"It’s not an easy path but it’s totally been worth it"
May 10, 2012

On Sunday, May 13, 210 NSCAD students officially became NSCAD graduates. One by one, their names were called out and they walked across the stage of the Cunard Centre to shake hands and be congratulated. During that walk, they may have thought back on what brought them to NSCAD in the first place and what they're taking away.

The following are a few short profiles of some of those graduating students, who reflect on their life-changing NSCAD experiences and share where they’re headed next.

Mary Stankevicius (BFA 2012, Major in Ceramics)

Ceramic artist Mary Stankevicius arrived at NSCAD never having put her hands in wet clay. That changed during a class in her second year with sculptor Matt Wedel, a visiting artist from Colorado.

“He has this wonderful childish sense of wonder,” says Mary, from Orangeville, Ont. “Nothing fazes him. Everything is an awesome challenge.”

She’s come to adopt that philosophy as her own in shaping animal sculptures from clay. She started out making dodo birds, rhinos and orangutans—strange looking creatures with voluptuous curves. But recently, while on exchange at the Kansas City Art Institute in Missouri, she was challenged to change her focus to animals from the domestic realm. Her brightly painted ceramic dogs take the form of life-sized sculptures or wall-mounted heads, like hunting trophies.

“The idea is that the audience needs to have more of a relationship with the animal and that’s when I turned to dogs,” she explains. “They have such characters and personalities and people really respond to them.”

Following graduation, the 23-year-old artist has applied for a year-long artistic residency at Medalta, in Medicine Hat, Alberta’s historic clay district. Beyond that, she wants to apply for grad school—“But I need some time to figure it out.”

As her time at NSCAD draws to a close, she says she is grateful for the experience and for the support and encouragement from faculty and staff. “I feel like I was totally pampered here.”

Mary Stankevicius with her Cocker Spaniel sculpture at Ceramix, the Ceramics department's end-of-term show.   Mary-300

Maddy Mathews (BFA 2012, Fine Art Major)

Maddy Mathews first became aware of NSCAD University when a NSCAD faculty member visited her Toronto high school. “It sounded amazing and it made me want to come,” says Maddy, who adds she felt comfortable at NSCAD as soon as she arrived. She made a wide circle of friends, became involved in Halifax’s artistic community, curated shows at NSCAD’s hole-in-the-wall Micro Gallery and went on exchange for a semester at the University of Brighton in Sussex, England. But most importantly, she gained the confidence to call herself an artist. 

Maddy, who gave the Valedictorian address at graduation, graduates with a BFA majoring in Fine Art. Her graduation exhibition, Getting My Childhood Memories Confused with Things I Saw on Television, was on display at the Anna Leonowens Gallery from April 24 to 28. Her plans include travel and grad school, as well as showing her work and launching an arts publication.

Looking back over her four years, if she could give advice to her 19 year old self what would that be?

Maddy responds: “Don’t pressure yourself to make everything perfect. Experiment, make mistakes, make work that sucks. Get the crappy stuff out of your system so the good work can come out too.”

maddy-300      Maddy Mathews at her graduation show: "Hello future? It's Maddy calling. What's in store?" 

Kevin Dahi (MDes, 2012)

With the news out of Syria over the past year, it’s no wonder if Kevin Dahi has been distracted. A Canadian citizen originally from Syria, his attention has been divided between events in his homeland where members of his immediate family still live and his graduate studies at NSCAD.

“I had been feeling very emotional about the whole thing, especially because it’s so difficult to get information,” explains Kevin, who had 15 years of design practice experience before deciding to apply to NSCAD’s Master of Design program.

At NSCAD, Kevin became part of a tight-knit group of students drawn to the university from all over the world. It’s changed his thinking—allowing him to approach design decisions objectively after first considering them from a multitude of perspectives. And it’s this approach that he brought to his thesis project, in which he designed an emergency management system for Syria.

“It’s been a very engaging, very full experience,” says Kevin of the year-long master’s program. “I’ve met people who’ve challenged me and supported me. We’ve had some incredible discussions.”

But it’s been frustrating too, knowing that any plan he designed is too late to assist with the “human-made” disaster that’s been unfolding in Syria since March 2011.

“What I’ve really learned about is process—that the best design works in collaboration with other disciplines and with much discourse and research. And that’s something I’ll always be able to keep with me.”

"It's been a very engaging, very full experience," says Kevin Dahi, graduating with his master's degree in design.       KevinDahi-300

Jaime Williams (BFA 2012, Major in Fine Art)

Jaime Williams was well on her way to a career in clinical psychology. She had her PhD completed and a job lined up at the University of Saskatchewan when she decided what she really wanted to do is study art at NSCAD University.

There have been no regrets.

“From my first term at NSCAD, I thought, ‘Oh thank god I did this. This is exactly what I should be doing,’” she says, on the phone from Regina, Sask. “It’s not an easy path but it’s totally been worth it.”

She got her first taste of the art college while doing her pre-doctoral residency at the QEII Health Sciences Centre, taking a life drawing class through the School of Extended Studies. “As soon as I realized what was out there, this whole new world opened up for me,” she explains. Now she paints every day. She is currently applying for artistic residencies and, in the near future plans to apply for graduate programs in painting.

Through her four years at NSCAD, she’s been impressed with her professors—singling out Sara Hartland Rowe and Suzanne Funnell—and her fellow students.

“The passion of the students at NSCAD is very different—so refreshing! I just haven’t seen that level of commitment and engagement outside of NSCAD.”


A life drawing class at NSCAD sent Jaime Williams in a whole new direction. Her painting, Two Cars, at left.



Siobhan Gallagher (BDes 2012)

As the designer for the Graduation Catalogue 2012, Siobhan Gallagher thought a lot about what graduation means to her and the 200-plus fellow students who will be graduating with her.

“I started visualizing turning a corner and it became my theme,” she explains.

That theme is realized on the catalogue cover which includes strong graphic shapes in bold colours—fuschia, turquoise, burnt orange and grey. The design runs one way on the front cover and the opposite way on the back, literally turning a corner on the book’s spine. Also on the back, the numbers one, two and five—in recognition of NSCAD’s 125th anniversary—are discreetly incorporated.

Having developed her own distinct style while at NSCAD, she was concerned that the design not be recognizably by her hand. “I didn’t want it to be too Siobhan-y,” she says with a laugh. “It’s for all 250 of us who are graduating after all.”

As the 22 year old turns the corner from NSCAD student to NSCAD alumna, she is bound for New York City where she’ll be doing a paid internship in the Young Reader’s Department of the Penguin Group U.S. Adding to her excitement is word that she has received the Royal Canadian Academy of Art’s Nienkamper Graduation Award for Design—an unexpected honor and cash award that will help cover expenses while in New York.

“I feel that what I’m best at is bringing illustration and design together,” she says. “NSCAD allowed me to find my strengths and expand on them.”

"NSCAD allowed me to find my strengths and expand on them," says Siobhan Gallagher, designer of the Graduation Catalogue 2012.      siobhan300 

Katharine Vingoe-Cram (BFA 2010)

From Halifax, Katharine Vingoe-Cram says she didn’t fully appreciate her NSCAD education until she was graduated and out in the world. Now working for an insurance company, saving for grad school and adding to her portfolio, she is incredibly grateful for those four years. Majoring in fine art with a minor in art history, she says she tapped into her own creative energy for painting, drawing and also criticism.

“NSCAD has affected my life in so many ways,” she enthuses, during an early morning call to Vancouver, where she’s now living. “I didn’t realize at the time the connections I made with other students and professors and this amazing network of artists that I’m plugged into.”

After finding her feet post graduation, Katharine has two successes to report: a solo exhibition of her watercolours, Psychic Trash, just opened at Coastal Patterns Gallery, Bowen Island, and her acceptance into the master’s program at Queen’s University in Kingston to study art history. “I’m looking forward to it, but at the same time, I think it will be quite different from my NSCAD experience.”

To see Katharine's work, check out her blog at http://kvingoecram.wordpress.com/


 One of the watercolors from Katharine Vingoe-Cram's exhibition Psychic Trash.


Kristen Sharpe (BFA 2012 Interdisciplinary)

Graduation is scary, says Kristen Sharpe, who checks off on her fingers what she’s got to do after Sunday’s ceremony: keep making stuff; find a job; find a studio; pay back student loans; and see if she can get her work into galleries.

It’s a big list, a bittersweet time. With a half smile, Kristen, from Aurora, Ont., admits what she’d really like to do is spend another year at NSCAD. “You realize how good you had it,” she says.

But it’s not like she hasn’t been visited by these unsettling butterflies before. After all, there’s nothing like getting ready for your first solo exhibition to make you feel nervous. Will anyone come? Will anyone get it? And then there’s the artist talk—yikes!

“I was terrified,” she reports of her show, Ample but not Intimidating, which showed at the Anna Leonowens Gallery in February. “But then I thought, wait a minute, ‘I know this stuff. I made it all. I know the ideas that started them and I’m confident about the work.’ I don’t need to be nervous.”

The show was one of her highpoints at NSCAD—not to mention the pivotal moment that happened in second year when she decided to branch out from photography and explore different artistic disciplines—painting, ceramics, and printmaking. Turns out she had a passion for painting that she didn’t realize was there. “NSCAD lets you be curious, and in my case, finding painting changed my whole plan.”

Sectional (63" x 54") is one of Kristen Sharpe's paintings from her show Ample But Not Intimidating. She also built a 20-foot-long couch as part of the show that patrons could sit on to view her paintings.

Lawrence Woodford (MFA 2011, Jewellery and Metalsmithing)

Lawrence Woodford’s career as a professional jewellery artist was well underway when he decided he wanted to go back to school.

“I had a college degree and taught at two private fine arts institutions, but I wanted to teach at the university level,” he says, reached in Sydney, Australia where he is doing an artistic residency. His focus is on “addressing concerns of a new geology by using global garbage and repurposing these finds into wearable jewellery objects.”

It turns out NSCAD is perhaps the only place he could go for a graduate program in jewellery design—at least in Canada. “It’s unfortunate that other Canadian universities are so behind in terms of accepting other media as valid graduate work  and accepted in the realm of visual arts,” says the Montrealer, who characterizes his NSCAD experience as “tough but incredibly rewarding.”

For his thesis project, Lawrence tapped into his “differentness”—he informs he trained to be a Brahman priest in India from a relatively young age—to create sculptural neckpieces. The pieces explore cross-cultural iconography, drawing from Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Jewish, Islamic and other faiths. He uses alternative materials, including plastics, rubber, wood laminates, raw stones and reconstituted material, in his work.

He explains: “Through an economy of line, this conceptual trajectory illustrates an aesthetic commonality pertaining to cross-cultural iconography and underpins the philosophical similarities among various spiritual paths. By democratizing the iconic, through aesthetic harmonies and equal treatment, a universal language is introduced; this represents a gesture towards our interconnectedness while celebrating individual diversity.”

Asked if this differentness was ever a problem at NSCAD, Lawrence is quick to respond. “Oh no, I was so supported at NSCAD … Rebecca Hannon was a godsend and Pamela Ritchie was so generous. Bruce Barber and Bob Bean were incredibly influential in terms of concretizing concept. And Wendy Landry was invaluable in pedagogy and how to impart knowledge within the fine arts.”

Being different is something that many artists can relate to, he adds. “We are all explorers of our spiritual and cultural heritage.”

 Lawrence-Woodford_230 Lawrence-Woodford_3-230 
Lawrence Woodford, I Would Die for You. Neckpiece. 2011. Silver, wood laminate, gold, garnet, paint. Lawrence Woodford, Sacred Stone, Sacred Geometry. 2011. Neckpiece. Silver, wood, earthenware, paint, topaz, glass, gold leaf.

Jennifer Green (BFA 2009, Major in Textiles)

After Foundation year in 2002, Jennifer Green pursued architecture at the University of Waterloo.

But then, after two years, she realized the only structures she wanted to create were constructed of cloth and found herself drawn back to Halifax and NSCAD in 2005.

“I think the most important thing about my education at NSCAD is the exposure I got to craft,” says Jennifer, who grew up outside of Toronto, Ont. “Learning traditional skills such as spinning, weaving, printing and dyeing has given me an incredible skill set. It also sets NSCAD apart from other fine arts schools.”

After graduation in 2009, Jennifer moved to Lunenburg, where she did a year-long residency through the NSCAD-Lunenburg Community Residency Program. Her time in Lunenburg allowed her to study flax, the plant from which linen is derived, and continue her artistic investigations in spinning and weaving. For the past year, she’s worked as one of the technicians in the Textiles/Fashion department.

And now, her explorations continue. She’s bound for the Royal College of Art’s School of Material in London, England to pursue her master’s degree in textiles.  Congratulations Jennifer!

 Jennifer2-230  jennifer-230
Jennifer Green demonstrating flax spinning. Jennifer Green and Thread at the Kyoto Art Center, Japan.