A fond farewell

As this is my last blog post before I take my leave, I thought it fitting to recount the many changes at NSCAD over the past couple of years as we collectively addressed our financial management and enrolment challenges. If I had to list in order of importance the accomplishments we have shared the list would look something like this:

1. Virtual elimination of operating deficit – This was made even more significant as our move toward gaining financial stability occurred during a time when provincial grants decreased by 10 per cent and tuition revenue decreased by an almost similar amount.
2. Debt Reduction – We were able to allay concerns over the size of our debt by demonstrating that by simply servicing our debt it reduces by $1 million per year. Simple tables projecting debt reduction for several years forward provided the Province with the evidence we were making progress.
3. Government relations – By demonstrating good stewardship in reducing our annual deficit; by meeting all report requirements (which incidentally were frequent and numerous); and by introducing strong management controls, we were able to gain the confidence of our provincial partners.
4. Media relations – The shift from negative to positive treatment by the media has been most apparent and most beneficial.
5. Internal governance Improvements – Our new board governance structure has resulted in greater operational clarity, focus and efficiency in board operations.
6. Major consultant-led studies – We have successfully completed two major consultant studies: Space and Affiliation. Both studies have great consequence to the future of NSCAD and provided the Board with evidence-based information on which we were able to chart our future with confidence.
7. Strategic Plan – While behind schedule (on track now), the ultimate outcome will prove very beneficial in informing future directions and priorities for NSCAD.
8. Labour relations – We have successfully negotiated collective agreements with all unionized employees without work disruption, and we continue to enjoy good relations.
9. Presidential and Academic Dean searches – We have concluded two national searches for these important positions with great success. The attraction of many fine candidates for these important leadership positions is yet another indication of our improved status within the university community.
10. Academic programs – We have completed external reviews of all academic programs. When processed, the review findings will be very helpful in the consideration of important program refinements.
11. Enhanced program collaboration – We have added or are in the process of adding many new programs in cooperation with Nova Scotia Community College, University of King’s College and other local universities.
12. Student recruitment improvements – With the assistance of specially earmarked donor funds, our registration and admissions personnel have introduced numerous robust strategies to augment our recruitment efforts.
13. Institute of Applied Creativity – IAC, while still experiencing growing challenges, has been successful in securing significant government grants, hosting significant events and forging important partnerships.
14. Groundbreaking capital donation – The recent generous donation from Margaret and David Fountain is significant for two reasons. First, the gift will allow NSCAD to make significant improvements to the Granville Block (now Fountain Campus). This solidifies our earlier decision to declare our intention to hold onto this historic site for the foreseeable future. Second, the donation conveys confidence in NSCAD’s future as Atlantic Canada’s only exclusive art and design University.

All in all, I believe NSCAD has its worst days behind it and can, with renewed and justly warranted confidence chart a future rich with potential and greatness.

Please allow me to close on a note of appreciation and thanks to all in our community – Board of Governors, faculty, staff, students, and alumni for their collective welcome and support to me, an outsider, during my stay. In particular, I wish to acknowledge the support and assistance provided my most immediate administrative team.

It has been a pleasure, frustrating and exhausting at times, but always rewarding.

King's

Here I am with Kelly Toughill, Director of King’s School of Journalism, and Dr. George Cooper, President of the University of King’s College, after signing a Memorandum of Understanding for a new collaboration. Eliot Wright Photo.

Announcement

A great day for NSCAD: Margaret and David Fountain pledge $3 million to NSCAD and our historic downtown campus is named “Fountain Campus” in appreciation. Eliot Wright Photo.

Here's a picture of myself and my wife Valerie with a painting by Professor Alex Livingston. This photo was taken the same day the Board of Governors considered the Affiliation Study and resolved to keep our autonomy.

A picture of myself and my wife Valerie with a painting by Professor Alex Livingston. This was the same day the Board of Governors considered the Affiliation Report and resolved to keep our autonomy. Eliot Wright Photo.

An opportunity for emerging artists

Looks like the Province of Nova Scotia is catching up to us. It’s just announced that it will bring in a new February holiday starting next year and the first occasion will honour Viola Desmond. In succeeding years, Nova Scotia students will suggest a permanent name for the new holiday and give ideas for the next 12 people to be honored.

Anna Leonowens would be a good choice—just a thought.

In any case, I trust our staff had a relaxing NSCAD Day. And, I hope our students have a safe and productive study break.

I wanted to tell students about some of the efforts we’ve made to lessen the impact of the closing of Seeds Gallery. The gallery, which serves students and alumni, will close on March 31.

We’ve signed an agreement with Art Sales and Rental Gallery, the commercial gallery associated with the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. The Hollis Street gallery is very open to carrying the artwork of NSCAD students and a new website will make that even easier. Recently, Mark Bovey, chair of Fine Arts, Rory MacDonald, chair of Craft, and I met with Andrea Smith, the gallery’s executive director, and a few of its dedicated volunteers, who are all very enthusiastic NSCAD supporters.

With its new website (yet to be launched), the gallery will be able to carry up to five pieces per student. Artworks can be in a variety of media, including sculpture, ceramics, painting, prints, drawings and textiles. All the work submitted goes before the gallery’s Accessions Committee for acceptance. If sold through the gallery, the student would receive 65 per cent of the purchase price, with the gallery getting the remaining 35 per cent.

Students who are interested in taking advantage of this opportunity should get in touch with ASAR by email (asar@gov.ns.ca) or make an appointment to drop by in person by calling 424-3087. For further information, see the gallery’s Guidelines to Submit.

I want to thank Art Sales and Rental Gallery for already being so supportive of student and alumni artists. The gallery is now hosting an exhibition by three young alumni—Jimy Sloan, Hangama Amiri and Samantha Battaglia. All three artists have been artistic residents with our NSCAD Community Studio Residencies; in fact, Samantha is now a resident with the Lunenburg program. Their show is called This is the Canadian Earth and it’s on display until the end of the month. It’s a beautiful show, which arts reporter Elissa Barnard reviewed in The Chronicle Herald last week.

We’ve been also talking to other local galleries about carrying student work and we are working on organizing a large show and sale of art and craft by students and alumni at the end of the fall 2014 term for the Christmas gift-buying season. We’ll have more details on that as the time approaches.

Senior administration continues to work on peeling back assumptions contained in the space utilization study to assist the Board of Governors in reaching decisions on optimizing space at our three campuses. Meanwhile, the consultants working on the affiliation study are in the final stages of preparing cost scenarios for affiliation with either Saint Mary’s University or Dalhousie University. Recall that our Board has stated that affiliation will only be considered if there are demonstrated cost savings in the short- and long-term futures. Finally, stay tuned for important calls for input by your strategic planning committee led by Board vice chair Julia Dexter and announcements of a short list from our Presidential Search Committee.

In the meantime, I wish all good health and energy to push into the second half of the academic term.

Winter painting

The image used in the header above is a detail from “Winter, Northwest Arm” by Elizabeth Styring Nutt. Painted in 1927 while she was principal of the Nova Scotia College of Art, Miss Nutt had only recently changed the name of the school from the Victoria School of Art and Design and given the school a new motto, “Heart and Head and Hand.” (Elizabeth Styring Nutt,” Winter, Northwest Arm,” 1927.  Oil on canvas, 63.6 x 76.1 cm, Collection of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. Gift of Robert L. Stanfield, Ottawa, Ontario, in memory of Mary Hall Stanfield, 1979)

 

 

 

Coming into focus

Belated Happy New Year and welcome back!  I realize our second semester’s start was unusual. Winter storms delayed many of our students’ return from the holiday break only to be followed by two closures due to storm conditions. I have limited history here but I wager that two storm closures in the space of three weeks is a record for NSCAD. Regardless, if everyone enjoyed the unexpected breaks as much as I did, everything is well.

Weather notwithstanding, we are well into the semester. As I reported to the Board recently, we begin the New Year at NSCAD with optimism that 2014 will present the University with greater clarity on its future than in the recent past. With the results of two major outstanding studies, the space utilization study, and the affiliation study, combined with sharpened mission and strategic plan, we should have all the planning pieces necessary for informed decision making regarding our future.

Once we have clarity on our facility needs and choices, we will be in a position to consider capital requirements.  In doing so, I am mindful of the need for the Province to continue its current level of support and assistance and our own ability to meet enrolment targets spelled out in the forecast for the 2013 Bilateral Report. The report projects modest increases in enrolment over the next five years. While we made improvements this year – almost but not quite eliminating a three-year annual decline in enrolment, and increasing substantially the number of transfer students – we still have a way to go to realize our projections for the next few years. I continue to be “bullish” on the enrolment front. My confidence is based on the following: a carefully crafted and funded recruitment plan; excellence of staff leading our enrolment strategies; our niche programs; and new collaborative programs which ought to attract new registrants.

Mary & Myself

Sam Decoste's Mary & Myself is nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for best documentary short.

As always, I am pleased to tell you about some student successes. MFA student Sam Decoste has been nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for her animated documentary Mary & Myself. The winner will be announced on CBC during a live gala hosted by Martin Short. Student Soohyum Shim was announced as a winner of the 2014 Niche Award for Jewellery in the student competition. Soohyum impressed with her sterling silver salt and pepper shakers in the category Metal: Functional. Sponsored by Niche magazine, the Niche Awards celebrate excellence and innovation in American and Canadian fine craft.

Our fashion/textiles faculty members continue to impress with their achievements. RPT Toshiko MacAdam is recently returned from Italy, where she created a site specific installation of one of her other-worldly crocheted playgrounds for the Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Roma. If in Rome, be sure to see it; called Harmonic Motion, it will be on display for the whole of 2014. (Please see an image in the header, above.) Meanwhile, professor Gary Markle is getting a lot of interest in his research project, Design for Aging. He’ll be the special guest at the Alzheimer Research Breakfasts, in Halifax on January 30 at the Westin Nova Scotian and in Wolfville a day later at the Old Orchard Inn, Wolfville.

If you’ve noticed a snowy-haired student at the front of your art history class, that’s me. I’m auditing David Howard’s Survey of 19th Century Art. It’s fascinating and Prof. Howard is an engaging teacher. We’re so fortunate to have such exceptional teachers here at NSCAD.

Fall into fall

Now that the new academic year is well underway with the inevitable whirl of start-up activities behind us I thought I would take to my blog to bring you up to date on recent happenings.

First, here’s a recap of September’s special events. My office has been involved in the following events: Welcome event for new students; welcome reception for new international students; faculty and staff long service ceremony; external meetings with the Council of Nova Scotia University Presidents, Association of Atlantic Universities, MOU meeting with NS University Presidents and the Provincial Government.

I also attended the announcement of the finalists for the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia’s Masterworks Art Award—congratulations to the three finalists: Steve Higgins, NSCAD part-time faculty, for his sculpture, Beyond the Terminating Vista; Jason Buxton, NSCAD alumnus, for his feature film Blackbird; and 2b Theatre for the play When It Rains. You will recall that NSCAD professor Kim Morgan was the winner of this prestigious award last year.

I also attended two major fund- and friend-raising event. The first, ROAR: An Art Auction for NSCAD, was entirely organized by our dedicated folks in University Relations. I will not repeat the details on the event, as you have already received full debriefings from communications, except to say this was a premier event which exceeded our expectations in every way. All around it was a great evening for NSCAD. Thanks again to the folks in University Relations, the artists and the cast of volunteers who gave generously of their time and talent to showcase the university.

Karen Koppernaes’ body language demonstrates the excitement of live bidding during ROAR: An Art Auction for NSCAD. (Steve Farmer Photo)

The second event was also special—a dining and design extravaganza called Dine By Design East. This event, which encompassed both public viewings and a gala evening, selected NSCAD as the benefactor for the event in memory of Amber Harkins, the former creative director at Metro Guide Publishing. NSCAD’s room “Unravelled” was curated by recent NSCAD graduate Heath Simpson and featured the President’s Dinnerware Collection, a set of eight different place settings made by eight prominent NSCAD ceramics alumni. For the gala, NSCAD was paired with the restaurant Gio and chef David Woodley; Gio served “unravelled” versions of comfort food staples—wieners and beans, peanut butter and jam sandwiches, grilled cheese and Neapolitan dessert— as you’ve never tasted them before. Spectacular! The food was served on small ceramic tasting dishes that Heath and friends made especially for the evening.

The Gio chefs are kept busy during the gala evening for Dine by Design East on Thursday, Oct. 3 at the Olympic Community Centre. (Marilyn Smulders Photo)

You will know from previous blog posts that we are still awaiting the final completion of the Affiliation Study. Since I wrote last we have finally come to terms with the consulting firm on the work remaining to be done. The completion date is January 31. The space study is complete and will be reviewed by the Board of Governors at a special meeting to be held in early November.

Also on the planning front, the Strategic Planning Committee under the lead of Vice Chair Julia Rivard Dexter has selected the firm Novita, a very experienced group with loads of experience working in the arts and culture fields, to lead the process. Early planning is underway and you should expect more detailed information on the approach which will be used. Briefly, the approach will contain numerous opportunities for input and advice from our various stakeholder groups as we attempt to fashion our future vision together. All combined, we have a very busy fall planned so stay tuned.

On the staffing front I am happy to report that our Academic Dean Dr. Christine Holzer Hunt has returned from sick leave and is easing back to full duties. Welcome back Christine. Jason Blackburn, with the Office of Research Services, remains out on sick leave as does Linda Hutchison, director of University Relations, who only recently became ill. We wish Jason and Linda speedy recoveries.

Finally, we have been advised recently that Fran Cameron, Senior Secretary for Governance will be retiring at the end of October. While her announcement came as a surprise I am sure everyone will join me in wishing Fran, a major player at NSCAD, our very best wishes.

Talk soon,

Dan