Making strides

As we reflect on the end of another academic year, we have much to be thankful for at NSCAD. Of course, I am aware of the many challenges we have faced, but the true test of our institutional resilience is not the number of challenges but the quality of our response.  In a nutshell, our collective response to our various challenges has, in my estimation, been nothing short of remarkable.

Artist for a Day

Artist for a Day, held May 11th at the Port Campus, was a wonderful event, showing NSCAD as an active community partner. The ceramics studio was just one of many busy spots. (Steve Farmer Photo)

Consider the list:

  • Board governance overhaul;
  • stellar 125 anniversary celebrations and special events;
  • receipt of government funding for the affiliation and space studies (and on our terms);
  • completion of two mandated reports to government – Institutional Outlook Report and a second sustainability report;
  • successful contract negotiations with our two teaching units;
  • harmonization of relations with the Province;
  • five highly successful events – launch of the I AM NSCAD campaign, Starfish Student Art Awards, Artist for a Day, the launch of the 2013 Graduation Catalogue and the Graduation ceremony;
  • increased positive community profile as evidenced by positive media reporting (see list below of stories in the media gathered in a two-week period);
  • launch of a strategic planning process;
  • and perhaps most important, over achievement of deficit reduction goals.
Anna Leonowens Gallery

The launch of the 2013 Graduation Catalogue at the Anna Leonowens Gallery on May 17 was a celebratory event. (Marilyn Smulders Photo)

I continue to believe that our ultimate strength as an institution (program excellence notwithstanding) depends on our ability to demonstrate financial sustainability – and we are well on our way to doing this. The fiscal environment in which we find ourselves, combined with an activist government funding partner makes financial sustainability a primary concern.

By way of future plans, we will need to invest greater effort in building internal consensus among our various stakeholder groups. A major first initiative in this regard is the strategic re-visioning process proposed by our Strategic Planning Committee. The process will be guided by engagement principles which are intended to mobilize participation by all in our school community.

Starfish Awards

Chatting with Teto Elsiddique, one of 10 finalists, at the Starfish Student Art Awards on May 2. (Luke Clarridge Photo)

Looking further, we can expect a busy summer as we receive the reports of our two consultant-led studies, which will trigger important decisions on our institutional future.  We also begin early work on the strategic planning initiative; firming up board governance change recommendations; and finally, initiate a university-wide campaign to meet our student enrolment objectives.

As I conclude, I am reminded that I had every belief that this would be my last blog post as president, but as you are aware, my departure plans have been delayed, so I will save reminisces and reflections for a later time.  In its place, I should like to close with a wish to all for a healthy, restful and safe summer.

Best wishes,


P.S. Here is only a sample of the media coverage NSCAD, alumni and students received over the past month. Highlights include the nationwide opening of NSCAD grad Jason Buxton’s feature film Blackbird (which has since won an award at Cannes Ecrans Junior), Artist for a Day and Open City, the Starfish Awards and a collaboration between NSCAD’s Design Division and the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.



Celebrating Anna’s legacy

I have to tell you the truth. Before I arrived at NSCAD, I couldn’t tell you who Anna Leonowens was, much less pronounce her name. I still stumble over it.

But this weekend, our 125th anniversary celebrations really heat up with a suitably arty tribute to Anna Leonowens, founder of the Victoria School of Art and Design (now NSCAD). The alumni association has enlisted a veritable army of volunteers—students, alumni, faculty and friends—to put Anna’s face on the side of Citadel Hill. Called “ANNAmotion LOGOmotion,” this image of Anna will be created in 572 giant hand painted squares. It’s based on the portrait of Anna by Robert Harris, which is in the collection of the Confederation Centre Art Gallery and has recently arrived at our own Anna Leonowens Gallery for the historical art exhibition opening on Friday.

Anna Leonowens

This portrait of Anna Leonowens will be on display as part of the exhibition Presence at the Anna Leonowens Gallery.

Look for Anna’s face to appear on Citadel Hill when the cannon blows at noon.

But that’s not all. After Anna makes her grand appearance, all the pixels will turn over to create the beautiful 125th anniversary logo which was designed by NSCAD grads Akshay Tyagi and Harry Olsen. Then, the participants will make their way down Duke Street to Granville Mall for another appearance of the 125th anniversary logo and a big group photo. Sounds fun!

In the evening, Granville Mall will transform into a concert venue. East coast performers Buck 65, Matt Mays, Ria Mae, Ghettosocks, Tanya Davis and Acres & Acres are performing and CBC Radio Host Craig Norris is hosting. General admission tickets are $30 and VIP tickets are $125; they’re available online at  All the proceeds go to NSCAD’s Annual Fund.

And while you’re here at NSCAD on the weekend, make sure to visit the Anna Leonowens Gallery. There will be three anniversary-related exhibitions on display: Presence, historic views of NSCAD; Corrections by former NSCAD president Garry Neill Kennedy; and The King and I: Reprise, a group show and contemporary art bar. Also going on is the 24-Hour Filmfest taking place at the Bell Auditorium. It starts Friday, Sept. 21 at 5 p.m. with Exit Through the Gift Shop and finishes on Saturday, Sept. 22 with Anna and the King at 3:30 p.m. Here’s the full line-up:

Friday, September 21
5 pm – Exit Through the Gift Shop
6:35 pm – Frida
8:45 pm – Coco Before Chanel
10:35 pm: In the realms of the unreal: The mystery of Henry Darger
12 am: Midnight in Paris

Saturday, September 22
1:35 am: Holy Mountain
3:40 am: Russian Ark
5:20 am: Pollack
7:25 am: Mona Lisa Smile
9:25 – 9:50 am: BREAKFAST WITH Basquiat
9:50 am: Basquiat
10:40 am: How to draw a bunny
1:45 pm: Girl with a Pearl Earring
3:30 pm: Anna and the King

Jodie as Anna

Jodie Foster plays Anna Leonowens in the 1999 film, Anna and the King.

We’re pleased to welcome Anna Leonowens’ descendants who will be coming for the weekend. Anna’s great grandson Louis Leonowens will be joining us from Guatemala City and Anna’s great great grand-daughter Lucy will be coming from San Diego. What a thrill for us to show off to them the school Anna envisioned 125 years ago.

By the way, The Chronicle Herald gave us some magnificent coverage in Wednesday’s paper on Anna Leonowens’ legacy and the weekend’s activities. Reporters Lois Legge and Elissa Barnard did tag-team coverage, with stories “Leonowens gets royal treatment” and “NSCAD plans ANNAversary weekend festivities.”

I must express my appreciation to everyone who has pitched in with the planning and to the performers who are so generously donating their time and talent to our school. Thanks so much.

That's McCain scholar Meaghan Bissett and me at the opening of First Impressions. The exhibition continues at the Port Loggia Gallery until September 30. (Eliot Wright Photo)

September is certainly busy around here. I met many talented scholarship winners at the opening of First Impressions on Sept. 5 and attended the ceremony to designate the Granville block as a national historic site on Sept. 13. Upcoming  is the Faculty and Staff Welcome and Awards Reception on Sept. 26. It starts at 11:45 a.m. at the Port Campus. See you there.