Celebrating NSCAD's 125th birthday
January 10, 2012

Anna-portrait-300     Portrait of Anna Leonowens by Robert Harris. Collection of Confederation Centre Art Gallery, Charlotetown.

One-hundred and twenty-five years ago, writer, educator and suffragette Anna Leonowens invested her considerable energy in creating a school of art and design in Halifax. The school was named the Victoria School of Art and Design in honor of Queen Victoria, who was marking 50 years on the throne in 1887.

Linda Hutchison, director of NSCAD University’s 125th year celebrations, says Anna Leonowens’ steely will and indomitable spirit are inspirational.

“She was ahead of her time, a traveler, an explorer, a woman who broke down cultural and gender barriers,” says Linda, also director of University Relations, Alumni and Development. “But most of all for us, 125 years later, she valued an education rooted in art and music.”

Throughout 2012, there are a number of events planned. There’s a flurry of activity in March, which Linda likes to call “The March of Anna.” On March 7 at noon in D500, historian Lois Yorke will give a talk about Anna Leonowens. The director of public services at the Nova Scotia Archives, Lois Yorke is writing a biography of Anna Leonowens. Also in March are public lectures by installation artist Judy Pfaff on Thursday, March 8, 7 p.m. at the Bell Auditorium and interdisciplinary artist Jackie Sumell on Thursday, March 22, 7 p.m., also at the Bell Auditorium. The Wearable Art Show is set for March 12 at the Halifax Forum.

May is also a busy month: there’s the Starfish Awards at the Port Campus on May 4. The and graduation exhibition opens on May 11 at both galleries with the commencement exercise at the Cunard Centre on May 13. With fingers crossed for good weather, the event “Artist for the Day” takes place on Saturday, May 12 on the Halifax waterfront.

“It’s seen as a celebration of NSCAD and everything we do,” says Linda (BDes 1979). “The idea is that there will be animators who’ll help members of the public become artists for that one day; they can feel the clay, touch the jewelry, print a print … it’s a chance for the public to come down and see what it is we do at NSCAD.”

Generous financial support for Artist for the Day and the celebration of NSCAD in Nova Scotia has have been received from Heritage Canada and HRM Cultural Affairs.

The book launch of The Last Art College by Garry Neill Kennedy, president of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design from 1967 to 1990, takes place on May 13. The Last Art College, published by MIT Press, poses the question: How did a small art college in Nova Scotia become the epicentre of art education in the 1960s and 1970s? The book is available by pre-ordering at nscad.ca.

The celebrations continue into the fall, when three weeks of exhibitions are planned including a history-based show and a juried invitational show. September heralds the return of the “Anna and the King Bar,” in which gallery 3 of the Anna Leonowens Gallery is transformed into a “nostalgic recreation of NSCAD in the 1970s,” says Linda. “There are always lots of stories and laughs.”

In October, NSCAD will anchor Nocturne, the nighttime festival that brings art by students, faculty and alumni to the streets of Halifax.

Most of all, Linda hopes NSCAD alumni will make 2012 the year to return to their alma mater, to take a tour of the campuses, reconnect with old friends and faculty and to talk to current students about what they’re studying.

“With so many grads, they’re overwhelmingly passionate about NSCAD and the experiences they had here,” she says. “We want them to know that we’d love to see them.”

All 125th anniversary events will be listed on the NSCAD website. Visit often for updates.