A new route into art history
January 17, 2012

NSCAD University is making it easier to study art history at the place where history is made.

NSCAD is the only university in Nova Scotia which offers students a major in art history. However, like all students at NSCAD, art history majors enter NSCAD through the Foundation program in their first year, a program which combines academic and studio-based courses. Completing a portfolio is a key element of the Foundation application process.

But now NSCAD will accept students by another entry route. Students can be accepted to the BA program, Major in Art History, after completing at least one year of study in the social sciences or humanities at another university or college. The change, two years in the making, was instigated by student demand and was recently approved by the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission.

“Students were frustrated with the entry process because they couldn’t get in without a portfolio,” says Laurelle LeVert, registrar and director of student services. “The change helps those who are interested in history but may not have the artistic inclination to complete a portfolio or even want to take studio classes.”

For students who are interested in art history, NSCAD is definitely the place to be, says Sandra Alfoldy, chair of the Historical and Critical Studies Division.

“We are totally keyed up about this,” says Prof. Alfoldy. “There really is so much offered that students can specialize in areas that are meaningful and unique to them.”

As well, she expects students who have studied anthropology, philosophy or economics—just to provide a few examples—will add complexity and depth to classroom discussion.

NSCAD’s Division of Historical and Critical Studies presents one of the most rich and diverse art history programs in Canada. Courses cover historical periods including Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, 19th Century and 20th Century. Students can also delve into topics including Aboriginal art, post colonialism, architecture, craft, design, feminism and film history.

Former student Lyndall Musselman was excited to hear about the change, adding that she only wished the option was available for her when she was studying at the University of King’s College.

“I remember the hassle of trying to get Dal history profs to sign off to allow me to study at NSCAD when I was a student at King's. I was doing half my degree in history at Dal and it was so complicated to get transfer credits approved,” she recalls.

“I’m glad to hear NSCAD will make it easier for students from other universities to study art history at one of the best and most unique art schools in Canada.”

NSCAD was founded by the writer and activist Anna Leonowens 125 years ago and named the Victoria School of Art in honour of Queen Victoria’s 50th year on the throne. Prominent artists who have taught at the school include Henry Rosenberg, Arthur Lismer, Elizabeth Styring Nutt, Andrew Cobb, Alice Hagen, Robert Frank, Eric Fischl, Martha Wilson, Charlotte Townsend Gault, Gerald Ferguson and David Askevold, to name just a few. Under the leadership of Garry Neill Kennedy, the school was a hotbed of conceptual art in the 1970s. It’s during this time that visiting artist John Baldessari provided the school with its unofficial motto: “I will not make any more boring art.”

Sarah Alford, who studied art history at NSCAD and now teaches craft and design history at the university, says the NSCAD milieu—the history that permeates the very walls, the kinds of students who go there—makes it an inspiring place to study. “There is a living, vital connection to the tradition and access to people who are practicing and creating,” she says. “If this is what you want to study, it’s all around you at NSCAD and it makes it very exciting.”

Applications to Bachelor of Arts Major in Art History are now being accepted. The application deadline is March 1. Admission requirements are outlined on the NSCAD website at: http://nscad.ca/en/home/admissions/undergraduate/arthistory.aspx