Keji bound
August 3, 2012

Photo by Jennifer MacLatchy. "To value the environment, we need to have a relationship with it," she says.

A group of NSCAD students are packing their camping gear and art supplies to head off to Kejimkujik National Park from August 8 to 12. Their trip will coincide with Keji’s Dark Sky Festival weekend.

The project, Revisioning Landscape, was inspired in part by NSCAD’s 125th anniversary and landscape painters Henry Rosenberg, Arthur Lismer, Lewis and Edith Smith and Elizabeth Styring McNutt who were associated with the art college when it was known as the Victoria School of Art and Design. Arthur Lismer, in particular, was one of Canada’s pre-eminent landscape artists. After serving as principal of VSAD from 1916-1919, he moved to Toronto and became one of the founding artists of the Group of Seven, the painting collective that came to be seen as expressing a distinctly Canadian spirit of landscape.

“As NSCAD entered a year of celebrating its own rich history, I remembered learning about French Impressionism in my teens, then seeing works of the Group of Seven at the McMichael Collection, at the National Gallery and at AGNS. Those paintings captured my heart and imagination,” says Mary Spurr, a NSCAD student and the project’s organizer.

“This past winter, as I was just beginning to learn about painting, my thoughts kept returning to places I loved hiking in. I began asking around, to find other students interested in the outdoors, with the idea of a creative trip.”

The participating students in the “Group of 10” range from beginner to experienced campers, and are pursuing studies in a variety of artistic disciplines. But they all have a passion to connect with landscape and nature in a way that working in a studio doesn’t allow.

“To value the environment, we need to have a relationship with it,” says Jennifer MacLatchy, from Ottawa, who took a detour from her Master’s degree in Women and Gender Studies at Mount Saint Vincent University to study at NSCAD for the past two years.  She’s planning to do some photography at Keji. “Making art helps us connect with nature, and hopefully, in through work we create, visitors to the show will connect too.”

From Vancouver, Jack Wong is excited about getting out of the city and seeing more of Nova Scotia. Plus, he’s looking forward to creating in the company of his fellow students. “It seems we’re off doing our solitary projects and rarely do we get together and make art at the same time.”

Billy Hebb grew up near Bridgewater, not far from Kejimkujik National Park, although he’s never been there. He’s interested to see how his experience of wilderness heading into the woods from his backyard compares with “wilderness as constructed by the operators of a National Park.” He is also interested in making work which shows evidence of the human presence.

Revisioning Landscape is possible because of a partnership between NSCAD University, which is covering the transportation costs, and Parks Canada, which is waiving fees for the students. There are plans for an exhibition in the fall to display the work started during the trip and talk of a further, more formalized collaboration between NSCAD and Parks Canada next year.