The end-of-semester adrenaline rush

As an art school graduate who has a degree specializing in Fashion and Textiles (from Middlesex University, London), I find my thoughts turning to the senior students as they prepare to show their work on the runway at Epoch, the NSCAD 2016 fashion show.

It seems like yesterday when I worked 24/7 in the studio, designing, creating, sewing and hand finishing with beads and embroidery. It was as exciting as it was nerve wracking: all the dreams, ideas and fabric swatches that were pinned bulletin boards and filled sketchbook pages were coming to life.

In the art school tradition, students learn much more than how to draft patterns, drape and sew. Through classes offered in Textiles/Fashion, students acquire the skills not only to create designs, but to weave the cloth, dye the fabric, print it and adorn it. They learn how to manipulate fabric into three-dimensional sculptural forms.

To contextualize the development of creative designs, classes in art, craft and design history complement skills learned in the studio and give students knowledge of trends and art movements over time. That knowledge can then become inspiration for mood boards (the header image provides a glimpse of Elisha Huntley’s mood board) and help to shape individual expression.

Epoch, the NSCAD student fashion show, takes place Saturday, April 16, 7 pm at the Port Campus. We are thrilled to welcome Canadian fashion icon Jeanne Beker as our special guest for this sold-out show.

Congratulations to the participating students Cai Ripley, Chelsie Coles, Elisha Huntley, Emily Bjornson, Johana Cordero, Jodie Fox, Kaleigh Woodard, Kelly MacGillivrary, Leanne Hansen, Maggie MacCormick, Matthew Brown, Myfanwy Gover, Toban Ralston and Victoria Kristofic. And a big heartfelt thank you to Gary Markle, Leesa Hamilton and Adam MacKinnon for sharing the students’ work with the wider fashion-loving community. See you there!


As NSCAD students prepare for their final assessments and shows, I look forward to taking part in the celebrations of their achievements.

Celebrate with me! I have one VIP ticket for Epoch on Saturday evening on hold for the first person to get in touch. Simply send an email to the address with the subject line, “Epoch will be epic.”

Update: April 13, 10:30 am – That was fast! The ticket has been claimed.

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 (

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.

100 Days of Listening and Learning

Textiles/Fashion Breakthrough

This is exciting news for NSCAD’s Fountain Campus. Textiles/Fashion students no longer have to climb a set of stairs, go outside, climb another set of stairs, go inside and then go down set of stairs to travel between the two areas. Textiles, on the Hollis Street side of the Fountain Campus, and Fashion, on the Granville Mall side, have been joined together. The two technicians, Anke Fox and Leesa Hamilton, came together for a symbolic ribbon cutting on the last day of classes for the fall term.


Anke Fox (textiles) and Leesa Hamilton (fashion) come together for a symbolic ribbon cutting. The two areas are now connected with a doorway and short hall on the second floor of the Fountain Campus. (Eliot Wright Photo)

Connecting with community

Playful art – Kudos to NSCAD student Catherine Laroche and Professor Rory MacDonald for the Barrington Blocks project.

“It’s been an incredible experience, a huge learning curve,” says Catherine, who decided to transfer from Concordia University to NSCAD after a campus visit, falling in love with the school and the city, its friendliness and creative vibe. “It’s one thing to make art for a class, but to make art like this in a real-world setting is amazing.”
Barrington Blocks comprises ceramic blocks in shades of blue-grey, orange, yellow and green that can be turned to create simple images or to spell out messages. Each block measures 3½” by 3½” and there are 384 altogether, arranged on aluminum poles.
Barrington Blocks

As a demonstration of NSCAD’s contribution to our community, Prof. Rory MacDonald and student Catherine LaRoche worked on the Barrington Blocks art commission — a lively interactive art project for the downtown.

Dine by Design East – This was a fabulous event created by a remarkable volunteer group, of which NSCAD Board Member Elizabeth Currie was a leading driver. I was able to attend the Thursday evening gala and the Friday fashion show. Proceeds from Dine by Design East will go to the Amber Harkins Memorial Fund; the first scholarship from the fund will be awarded to a design student for January 2015 semester.

Stephanie Beaumont of Sea and Be Scene dedicated an entire show to the event, and interviewed me as part of her report. I really appreciated the chance to talk about the university and what we offer.  Here is a link to the segment.

Attica dining room

A look at the dining room “Breaking Bread” designed by NSCAD alumni Suzanne Saul and Christopher Joyce of Attica Furnishings–complete with a portrait of pop star Miley Cyrus in toast!

Engagement with alumni – As part of my 100 Days of Listening and Learning, I have been delighted to meet with so many NSCAD alumni and discover the depth of passion they have for their university. My question when I meet them is “What can NSCAD do for you?” and I have heard from quite a few people. Just recently at the Progress Women of Excellence dinner, I was pleased to join in celebrating Stephanie Young, a recent alumnae honoured for her volunteer work at Laing House, and Peggy Issenman, the owner of Peggy & Co. Design.  My message of openness and listening was repeated in VIVID, the e-newsletter for alumni which was sent out recently.

Student Awards Reception – The Student Awards Reception was held on November 5th, the birthday of founder Anna Leonowens. The occasion brought together student award recipients and the donors that make those awards, scholarships and bursaries possible.  NSCAD student Julie Hall, a Scotiabank scholarship winner, was one of the two guest speakers.  Our other guest speaker was Gordon Brost, Scotiabank’s District Vice-President.  Mr. Brost announced at $150,000 gift as a renewed five-year commitment to NSCAD. As well as funding more scholarships in the future, Scotiabank is now the presenting sponsor of Artist for a Day, NSCAD’s community event in the spring.

We celebrated the Student Awards Reception with a slice of Anna Leonowens' birthday cake. Gordon Brost of Scotiabank joined us at the reception for a welcome announcment.

We celebrated the Student Awards Reception with a slice of Anna Leonowens’ birthday cake. Gordon Brost of Scotiabank joined us at the reception for a welcome announcment.

Pop-Up at the Christmas Shop – NSCAD’s newest initiative, “Pop-Up at the Christmas Shop,” was held Nov. 28 and 29 in the former Christmas By the Sea location, 1880 Hollis Street. More than 60 students took part by selling their own works: jewellery, prints, paintings, ceramics, textiles, fashion and more. When I arrived on Friday evening, it was already packed and super busy! I felt so proud to see what our students accomplished and have the community welcomed to our campus. I’m happy to say that all the proceeds, approximately $20,000*, went right back to the students.

(* except for a small percentage on debit transactions)

pop-up shop

NSCAD’s Pop-up at the Christmas Shop attracted steady business to the Fountain Campus on Nov. 28 and 29.

University business

Provost and VP Academic and Research searchThe position is now posted. Our hope to achieve the appointment of Provost and VP Academic and Research by July 2015.

Budget Advisory Committee – As part of a commitment to deliver a balanced budget in 2015-2016, members of the Budget Advisory Committee joined a meeting of Chairs and Directors on November 24. The Vice-President of Finance and Administration invited ideas for budget reductions or revenue boosters using a risk-impact approach. The group met again earlier this week to do concentrated work on this important file.

Very best wishes for the holiday season!

Professor Dianne Taylor-Gearing

P.S. The image in the header shows one of the textiles on display during the textile Open House on the last day of classes, December 10th.