NSCAD blossoms in spring

What a wonderful time of the year it is for NSCAD — a time to celebrate. The last two weeks have been chockablock full of events and now it feels we can finally take a breath. That is, until Artist for a Day on May 13th!

Just to recap NSCAD’s spring so far: we had the Starfish Student Art Awards on April 20, the NSCAD Design Show on April 21, Dialect: the NSCAD Fashion Show on April 22, the NSCAD Film Screening Night on April 24, the 2017 Graduation Exhibition and Catalogue Launch and the GG Fête on April 27, and the 2017 Graduation Ceremony on April 28.


At the opening of the 2017 Graduation Exhibition and the launch of the 2017 Graduation Catalogue. Katherine Nakaska Photo.

All these events show the vibrancy of our university community—a community that students became a part of when they walk through the doors of our Port Campus on their first day at NSCAD.

As president of NSCAD, I would like to recognize the esteemed faculty, who have taught our students and challenged them to achieve their potential, and the staff who have supported them from day one through to graduation and beyond.

GG laureates

At the GG Fete, NSCAD Board Chair Jeff Somerville and myself pose with NSCAD’s Governor General’s Laureates: Landon Mackenzie, Sandra Brownlee, Pamela Ritchie, Jan Peacock and Kye Yeon Son. Katherine Nakaska Photo.

As I told the graduands at the ceremony on Friday, students and alumni will always have a connection to NSCAD through the people they met and the experiences they shared. Art school is a very special kind of experience. Long after graduating, former students may recall a conversation, a piece of advice or a suggestion offered during a critique and reflect on how it changed them and enriched their life.

For example, at the NSCAD fashion show on April 22, we heard the successful alumni Parris and Chloé Gordon say how the critiques at NSCAD influence their creative process today – that their fashion collections get international notice because of the quality of design and the thought and care they invest in each piece. Their holistic experience at NSCAD, including art history to contextualize their work and the creative community they tapped into, helped them to launch their fashion collections even before they graduated. They shared it was a humbling experience to return to Halifax and NSCAD.

Beaufille sisters

Chloe and Parris Gordon of the fashion brand Beaufille opened Dialect: the NSCAD Fashion Show by reflecting on how their NSCAD experience contributed to their success. Katie Nakaska Photo.

The power of a NSCAD education does not diminish over time. NSCAD alumni who graduated 20, 30 or 40 years ago are still processing their experiences and using them everyday in their art practice. Landon Mackenzie (BFA 1976), a 2017 Governor General’s Award Laureate in Visual and Media Arts, tells of the rigor and hard work demanded by the professors in the printmaking department when she attended NSCAD in the 1970s. Not only that, but when her exhibition Parallel Lines opened at the Dalhousie Art Gallery this January, those same professors – Ed Porter and Bob Rogers – attended the opening, cheering her on as always.

I was delighted to meet Landon last week when she was here to attend the GG Fête and give the 2017 Graduation address. Landon is a painter and influential professor at Emily Carr University of Art + Design.

starfish winner

Christiane Poulin, 2017 Starfish Student Art Award winner, is congratulated by finalists Ann McCosker, Julie Simmons and Tamsin Sloots. Katie Nakaska Photo.

There are many stories we can all share about why NSCAD is so special and 2016-17 has been an outstanding year of accolades. Here is one more to mention. My heartfelt congratulations to Christiane Poulin, the 2017 Starfish Student Art Award winner. Christiane graduated last week after beginning her NSCAD journey 40 years ago. She was here for a year, and then switched to science and went on to med school. After a career as a public health doctor and researcher, she returned to NSCAD to finish what she started. In her so-called retirement, she has never worked harder. And I don’t doubt it. For Christiane’s textile installation, Winds of Change: a Lace-Scape, Christiane wove by hand more than 40 metres of lace – a tangible demonstration of her commitment, dedication and passion.

Christiane Poulin and Lou Reznick stand with her art installation, Winds of Change: A Lace-scape. Katie Nakaska Photo.

Christiane Poulin and Lou Reznick stand with her art installation, Winds of Change: A Lace-scape. Katie Nakaska Photo.

Elsa and artwork

After meeting NSCAD student Elsa Brittin at NSCAD’s donor reception back in February, Halifax Mayor Mike Savage invited her to create an artwork for city hall. Here’s Elsa and I with Mayor Mike Savage (far left) and Deputy Mayor Steve Craig (at right).


Through the summer, NSCAD’s creativity continues with the first summer semester officially beginning  on Tuesday, May 2, and continuing to June 19. A second session runs June 26 to August 15, and it’s still possible to register. Some of the classes in the second session include “Teaching Visual Art,” “Art and Culture of Comics” and “Photography and Colonialism,” among others. Head over to WebAdvisor to find out what’s on the books.

The spring session of classes offered through the School of Extended Studies is just getting going too. Some of the new adult classes on the books include “Drawing Botanicals for Beginners,” “Quilted Projects” and “Portraits in Oil.” There are also Saturday art classes for children ages five and up.

In the summer, NSCAD’s day-time camps are hugely popular. This year, NSCAD is collaborating with the Discovery Centre—new to Seaport neighbourhood—to create art camps with a specialized hands-on “field trip” at the Discovery Centre. Camps include all materials needed, a NSCAD T-shirt, lunch supervision, early drop-off and late pick-up.

Some of the camps offered include “Picasso and Cubism” for 5 to 8 year olds; “Sew Fun” for 9 to 11 year olds; “Comic Cave” for tweens ages 12 to 14; and “Animation” for older teenagers, ages 15 to 18. Take a look at the website for the full list of fun.

potters wheel

NSCAD opens the doors for Artist for a Day — it’s a full day of hands-on artmaking. Photo by Lianne Sarson.

Speaking of fun, NSCAD’s hugely popular Artist for a Day is set for Saturday, May 13, 10 am to 3 pm. More than 20 hands-on art-making activities are in the works, including some of the favorites—such as life drawing and fish printing—that draw people year after year.

Most of the action takes place at our Port Campus (1107 Marginal Road) although our Port neighbours are in on the fun too. Other sites for Artist for a Day include: Discovery Centre, 1215 Lower Water Street; Nova Scotia Centre for Craft and Design, 1096 Marginal Road; Mary E. Black Gallery, 1061 Marginal Road; Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, 1055 Marginal Road; and Visual Arts Nova Scotia, 1113 Marginal Road. NSCAD is pumped to be a participant in I LOVE Local’s Open City, a full day celebration of local food, fun and shopping.

In NSCAD’s 130th anniversary year I am so proud of all our accomplishments and accolades. A welcome to ALL to come join us and experience the creativity and our community.

My very best,


P.S. In the photo at the top of this blog post, models go down the runway at Dialect: A NSCAD Fashion Show wearing jewellery by Tamika Knutson (BFA 2017). Tamika, who just graduated, already has a solo exhibition coming up. Boreal Reverie: Coming Home will open May 17 and run to June 4 at SOVA Gallery at the Yukon School of Visual Arts in Dawson City, Yukon. Congratulations Tamika!

Here we go go


This gallery contains 12 photos.

The month of May was a whirlwind of activities and celebrations—a time filled with emotion for the NSCAD community. The sudden deaths of two long-serving staff members and a student in one week was devastating news. We came together for … Continue reading

Let’s go for a coffee

As we move into the summer season, I thought you might be interested in hearing about what has been on my plate.

First, we are rapidly closing in on the completion dates for our two major studies—the Affiliation Study and the Space Study. Much of my time has been devoted to providing information to the consultants and reviewing briefing updates. As you know, these studies will require important consideration and decisions by NSCAD. Accordingly, I expect that we will be convening information and discussion opportunities with internal stakeholder groups towards the end of the summer. Please stay posted.


I had the pleasure of meeting Judith Rickard and Jean Hogan recently. Their dear friend, Joan DeWolfe, bequeathed half her estate to NSCAD. The significant gift provides endowed funding for graduate scholarships and support for youth to participate in Extended Studies programs.

Second, upon receiving funding from the Province, we will be posting an RFP for consultants to lead a comprehensive re-visioning and strategic planning exercise through the fall. Like the prior item, this will be a significant undertaking for NSCAD and will include participation opportunities from all our stakeholder groups.

Speaking of an RFP, Impact Communications was the design firm that was successful in winning the NSCAD rebranding project. The funding for this project, which relates specifically to student recruitment, comes from a significant donation received last year by an anonymous donor.

Design student Brittney Annand received first honorarium at the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission’s Art and Design Exposition, which took place at CASHRA’s National Human Rights Conference at the end of May. Congratulations to the students and professors involved in this impressive project.

Third, a small task for the Board of Governors has been finalizing bylaw resolutions necessary to operationalize board governance changes. These changes consist of reducing the number of standing committee through consolidation, greater specificity of committee mandates, and reporting protocols. The intention is to make the changes at the AGM in September.

Aside from these major files, I have been very busy on the representational front, attending numerous meetings and public events and talking to people about NSCAD and the significant progress we’ve made.

I intend to be on site for the summer and would enjoy having coffee with anyone who reads this blog. I am interested in hearing more of the day-to-day responsibilities and challenges faced by members of the community and receiving any advice you wish to share. Please feel free to call or to drop by the office to schedule a time to meet.

In the meantime, I wish you all an enjoyable and safe summer.

Yours truly,


Wood mayhem

This room-sized sculpture by NSCAD part-time faculty member Steve Higgins is on display at Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery until the end of July.

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.



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.