As one of Canada’s largest cities and one of its foremost cultural centers, Toronto has a flourishing and diverse art community. It also is an post-secondary education hub in Canada and boasts some of the country’s finest research institutions and art schools. It is only right that we start with Toronto when making any list of noteworthy art professors in Canada. The only problem was narrowing the list of noteworthy professors to include. This list isn’t mean to be anywhere near comprehensive and it isn’t ordered. We don’t mean for these lists to be qualitative, we just think that professors deserve more recognition than they get. So enjoy our list!
Lu Ann Lafrenz, Fashion Design Professor, Ryerson University
Ryerson has rapidly become one of North America’s leading universities for fashion design and fashion industry research, and faculty members like Lafrenz are a big reason why. Lafrenz has been the program director for the Master’s Degree program in Fashion for less than three years, but she is a Ryerson staple. She has been a faculty member at the university since 1998 and has played an instrumental role in the growth of the program. Lafrenz has an undergraduate degree in design from Iowa State and a pair of postgraduate degrees (including a PhD) from Ohio State University. She has been teaching ever since and it shows. Students call her one of the nicest and most helpful professors they have ever had and credit her dedication to seeing her students succeed as a big reason why many of them did succeed. She has a knack for remembering everyone’s name and is always flexible with her time. She probably deserves a longer profile of her own.
Matthew Allen, Architecture Professor, the University of Toronto
Allen has been an Associate Professor at the University of Toronto for nearly four years and his classes draw rave reviews from students. A graduate of the University of Washington and then of Harvard Graduate School of Design (where he is now working on his PhD in architecture), Allen is an accomplished author who has published many papers, and he has worked in respected architecture firms across the globe before arriving in Toronto. Students give his lectures high marks for how engaging and witty he can be and they also say that his passion and knowledge of subjects like design and architectural representation are quite apparent. It should be no surprise that the flagship research institution of one of the country’s largest cities boasts such high-quality faculty.
Thomas Greenwald, Writing Professor, York University
How about a virtual standing ovation for Thomas Greenwald who has been working at York University for more than four decades and has been publishing his work from 1980 all the way through 2008. The York lifer is obviously one of the more respected lecturers on the faculty as students consider him a fair grader who cares about the growth of his students. They also consider him an excellent writing mind and an indispensable resource when it comes to improving their writing. A graduate of Western Michigan University who also has a Master’s degree in English Literature from York University itself, Greenwald deserves recognition as much for his skill as a writer and professor as for his loyalty and pride for the university.
Mike Karapita, Journalism Professor, Humber College
As the Coordinator of the Print and Broadcast Journalism program, Karapita is one of the most important people in the School of Media Studies and Information Technology at Humber College. He is also happens to be an accomplished and respected journalist as well as a pretty darn good professor, at least according to his students. A graduate of the Victoria University and then Carleton University where he got his Master’s degree in journalism, Karapita is still a senior writer for the CBC News on the side and his work doesn’t show any worse for wear despite his double duties. Students appreciate his sense of humor and consider him an excellent motivator who really holds student interest in his classes. His passion for the subject is hard to miss and many students have found him easily accessible and always willing to help.
Debora Joy, Theater (Voice) Professor, George Brown College
Joy has been Head of Voice at the George Brown Theatre School for nearly 20 years and one look at her resume makes it easy to see why. She grew interested in dance and voice at an early age and went on to earn a Bachelor of Music degree in Voice Performance from the University of Toronto as well as a Master of Fine Arts degree in Directing from York University. Joy is not only an accomplished theatre performer with many reputable productions under her belt, she is also an experienced voice teacher who has taught students all across Canada. This could be one of many reasons why Joy is so well-liked amongst her students who praise her for her compassion and deep knowledge of voice and theatre. Many of her students have gone on to lengthy and acclaimed careers in theatre, dance or film and you don’t become the Head of Voice at one of Canada’s best theatre schools without just cause.
Suzanne Cheng, Interior Design Professor, RCC Institute of Technology
Suzanne Cheng has only been teaching at the RCC Institute of Technology since 2012 but she has already made a large impact on of the more popular and prestigious programs at the Institute. A registered interior designer who works as a principal at her own design firm, Cheng graduated from the University of Waterloo’s School of Architecture and immediately began to carve a career in the design world. Cheng has worked at some of the most prestigious design firms in Toronto in a variety of capacities and her commitment to environmental sustainability has helped her gain recognition for her innovative and “green” designs. At RCC, she not only teaches design studio but also serves as an on-campus internship coordinator and instructor. Her students appreciate her attention to detail, love for design, and desire to help them succeed and grow as designers. She does all this while also working as a principal at a respected design firm. Need we say more?
Barry Waite, Media Studies Professor, Centennial College
It’s only fair that we show love to a professor from Toronto’s first community college and Barry Waite’s experience and skill as an educator made him an easy choice to showcase. Waite serves as the Chair of Centennial College’s School of Communications, Media, and Design which means he oversees the college’s unique Bachelor of Public Relations Management program. A graduate of York University who is in the process of getting his Master’s degree in Public Relations, Waite has been at Centennial College since 2010 and worked a number of public relations jobs before entering the world of academia. He has quickly risen to chairperson of the communications school and it is a testament to the respect he commands from his students and his commitment to the art of teaching.
Mark A. Cheetham, Art Professor, University of Toronto
It shouldn’t take an art enthusiast to see that Cheetham is as qualified for this list as any teacher in the country. Cheetham boasts two degrees from the University of Toronto as well as a PhD in the History of Art from the University of London and his research focuses on artwriting and art making in the modern and contemporary periods. He is a prolific author who has written books and articles on a variety of artistic subjects and his work has helped him pile up awards for his writing and research. His students appreciate Dr. Cheetham’s deep understanding and extensive knowledge of art and art history and also say he has knack for making even dry lectures engaging and interesting. The University of Toronto is one of the foremost art universities in North America and Cheetham is a well-respected member of that faculty as well as something of an art history savant. Mark is also the founder of ArtCan.ca, the public face of the Canadian Art Commons for History of Art Education and Training (CACHET). Needless to say, we feel good about including him here.
Teaching and doing research on contemporary art in Toronto is a tremendous privilege thanks to the art that is made and shown here and the extraordinary people thinking about it. I can’t say enough good things about the wonderful graduate and undergraduate students with whom I work at UofT. – Mark A. Cheetham
Colleen Schindler-Lynch, Fashion Professor, Ryerson University
Ryerson University’s Fashion program is so well-received by the fashion industry that we figured it was only right to include more than one professor from the program on our list and what better candidate than Schindler-Lynch. After graduating from the University of Windsor and then Louisiana State with degrees in fine art, Schindler-Lynch embarked on a career in the fashion industry that hasn’t slowed down even 25 years later. She freelances illustration and textile design for her company and is also the owner/designer of Coco’s Closet, a fashion jewelry design company. She has been teaching fashion illustration at Ryerson for more than a decade and has earned the reputation as a no-nonsense professor who draws the best out of her students and strives for each of her students to be the best fashion designers they possibly can be.
Rui Albino, Animation Professor, Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology
Animation is growing into a more popular degree program at Seneca College by the semester and professors like Albino are a big reason why. The Sheridan College graduate (degree in Animation) spent almost the first decade of his career as a storyboard artist before pivoting into academia while continuing to work as a storyboard artist. He now teaches at both Seneca College and Georgian College, leading classes in subjects like Animation Arts, Web Animation, and Illustration. He has been at Seneca since 2006 and has become a well-liked professor thanks to his cheery personality, his willingness to help, and his drawing ability. It can often be difficult for a professional artist to make the seamless transition to the education world, but it is clear that Albino is rather adept at balancing both realms.
In-Sook Chung, Music Professor, Royal Conservatory of Music
The first clue that Chung has got this teaching thing down to a science is that she has been employed at one of Canada’s preeminent music schools since the beginning of the 1980s. In her more than 30 years on the faculty at RCM, Chung has become a beloved and respected voice teacher whose track record of student success is quite impressive. A student of music her whole life, Chung has a Bachelor’s degree in Music, a Master’s degree in Music from Ewha Woman’s University in South Korea, and another Master’s degree in Church Music and DMA from Midwest College and Seminary in St. Louis. She is also a tremendously accomplished solo performer who has worked with orchestras across the globe and has been graced with more than one prestigious award. Her combination of skill as a musician and vocalist and as a teacher and educator make her a no-brainer for inclusion on a list like this.
Monica Gaylord, Music Professor, Royal Conservatory of Music
RCM has some of the finest faculty members for music in the country and so it can be tough to pick just one or two professors worthy of highlighting. But even amidst an accomplished and experienced faculty, piano aficionado Monica Gaylord stands out. The New York native has a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from Eastman School of Music and has spent time learning at the Juilliard School as well. All of that education paid as she has worked as an orchestral pianist for the Toronto Symphony and also for the National Arts Centre Orchestra. Her soloist resume includes work with the Hamilton Philharmonic and the Toronto Symphony as well. Keeping track of her solo performances is nearly impossible she has given so many. She has dabbled as a private piano teacher in Toronto and joined the teaching staff of the Royal Conservatory of Music and has become a fixture at the school for her helpful nature and ability to get the most out of her students.
April Hickox, Photography Professor, OCAD University
Formerly known as the Ontario College of Art and Design, OCAD University is one of the most prestigious art universities in North America and Hickox is one of the most accomplished artists on a faculty full of them. Well-versed in photography and printmaking thanks to multiple degrees, Hickox has been exhibiting for more than thirty years and her installations have been seen in galleries all across Canada. Her talent as an artist is apparent but so is her skill and passion for teaching. Hickox has taught photography and printmaking classes at Ryerson University, University of Toronto, and at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Students almost unanimously credit Hickox with making them a better artist and say her attention to detail and drive to see her students succeed make the class challenging but incredibly helpful. Her combination of experience as an artist and as a teacher have helped her classes very popular and her dedication to the craft and her students make them worthwhile as well.
Chinkok Tan, Painting Professor, OCAD University
There are tenured professors and then there are veritable professorial institutions. Tan falls into the latter category as, with the exception of one year teaching at the Corcoran School of Art in D.C., Tan has been teaching at OCAD since 1976. Students are often in awe of his technical skill and attention to detail as a painter and they also appreciate his straightforward approach to helping his students improve. A practicing painter and author who is an OCAD alumnus, Tan has been painting and drawing since he was a teenager and some of his books on watercolors have become popular across the globe. His work focuses on the pattern of shape, color and light values created by forests and his students say his passion for painting is unmatched. You don’t make it nearly 40 years at Canada’s preeminent art university without doing something right and it turns out Tan has done many “somethings” right over his illustrious career. It would be a shame not to highlight his extensive and loyal career at OCAD, so we included him without a second thought.
Nick Baxter-Moore, Media Studies Professor, Brock University
We may be stretching the definition of “art professor” by including a media studies professor like Baxter-Moore, but his reputation with students as well as the subject of his classes (Theories of Popular Culture, Popular Music, Media Industries, etc.) made us feel better about including him. Armed with a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Manchester, a Master’s degree from the London School of Economics and a PhD from Carleton University, Baxter-Moore’s academic credentials are bulletproof. He is now an associate professor and Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies at Brock, where his students recommend his class thanks to his engaging lecture style and in-depth knowledge of the subject. Brock isn’t technically in Toronto (it’s almost directly across Lake Ontario, closer to Buffalo) but Baxter-Moore’s chops as an academic and professor got our attention nonetheless.