Bursting with NSCAD pride

The projects are finished, the essays and exams are written and the final marks are in. It’s time for all of us at NSCAD to take a collective breath as the 2016 Graduation Ceremony approaches.

This is a wonderful time of the year and I have never been more proud. Those of us who work at NSCAD know how amazing our students are, so when their accomplishments reach a more public stage, we are thrilled that members of our community can witness this too. Such was the case during EPOCH, the runway show which featured the work of 14 student fashion designers, and the Starfish Student Art Awards, a showcase for the artwork of 10 student finalists. Speaking of Starfish, congratulations to 2016 winner Sydney McKenna. I’m delighted that her exquisite print, Play, has found a home in the President’s Office, alongside View from Chebucto Head by Arthur Lismer, the principal of NSCAD a century ago, and John Baldessari’s iconic print I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art.

relief print by Sydney McKenna

Sydney McKenna, Play, 2015. Relief print, 116.84 x 81.28 cm.

On Thursday, there are two special events to mention. The first is the screening of Strange & Familiar: the Architecture of Fogo Island, which will take place at 2 pm in Paul O’Regan Hall of Halifax Central Library. This stunning film, which I had a chance to see during the Atlantic Film Festival last September, documents a bold architecture project on remote Fogo Island that embraces contemporary design and the excitement of living on the edge in relation to nature. The filmmakers of Strange & Familiar are all NSCAD alumni—Marcia Connolly, Katherine Knight and David Craig. Marcia, the co-director and cinematographer, will be at the screening for the Q&A which follows, along with architect Todd Saunders, also a NSCAD alumnus. We are delighted to welcome Todd from Norway for the screening and graduation on Friday when Todd will be awarded NSCAD’s highest honour, an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Art.

artist studio fogo

One of the artist studios designed by Todd Saunders on Fogo Island, Newfoundland. The image in the header shows the iconic Fogo Island Inn.

After the screening, it’s off to the Anna Leonowens Gallery for the opening of the 2016 Graduation Exhibition and the launch of the 2016 Graduation Catalogue. This is always such a fantastic event with so many family and friends in attendance. It’s a chance to recognize the two student interns – this year curator Brea McAllister and designer Grace Laemmler – who pour heart and soul into presenting the work of their peers. Thanks to the donation by Margaret and David Fountain, the gallery is newly renovated and a fitting showcase for the exhibition of more than 100 artworks.

Later in the evening, there will be a party at NSCAD’s very own Art Bar, just a few doors down from the gallery on Granville Street.

The next day, Friday, April 29, it’s graduation. The ceremony takes place at 2 pm at the Cunard Centre, 961 Marginal Road—just a short walk from our Port Campus. NSCAD’s Graduation Ceremony is like none other and I’m very much looking forward to celebrating the achievements of the Graduating Class of 2016.

In closing, I’d like to tell you about another highlight of the last two weeks: the signing of the collective agreement for FUNSCAD Unit I representing faculty members and FUNSCAD Unit II representing technicians. This is a huge accomplishment that was made possible with a wholehearted commitment to NSCAD on the part of everyone involved. FUNSCAD President, Professor Alvin Comiter, who has been involved with 12 collective agreements over his 42 years at NSCAD, said an agreement reached without having to go to the bargaining table has never happened at NSCAD before. The process was amicable and without rancor, achieved through dialogue and mutual respect. Thank you to all those who worked so hard to make the agreement happen and to the NSCAD Board of Governors for its ratification.

group shot

Members of FUNSCAD and the NSCAD administration shared the pen to make the collective agreement official. In photo: Melanie Colosimo, director of the Anna Leonowens Gallery, Dr. Ann-Barbara Graff, Vice President Academic & Research, NSCAD President Dianne Taylor-Gearing, Dr. Jayne Wark, Professor of Art History, Alvin Comiter, Professor, Photography, and Sharon Johnson-Legere, Vice President Finance and Administration.

The full sketchbook

In my first blog post back in August, I made reference to the beginning of a new academic year being like a blank page in a sketchbook.

It’s April now and that sketchbook is full to bursting. Together, we’ve made progress on so many fronts, including a vision for NSCAD through the Strategic Framework, and exciting developments for the enhancement of the student experience at the Fountain campus. Eugene Pieczonka, architect with Lydon Lynch, and Dean Ann-Barbara Graff presented the four scenarios developed through consultations with the NSCAD community at a Town Hall meeting this week. We are so grateful to Margaret and David Fountain for the $3 million donation that is making renovations possible. (For more details on this front, please see the page on the NSCAD website.)

There are so many end-of-term shows going on now, from the Ceramics Open House (April 14-18, Port Campus), Hot Prints, (April 16, Fountain Campus), Pinned, a design exposition by graduating interdisciplinary design students (April 17, Port Campus), Thaw, the senior students fashion show (April 18, Port Campus) and the NSCAD Film Screening Night (April 20, Park Lane). The roller coaster of events builds up to the Starfish Student Art Awards (April 29, Port Campus), Artist for a Day (May 9, Port Campus) and the 2015 Graduation Ceremony, which will include my own Installation as NSCAD’s 21st President (May 16, Cunard Centre).

Hold on everyone, because here we go!

Last Friday, I spent the morning at Halifax City Hall along with Immigration Minister Lena Diab and Mayor Mike Savage to see the presentations by NSCAD interdisciplinary design students. Professor May Chung is very good at seeking out complex, real-world projects in the community for her students to experience problem solving, and this term, her class worked with the Multicultural Association of Nova Scotia (MANS) on welcoming campaigns for Nova Scotia newcomers.

Newcomers like me! From the U.K., (maybe you can tell by my accent?) I arrived in Nova Scotia after driving across the country in a RV from Calgary with my husband Colin and rambunctious dog Trudy. I’ve had such a warm welcome, from meeting Mayor Savage in my first week to becoming better acquainted with all of you here at NSCAD and finding my way around.

I was so impressed with the students, who met with new residents to Nova Scotia, listened to them about their varied experiences, and went to work on their campaigns.

Students Foad Makki, Letitia Calver, Warren Jones and Sara Panchaud were inspired by group member Foad’s story of arriving in Nova Scotia four years ago on St. Patrick’s Day for their project, #thisismystoryNS. (That’s the four of them having a group hug at the top of this blog post.)

“In Saudi Arabia, we have National Day, which is a celebration of our lives as citizens of Saudi,” says Foad, whose story is told by the group on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. “The whole country is flooded with green—green lights, flags, clothes, banners, everything! When I arrived in Halifax on that day, everyone was running around, celebrating with green. My first thoughts were: Is everyone in Canada like this? Maybe they were welcoming me to my new home!”

The concept for their campaign is sharing the stories by Foad and other newcomers on social media platforms, as well as on chalkboard installations.

Other projects at a glance:

  • After a deep dive into the Ivany Report and talking to immigrants, Kayla Robb, Ashley Pincock and Melissa Harrish got bogged down in their research, finally emerging with a simple concept – the “Newcomer Network,” a kind of loose welcoming committee of Nova Scotians who would open their homes and businesses to immigrants through activities like potlucks, game nights and block parties.
  • Tang Xinwei and Elliot Creba developed “Far Away Flavours,” a map showing ethnic food stores as a very practical solution to connecting newcomers with the food they enjoy.
  • Nicholas Hanlon, Mikaela Barnett and Robin Richardson Dupuis created a logo of two linked hands forming a heart as a visual way to send out a message of welcome and community.
  • Julie O’Kruk, Brittany Hall and Jocelyn Lee asked “How Do You Hello?” after discovering that while language is an issue for newcomers, “saying hello is something everyone does, but does differently,” says Julie. Their campaign, geared to social media, includes a fun video of people saying hello in dozens of languages, from a simple “Hey” in English to “здравствуйте” in Russian and “ هتاف للترحيب`” in Arabic.

For more about the projects, please visit the NSCAD Interdisciplinary Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/NSCAD-Interdisciplinary-Design/292228990908997).

Congratulations to all the students for such thoughtful and interesting work. I am impressed!

As classes end for this year, I would like to recognize the students as they make progress on their learning journeys here at NSCAD, and the faculty and staff who nurture and challenge each student along the way. It is a very special time of year that we can all be proud of and celebrate.