Anticipating Spring

It’s been a long, hard winter and I’m not even talking about the weather! We’ve been kept hopping at NSCAD preparing government-mandated reports and assisting in achieving two, three-year collective agreements with our faculty and technicians unions.

In my last blog post, I told you about the Bilateral Report: Institutional Outlook (link to the PDF) which was submitted to the Province on January 31. All Nova Scotia universities were required to submit outlook reports following a series of questions, which asked respondents to frame answers using a five-year time frame. While it was stressful to meet the submission deadline, it was very gratifying to have committed to paper a positive outlook for NSCAD.

The other report to government was in response to its request for a new sustainability plan by March 15. In two letters, one from me, and one from the Board Chair, we communicated the unreasonableness of this request within the proposed timeline and informed that we would prepare a progress report instead. That progress report was submitted on time and consisted of an update on the two studies, which are now underway. Also, in response to government’s direction that we provide them with a plan to reduce or remove our debt, the report contains information on the orderly retirement of our debt (tables showing how the debt shrinks through time by just servicing the debt), tables which show the impact on debt reduction should we be able to make a lump sum payment of $2.5-3 million, a section which outlines at a highly speculative level, costs of relocation from the Granville site to a new, yet-to-be-constructed, location. Finally, the report provided information on the history and background of our current debt, which now totals $17 million. Since submitting the update, we’ve heard from government that it has received it with a promise of a more substantive response in the near future.

As you will know, a major draw on our collective administrative resources over the past two months was negotiating collective agreements with two bargaining units: FUNSCAD Unit I and Unit II.  I am happy to report that despite failure to reach agreement during normal negotiations, and negotiations facilitated by a conciliator, we were able to avoid work stoppages during 11th hour conciliation sessions. We are very pleased that we have arrived at agreements, which are both fair to employees and affordable for the university. Both unions and the Board of Governors have ratified the agreements. Without spelling out the various components of the agreements, in both cases, perhaps the most significant outcome relates to the term of the agreements: three years.

In the midst of all these events, NSCAD has enjoyed some reflective joy and glory through the continued success of our alumni:

  • NSCAD alumna Jenn Grant, who was so helpful in helping organizing last fall’s concert, won the ECMA for pop recording of the year for her beautiful album The Beautiful Wild.
  • NSCAD alumni took home two of seven of Canada’s most prestigious art awards. Filmmaker William MacGillivray is the winner of a 2013 Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts. Bill studied at the Nova Scotia College of Art in the late 1960s. Two of his films feature NSCAD prominently: the drama Life Classes, about a single mother who models for life-drawing classes and eventually becomes an artist herself; and the documentary I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art, about the enormous influence of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design on contemporary art. Bill is now finishing a drama called Hard Drive and starting a documentary on former Newfoundland premier Danny Williams. The winner of this award last year was NSCAD professor Jan Peacock.
  • Artist potter Greg Payce (MFA 1987) is this year’s winner of the Saidye Bronfman Award. He has been an instructor in the ceramics program at the Alberta College of Art and Design. In recent years, other past winners of the Saidye Bronfman Award, which recognizes excellence in craft, are alumnus Charles Lewton-Brain, NSCAD professor Kye-Yeon Son, and NSCAD professor emeritus Walter Ostrom.
  • NSCAD now has an Oscar winner among its former students. John Kahrs, an animator with Disney, won the Academy Award for best animated short for his film, Paperman. Since the win on February 24, John has been interviewed in the local media, including Stephanie Domet on CBC Mainstreet and Steve Murphy on CTV Atlantic. He told Steve Murphy about how he was able to explore and try out different artistic media while at NSCAD, calling it “one of the best art schools in the world.”
  • Audrey Dear Hesson, who became NSCAD’s first black graduate when she graduated in 1951, has artwork now on display as part of the exhibition, Discovery:  African Nova Scotia Art Pioneers, at the Dartmouth Heritage Museum. The work dates to her school days at the art college and includes a ceramic sculpture, jewelry, tooled leather and weaving.
  • NSCAD alumnus Cliff Eyland (BFA 1982) was awarded the $430,000 public art commission for the new Halifax Public Library. His proposal involves the creation of 5,000 paintings specific to the new building. Each of the paintings would measure 3”x 5” in direct relation to the size of a traditional library index card.
  • And, as I write this, I’ve just heard of another award winner. Leesa Hamilton, a technician in Textiles/Fashion, took home two Merritt Awards for excellence in theatre: best set design for Zuppa Theatre’s Slowly I Turn; and best costume design for Two Planks and A Passion’s Lysistrata: Temptress of the South. I understand that several NSCAD students were involved in creating Leesa’s designs for the stage.

Until next time,

P.S. NSCAD is conducting a survey of current and former students, staff, and faculty to collect their views on what you love about NSCAD, and how we can make improvements to what we already do. Please take some time to answer the survey — you may win one of two Apple iPads.