Welcome home

When I arrived at NSCAD for the beginning of the 2014-15 academic year, I felt like I had come home.

Having moved from Calgary, Alberta, the first thing I noticed was the salty sea air, so fresh and invigorating. The new sights and smells of the east coast mixed with excitement and apprehension of commencing a new academic year at art school. But these feelings were familiar to me too and somehow it all felt right: the right place and the right time.

As the 2017-18 academic year commences those same emotions rush back. I am delighted to welcome all our new students, faculty and staff and all those returning from travels near and far. A sincere thank you to all those who have been here summer long: taking classes, putting on exhibitions, leading summer camps, and planning and preparing for fall.

I predict NSCAD will have a stellar 130th anniversary year as we continue to cherish our special, inclusive, respectful creative community that was the vision of our founders in 1887 and is realized at NSCAD today.

The new white pages of the sketchbooks and journals are ready to be turned and covered in creativity – there are upcoming events and exhibitions, places to go and people to meet. Please know you are welcome at NSCAD University and I hope you feel as I do, that you’ve come home.

About the header image: NSCAD students get a different view of George’s Island from the drawing studios at the Port Campus. This aerial view is by Lenn Wagg, courtesy of Destination Halifax.


Here are some of the highlights of the first week of September at NSCAD:

  • New Undergraduate Student Orientation Day takes place on Tuesday, Sept. 5. Join us at 8:30 am in Room 202 at the Port Campus for breakfast. After the welcoming session, faculty members and senior students will lead new students on tours of our three NSCAD campuses.
  • The first day of classes for the fall semester is Wednesday, Sept. 6.
  • The launch of Free Coffee, a publication of student artwork, takes place on Thursday, Sept. 7. You can pick up Free Coffee, free coffee and a donut in the student lounge, Fountain Campus, starting at 11 am.
  • The International Student Orientation Session takes place on Friday, Sept. 8, at 12 noon in P203, Port Campus.
  • On Saturday, Sept. 9, orientation activities include a community scavenger hunt, the Mayor’s reception for international students (2 pm at Halifax Central Library) and a party in the Granville courtyard beginning at 5 pm.

For more details, check out the event page by SUNSCAD on Facebook.


Picture yourself walking through this leafy courtyard on the way to class at our historic Fountain Campus. Make sure to drop by Art Bar +Projects and the Anna Leonowens Gallery too!


September also signals the changing of the guard at our NSCAD Community Studio Residencies, when NSCAD alumni who’ve worked for a year on their artistic practices give up their prized studio spaces to make way for the new cohort.

We have four residency sites across the province. The Town of Lunenburg was the first to come on board with the program more than a decade ago, followed by the Town of New Glasgow, the Centre for Craft and Design in Sydney, Cape Breton, and the MacPhee Centre for Creative Learning across the harbor in Dartmouth.

Lunenburg artistic residents

The 2016-17 NSCAD Lunenburg Community Studio Residents: Norma Jean MacLean, Selina Latour, and Deniree Isabel Mendoza.

In Lunenburg, Selina Latour (BFA 2016), Norma Jean MacLean (BFA 2011), and Denirée Isabel Mendoza (BFA 2016) wrapped their final show, C U L8R, and are getting ready to move on. From Prince Edward Island, Norma Jean is preparing for a major solo exhibition at the Confederation Centre in Charlottetown in January 2018; Denirée, originally from Venezuela, has a residency lined up at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto; and Selina, from Ottawa, ON, is bound for a residency in Iceland.

“You learn a lot about yourself just coming out of art school and then living in a small town,” said Selina, whose artistic practice includes fashion, photography and painting. “You’re finally independent and that can be scary, but it’s good.”

Selina Latour

Selina Latour with paintings from her series, i love yous.

Soon to take over the studio space—situated in the firetruck bays of the town’s former fire hall–are NSCAD alumni Merle Harley (BFA 2014), Helah Cooper (BFA 2017) and Gillian Maradyn Jowsey (BFA 2017). We are appreciative for the help of Doug Bamford, recently retired as NSCAD’s ceramic technician, in providing accommodations in September while the roof on the fire hall is repaired.

spinning bowl

Deniree Isabel Mendoza marries animation with ceramics in a series of bowls she created over the winter. The bowls can be spun to animate a twig that quickly grows into a tree.

In Dartmouth at the MacPhee Centre for Creative Learning, residents Jessica Lynn Wiebe (BFA 2015), Cinthia Auz Arias (BFA 2016) from Ecuador and Luis Figueroa (BFA 2016) from Venezuela staged their final show, Before the End, in mid August.

For Jessica, having a base at the MacPhee Centre allowed her to push herself artistically in the studio while gaining experience as a teacher by leading workshops for children and youth.

Jessica Lynn Wiebe

Jessica Lynn Wiebe challenged herself during her residency by creating a series of abstracted figurative paintings.

“I gave myself permission to play and experiment. I feel like I am constantly learning,” says Jessica, who served as a soldier in Afghanistan before coming to NSCAD. Her artwork in painting and performance has a focus on war and conflict, and a work exploring the physical experience of war at the Acadia War Memorial in Wolfville (created for UnCommon Common Art in the Annapolis Valley) has been getting national media coverage.

The three artists enjoyed sharing the studio space. Away from NSCAD, they became each other’s sounding boards, cheerleaders and supports.

“We really feel they’re part of our family and we’d love to have them return as facilitators,” said Heather MacDonald, executive director of the MacPhee Centre.

bus passes

Cinthia Auz Arias saved the bus passes she collected throughout her year in residence at the MacPhee Centre.

Incoming residents to the MacPhee Centre are Jenny Yujia Shi (BFA, BA 2015), a painter and printmaker originally from Beijing, China, and Emily Lawrence, an interdisciplinary artist and designer. Headed for the Town of New Glasgow are Curtis Botham (BFA 2017) and Géneviève Brideau (BFA 2017). Tamsin Sloots (BFA 2017) and Trevor Novak (BFA 2017) are bound for Sydney’s Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design.

TD Bank generously supports NSCAD University’s residency program and community initiatives.

Making progress

As we begin the month of August, I find the halls becoming more depopulated, as folks schedule much-needed vacation time before the September rush.

Since my last post, I have continued to inch away at the various tasks contained in my mandate.  Predictably, this has meant lots of meetings with government officials, members of the board, senior administration, and to a lesser extent, faculty and students.

I wish I could tell you that all my efforts with the Province have been 100 per cent successful.  But what I can tell you is that we continue to make progress in both clarifying our position and gaining their confidence in our ability to steward our finances to a balanced position.  As of this writing, the Province has agreed to fund the 2011-12 deficit and has approved our 2012-13 budget. Still pending is a decision on funding Plan B of our Framework for Sustainability and funding for a consultant-led cost/benefit/risk study of a closer association with one of the peninsular universities.  I remain hopeful that favorable decisions will be reached on these two files by mid-fall.

In the meantime, I cannot overstate the importance of staying on target with Plan A of the Framework for Sustainability.  As you know, the budget for 2012-2013 was built on the expenditure and revenue assumptions of the plan.  These assumptions led us to identify cost savings in the form of non-replacement of most vacated positions, spending freezes and part-time appointment savings by eliminating under-enrolled courses and altering the frequency of course offerings.  Combined, these measures allow us to shrink our expenditure base considerably.  I should add that all this belt tightening comes with a cost.  For example, we have removed one vice-president position, two positions in financial services, and have realized considerable savings in the operation of my office.  On the revenue side, Plan A includes increases from two sources: increased rental revenue and increases in student fees.  I appreciate the new fees introduced this year are not welcomed by students; why would they?  But I can assure you that the fees in question have been well researched and processed properly.  They are ones which all or most universities in Nova Scotia and all Canadian art colleges have collected for years.  So while the Board had some reluctance to impose the new fees, on balance they were thought to be justified in the face of the fiscal challenges facing the university.

On a brighter note, I had the pleasure of attending the closing ceremony for our current group of artists based in Lunenburg.  NSCAD grads Nadia Gemeinhardt, Lynette de Montreuil, and Jason Skinner shared their experiences of the past year with a very appreciative assembly of friends, family, NSCAD supporters and community residents.  The occasion was enhanced by the choice of venue – the beautiful Tall Ship Providence berthed in Lunenburg Harbor.  By attending the event, I was able to gain a first-hand understanding of the value of the community resident program, both to our artist participants and the host community. Residents with the New Glasgow program get their turn next. 

That's me with NSCAD-Lunenburg Community Residents past, present and future: Andrew Maize, Nadia Gemeinhardt, Lynette de Montreuil, Kat Frick Miller, Jason Skinner and Rebecca Roher.

I also attended a couple of events in relation to the Tall Ships celebration; one was a NSCAD-hosted event for staff and students at the Port Campus.  Finally, I attended the exhibition of a Tom Forrestall work commissioned by the Canadian Navy. Kelly Zwicker, Vice-President External of SUNSCAD, accompanied me at the event.

Best wishes for a restful August.