OCAD University 411: Where to find the best watering hole and more

An OCAD University Insider’s Perspective on Campus Life
Jonathan Carroll
OCAD University Insider

Best place for a nap:

Empty critique rooms; top floors of the AGO

OCAD University Insider Jonathan Carroll

Best cheap lunch:

$1 lunch provided by the Student Union on Thursdays. Always vegan, always a must.

Best hangover breakfast:

Karine’s in the Village by the Grange food court

Favourite campus food:

Anywhere in the Village by the Grange food court, across the street from the main building. A huge diversity of cheap eats.

Favourite watering hole:

Gallery openings often have free drinks—another incentive to get out into the community


The facilities to make anything you want

Where to live:

North (between Bloor and Dundas) and west (around College and Dufferin) can be inexpensive

Best place to study:

Second- or third-floor halls, next to the windows overlooking Grange Park—lots of good afternoon light

Worst place to study:

Sixth floor, chock full of stressed-out design students

Coolest electives:

Courses in professional practice or production: skills for the real world after graduation

Most notorious transit route:

Any route during rush hour, especially if you’re carrying a large canvas

Best campus events:

Gallery openings at the Student Gallery and Xpace Cultural Centre

Official school motto:

‘Imagination is everything’

Best live music venue:

Student Union open-mic nights on the last Thursday of each month

University Insider Report: Jonathan Carroll, 25, Integrated Media

OCAD University is steps from the financial district and bordered by vibrant Queen Street West to the south and Chinatown to the north, right in the middle of downtown Toronto. Named after its predecessor (the Ontario College of Art and Design), OCAD U is a place where you can get an education in—as well as in between—discplines such as design, art, entrepreneurship, technology and more.

PROFILE: OCAD University | Toronto, Ont. | Founded 1876

The name suggests you will learn to be an artist or a designer, which is a difficult thing to teach. But along with learning techniques for making and creating, you will spend four-plus years exploring what a career in art or design could mean to you—and figuring out where you and the things you do could fit in the world around you after graduation. I’ve learned that being an artist is like being an entrepreneur, and OCAD U has taught me to ask the same kinds of questions about my creative practice that someone starting a business would. In art and design, there’s a lot of uncertainty about a career after graduation, but if you’re self-motivated, OCAD U will provide the tools to follow your passion.


If you want to create, the most important thing is to find the right people to work with. OCAD U provides many opportunities to grow your network. It’s worth making the effort to meet people through groups like the Student Union, where you can run for office, the Student Press, where you can learn how to publish, performance-art collectives like Tough Guy Mountain, and two galleries dedicated to showing the work of students: the OCAD Student Gallery and Xpace Cultural Centre. Making your community is as important as the rest of your education, so print some business cards and make some contacts. Oh, and your student ID acts as a pass to the nearby Art Gallery of Ontario.

Local Vibe

Just like OCAD U, Toronto is incredibly diverse and offers many opportunities to an artist or designer willing to put themselves out there. Find a place to live near the things that are important to you: school, galleries, parks, food—each of the city’s many neighbourhoods provide their own perks. Rent is generally expensive, and the farther away from the hot spots (like downtown and Queen Street West) you live, the cheaper it tends to get, but living near a subway or streetcar line makes commuting feasible.

The Skinny

Xpace, OCAD U’s off-campus, student-centred gallery, hosts workshops about everything from .gif making to grant writing, and posts useful info about the Toronto art scene at

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