A brand new sketchbook

It’s the start of another academic year, and once again, I have a brand new sketchbook.

Those pristine pages are awaiting the first marks. What I love about my sketchbooks and journals is that I can leaf back and find new inspiration from research, ideas and marks that I explored and then moved on to a clean page.

This summer, I discovered some sketchbooks from my art school days. They were filled with research notes and drawings from exhibitions as I developed ideas, worked to problem solve and create designs. Some pages were covered in messy conté crayon scribbles that developed, page by page, into drawings with simple and clean lines, painted with watercolours and supplemented with richly textured fabric swatches.

Reflecting upon those art school days, my thoughts turned to my role as NSCAD’s 21st president. The challenges and difficult decisions we made over my first year at NSCAD have been made with our students in mind.

Over the summer, the Board of Governors dedicated a weekend in August to meet and discuss our facilities challenges: namely the Fountain Campus. Since the $3 million Fountain donation last year, the NSCAD community has been meeting to discuss how to best use the significant gift to enhance the student experience. All that consultation fed into the Board’s “Blue Sky retreat,” with SUNSCAD President Gabriel Soligo and SUNSCAD Vice President Finance Julie Hall making a significant contribution. We heard a lot about community, the need to come together to learn and socialize, and interdisciplinary opportunities for students at NSCAD.

Like marks in a sketchbook, that prep work and problem solving led to the Board of Governors’ meeting on Thursday, Sept. 17, in which the resolution, “Be it resolved that NSCAD management proceed with the planning of an exit strategy from the Fountain Campus facility on or before the year end 2019” was passed. (See: Making a Plan) This, in turn, will lead to more discussion and planning on the best way to proceed, and many more on-campus consultations, with students, faculty and staff, and alumni will be held. Dr. Ann-Barbara Graff, Vice-President Academic and Research, will lead the academic plan developments that will inform NSCAD’s facilities discussions and planning.

NSCAD’s 2014-15 Annual Report was presented at the September 17 Board of Governors Annual General Meeting. The Annual Report presents an incredibly full year, with so many accomplishments to be shared and recognized. I’m happy to share the Annual Report with you in this PDF version.

There have been some changes on the Board. Jeff Somerville is the new Board Chair, taking over from Grant Machum. I want to thank Grant for all he’s invested in NSCAD over the past two years as chair. At the same time, I look forward to working with Jeff, whose dedication and commitment to NSCAD has been evident in his first two years of service to the Board. I also want to recognize long-serving Board governor Margaret Fountain, who remains on the Board as a Life Governor, recognizing her commitment and generosity to the university.  (Please see: News from the Board of Governors)

In other news, I traveled to Ottawa recently by invitation of the US Ambassador Bruce Heyman and his wife Vicki Heyman to attend Contemporary Conversations, a speaking series created in partnership with the National Gallery of Canada and the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa. I was eager to meet internationally acclaimed American painter and sculptor Eric Fischl.

Here I am with former NSCAD faculty member Eric Fischl in Ottawa. Eric spoke as part of the Contemporary Conversations Lecture Series.

Here I am with former NSCAD faculty member Eric Fischl in Ottawa. Eric spoke as part of the Contemporary Conversations Lecture Series.

NSCAD received a number of ‘shout outs’ as Eric, a 2002 NSCAD honorary degree recipient, talked about his introduction to Canada through a teaching opportunity at NSCAD. It’s here in Halifax where he had his first solo exhibition, taking place in 1975.

I’ve also been busy attending films and receptions associated with the Atlantic Film Festival. Our NSCAD faculty, students and alumni were shining stars at the festival! The documentary, Strange and Familiar: Architecture on Fogo Island, by Marcia Connolly (BFA 1995) and Katherine Knight (BFA 1980), was a big winner, taking the awards for best Atlantic documentary and best Atlantic cinematographer (Marcia Connolly). The film is about the striking architecture on Fogo designed by NSCAD alumnus Todd Saunders (BFA 1992), the equally dramatic East Coast landscape, and the vision of Zita Cobb, the Island born social entrepreneur.

Lukas Pearse (BFA 1994), NSCAD regular part-time faculty, and Mike Ritchie won Best Atlantic Original Score for North Mountain, a film by Bretten Hannam (BFA 2008). Congratulations to all the winners, and to those who served on the jury, including Becka Barker (BFA 2000), regular part-time faculty, and Ruby Boutilier (BFA 1999), recruitment coordinator.

Todd Saunders architecture

The documentary Strange & Familiar: Architecture on Fogo Island uses a visual narrative of the construction of the Fogo Island Inn, inviting us to discover the portrait of a small island trying to assert itself by choosing bold contemporary architecture. Congratulations to Marcia Connolly and Katherine Knight, winners at the Atlantic Film Festival for Best Atlantic Documentary.

Other NSCADers who showed their work during the festival include: NSCAD students Nathan Boone and Raghed Charabaty, Corinne Dunphy (BFA 2008), Bretten Hannam (BFA 2008), Jenna Marks (BFA 2013), Rhonda Buckley (BFA 1989), Andrea Dorfman (BFA 1995), Heather Young (BFA 2009), Joel MacKenzie (BFA 2008), Lisa Heyden (BFA 2007), Jarrett Shaw (BFA 2014) … Shout out if I missed anyone!

A look ahead:

  • I AM NSCAD: the Alumni Exhibition runs Tuesday, Sept. 29 to Friday, Oct. 9 at the Anna Leonowens Gallery. Filling all three galleries, this show is not to be missed! And a note: many of the artworks are for sale, with proceeds going to the NSCAD Alumni Association Scholarship benefiting Foundation students. I’ve already got my eye on some works …
  • Sculptor Vasilis Vasili will present an artist’s talk about his work in the Sculpture Nova Scotia symposium, making a sculpture in honor of NSCAD University founder Anna Leonowens. The talk takes place Wednesday, Sept. 29 at 12 noon at the Anna Leonowens Gallery.
  • Dine By Design East opens this week at the Olympic Community Hall. It’s a wonderful, four-day event full of great design, art and food and it’s all in support of a scholarship at NSCAD, the Amber Harkins Memorial Scholarship. For tickets and information, please see Eventbrite.

Very best wishes,


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