Handbook for supporting queer students brings activist values to art school

WHAT DOES IT MEAN to create a space for learning where queer and trans artists can thrive?This is a complex question, one that touches on both systemic barriers and hyper-specific contexts. Yet three years ago, a group of faculty and students at Toronto’s Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCAD U) decided it was about time to start working together to produce some real tools instructors could use to support their students. Now, Queer Publishing Project is officially launching HANDBOOK: Supporting Queer and Trans Students in Art and Design.

“The book came out of conversations that I was having with my students, and that they were having with each other,” said Anthea Black, an instructor who co-edited the book with Shamina Chherawala. Black and Chherawala supported student-led “dream chats” that eventually led to the development of different sections of the book. Then, they worked with faculty to figure out how to empower instructors to implement the kind of changes students were talking about. “The whole thing was queer and trans powered,” says Black.

While the content of the book is oriented around formal art instruction, Black says the processes, insights and techniques behind the book “come from social justice movements and from activist contexts.”.

As the content developed, HANDBOOK was illustrated by Morgan Sea, a long-time staple in the Canadian queer zine and comic community. Once the book was ready, OCAD U printmaking technician Nick Schick facilitated six months of letterpress printing and production with students to put out a handmade edition of 1,200. Now, it is our in the world and has a life of its own.

“In shared spaces, the weight is often put on queer and trans people to educate or speak up when someone is being fucked up,” says Sea. “I am hoping this book can get in there and do some of the heavy lifting.”


Buy HANDBOOK at Art Metropole, Glad Day Bookshop and ACAD Bookstore