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.

Taking time to celebrate

Well evidently March has come in like a lion, and is going out like one too! Can you believe it’s the first day of Spring on Friday?

After my last blog post, “Taking Time to Heal,” I was overwhelmed by feedback received from around the world, from Hong Kong, India, France, UK, USA and across Canada. I think the healing message resonated.

I would like to acknowledge the work of talented student Becky Gartner whose woven textiles headed the “Taking Time to Heal” blog post.

The very fact that I acknowledged challenges of the past and the need to take time to heal as we move forward has opened conversations around NSCAD by students, faculty and staff. Each person that has approached me to share what “Taking Time to Heal” means to them has explained in their own way a deep sense of belonging to this unique NSCAD community and a desire to contribute to its future success.

Nurture is one of our four strategic pillars and our collective wellbeing is recognized to be an important element. How we achieve this is up to all of us. I was so impressed with the therapy dogs visit to NSCAD Fountain Campus during Student Mental Health Week in February. This initiative received such high participation and positive feedback we are considering extending the pilot to have additional therapy dog visits on campus commencing in the Fall. Thank you to SUNSCAD executive for working with the Office of Student and Academic Services to organize these sessions and to administrative colleagues that supported the pilot program.

Moving on I do recognize we have a hectic time ahead as our graduating class prepares for final exhibitions and shows. It’s an opportunity for us to celebrate and invite family, friends and supporters to join our community. We have a full schedule of special events upcoming, including the Starfish Student Art Awards on Wednesday, April 29; Artist for a Day on Saturday, May 9th; The Friends and Family Night at the Graduation Exhibition on Friday, May 15th; and Graduation on Saturday, May 16th.

If you can keep a secret, I want to share with you that this year’s 2015 Graduation Ceremony on May 16 will not only honour our talented graduates but will include the installation of myself as NSCAD’s 21st President. We’ll also award five honorary degrees to accomplished recipients nominated by our faculty; Carole Condé and Karl Beveridge, Robert Frank, Gerhard Steidl and NSCAD alumna Tanya Tagaq.

Take care,

Dianne

P.S. Enjoy these photos by Eliot Wright of the Wearable and Performance Art Show–a fun night! Student organizer Jessica Lynn Wiebe did a great job!

The end-of-term rush

The end of the academic year is coming and now everything seems to be moving at fast-forward speed. Let’s all take a collective breath as I report on recent developments at NSCAD.

Natasha

Natasha Hope-Simpson with the prototype prosthetic that she helped design. (Eliot Wright Photo)

Last weekend, NSCAD’s Institute of Applied Creativity hosted the Seaport Maker Symposium. I was delighted to meet Natasha Hope-Simpson, the inspiring young NSCAD grad who gave the keynote address along with Kendall Joudrie and Jourdan Davok from Thinking Robot Studios in Truro and Mike Fanning from NovaCAD Systems. Natasha has been able to turn around a life-altering experience into something creative and energizing; she talked about her desire to design a prosthetic for her left leg that would be both functional and beautiful and the collaboration that made it possible.

Dr. Kenn Honeychurch and I recently visited the Nova Scotia Community College’s Leeds Campus to formalize new joint programs between our two institutions in film and photography. NSCC President Don Bureaux and I signed some paperwork, posed for photographs, and made it official. The two new jointly offered programs allow students to complete a two-year diploma program at NSCC and then finish a BFA at NSCAD in two more years.

These “two-plus-two” arrangements will make it easier for students to transfer from NSCC to NSCAD for a different, more flexible approach to post-secondary education that bridges the college and university systems. Dr. Honeychurch is already discussing other synergies between our two schools and we will also be making announcements soon regarding joint programming with other Halifax universities.

NSCC NSCAD signing

NSCC and NSCAD will offer “2+2″ programs in film and photography, in addition to the one already offered in design. Front row: NSCC president Don Bureaux, NSCAD president Dan O’Brien. Back row: Ian MacLeod, NSCC Acting Dean, Applied Arts and New Media, Rosalind Penfound, NSCC VP Academic, and Dr. Kenn Honeychurch, NSCAD VP Academic and Provost. (Matthew Madden Photo)

Finding alternate ways to enter NSCAD was one among many subjects discussed during the Strategic Planning Committee’s weekend retreat held recently in Lunenburg. I wasn’t able to attend myself, but I understand more than 40 people did and that it was an intensive and productive session. And now the dialogue continues. Coming up on Wednesday, April 9, members of your Board of Governors will be serving up fresh waffles to students, staff and faculty. At the same time, they’ll be open to your ideas for improving NSCAD –  so bring those ideas along with your appetite to the Port Campus, second floor, anytime between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. See you there. (FYI – I like my waffles slightly crispy, not overcooked, with fruit on the side.)

Discussions regarding the kind of NSCAD we all want and how we get there are also being raised as candidates for my successor are on campus this week. The process is still rather contained at this point, but suffice to say, key members of the NSCAD community are getting a chance to meet the candidates for NSCAD President and ask questions. Following the visits to campus by the candidates, the Presidential Search Committee will convene, consider feedback from those who met the candidates and make a recommendation to the Board of Governors. Stay tuned.

On Wednesday night after class (my wife Valerie and I are auditing Survey of 19th Century Art), I was able to catch the reception at Attica for all the folks involved in last fall’s very successful Dine by Design East event. Through the design showcase and gala event, $20,000 was raised to create a scholarship fund at NSCAD in memory of Amber Harkins, a former editor and creative director at East Coast Living magazine. On behalf of NSCAD, I would like to express my appreciation for this significant gift which is a wonderful tribute to Ms. Harkins’ creative spirit. Dine by Design East will be held again this fall and build on last year’s success.  Mark your calendar: the Dine by Design East Gala is set for October 9, with public viewings October 10 to 12 at Olympic Gardens.

Dine by Design

Proceeds from last fall’s Dine by Design East event went to create a scholarship fund for design students at NSCAD. Here, Patty Baxter, publisher of East Coast Living magazine, gives Michael LeBlanc, chair of the Design Division, the cheque for $20,000. Also pictured are Dine by Design East founders Suzanne Saul and Jonathan Legate.

Here are more events coming as we charge toward the end of term:

  • NSCAD Public Lecture Series with artist Spencer Finch. Friday, April 4, 7 p.m. in the Bell Auditorium.
  • In the Offing, an exhibition of NSCAD Foundation student art work, at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Opening reception, Tuesday, April 8, 5- p.m. (The image used above of the Peggy’s Cove lighthouse is by NSCAD student Janeva Faircloth.)
  • Keen, the NSCAD Interdisciplinary Design Show. Friday, April 11, 7 p.m. at NSCAD’s Institute of Applied Creativity.
  • The Master of Design Exposition. Monday, April 14, 5 p.m. in N400, North Block, Granville campus.
  • End-of-term film screenings. For Film 1 & Film 2 – Monday, April 14, 6 p.m. at Park Lane. For Film 3 & 4 – Thursday, April 17, 6 p.m. Both at Park Lane. Admission by donation.
  • NSACSW/NSCAD Poster Design Project in support of Women’s History Month. Tuesday, April 15, 11 a.m. at NSCAD’s Institute of Applied Creativity.
  • Wearable Art Show. Thursday, April 17, 8 p.m. at the Marquee Ballroom. Admission $10.
  • NSCAD Fashion Show. Saturday, April 19, 8 p.m. at the Port Campus. Tickets $15, $10.
  • Starfish Student Art Awards Gala. Thursday, May 1, 7 p.m. at the Port Campus. Tickets $75.

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,

Dan

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.