwork. She has shown her work at Harbourfront Centre, Kamloops Gallery, Carleton University Gallery and the Textile Museum of Canada, among others.
Want to learn more about Indigenous art? Check out OCAD Library’s Indigenous Visual Culture resources, where you can study First Nations, Métis and Inuit creative traditions.