The Class of 2016
June 9, 2016

Meet some of NSCAD's newest alumni from the Class of 2016:



Sydney McKenna, Play, 2015. Relief print, 116.84 x 81.28 cm. 


Sydney McKennaBFA, Major in Fine Art
2016 Starfish Student Art Award winner
Hometown: Kamloops, BC

When Sydney McKenna was a little kid, she distinctly remembers her answer to the inevitable question—“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

“An artist in Paris, France.”

Looking back on her Grade 2 self, Sydney feels proud that she made that decision, proud also that she left the comfort and security of home to come to NSCAD from the opposite side of the country.

 “Coming here to NSCAD allowed me to re-create myself here on my own,” says Sydney, a printmaker. “When I was in high school, I was the only one in the art room. But here, there are other people like me and it’s intimidating. They push you, make you better, and question you. You learn so much and you don’t want to be half-assed about anything.”

Now that she’s graduated—and won the Starfish Student Art Awards no less—Sydney is ready to push again: to set up a studio, apply for residencies and create a life in art for herself knowing it’s never easy. Whatever happens, Paris is likely to be in her future.

One of the arresting images from Raghed Charabaty's film, #Deema.

Raghed Charabaty

BFA, Major in Film
Hometown: Dahr El Sawan, Lebanon

Raghed Charabaty’s last year at NSCAD was a whirlwind, kicked off by his win at last year’s Starfish Student Art Awards for his beautiful and poetic short film Alia. The film screened at festivals in Beirut, San Francisco, Cairo, Berlin, Halifax, Montreal and Toronto, picking up awards and accolades along the way.

As Alia seemed to get a life of its own, Raghed worked away at his next film #Deema, a companion piece. The name Deema means “a rain without thunder,” and as a hashtag echoes those of the Arab Spring, such as #YouStink, #SyriaSpring and #JasmineRevolution. The film focuses on the relationship of Deema, a Syrian woman, and Nidal, a Lebanese man, who can’t seem to move forward in their love for each other; their relationship is a metaphor for the hopefulness of the Arab Spring stymied by failure and bloodshed in Syria.

“I’ve taken everything I’ve learned at NSCAD and funneled it into one giant piece of work,” says Raghed, who came from Lebanon to attend NSCAD. By living and learning in Canada, he’s found a way to let the stories of home, of the Middle East, flow through him.

“Canada’s a really good place to make art. I can talk about the things that are important to me, including the Middle East,” says Raghed, who plans to make a third film in the series. Other plans include making a feature film and applying for grad school. “I’m really happy for the chances I’ve been given, the career push, the encouragement.”



Log Cabin, weaving by Katie Lefevre.


Katie Lefevre

BFA Interdisciplinary
Hometown: Nanaimo, BC

Katie Lefevre’s path to NSCAD wasn’t always clear. She did two degrees prior to attending and couldn’t shake the feeling that NSCAD was calling her name.  She decided to give a BFA in Interdisciplinary to herself “as a present,” and she’s never looked back.

“NSCAD was a life-transforming experience for me,” says Lefevre. “I found out who I am at NSCAD, and with that I found happiness for the first time in a long time. It was kind of a magical experience for me and has changed my life in a significant way for the better.”

Katie finished her coursework in August 2015 and has since been attending an MA program at Concordia in Art Education, but certain things about NSCAD you just can’t find anywhere else. “I miss the people and the community already,” says Lefevre. “In moving to Montreal to attend Concordia, I’ve come to see how special and unique NSCAD is.”



 (Left) Image from Frankie Macaulay's Chakra Series; (Top) Photographer Frankie Macaulay.


Frankie Macaulay

BFA, Major in Photography
Hometown: Halifax, NS

Like many NSCAD students, Frankie came into NSCAD wanting to do one thing and soon realized she wanted to pursue another. “Originally, I had intended on pursuing painting, but during my second/third year I was introduced to photography,” says Frankie. “I fell in love with the medium and redirected my major.”

Frankie saw NSCAD as her “One and only choice,” after attending a NSCAD open house in high school, and describes her experience at NSCAD as a whirlwind. She plans on staying in Halifax to continue exhibiting and maybe work towards a MFA, but she will miss the “NSCAD facilities, the critiques, likeminded people and the supportive environment NSCAD offers its students,” says Frankie. “NSCAD changed my life.”



Left, gown made of eco-printed silk by Donn Sabean; above, hand-dyed and eco-printed silk, detail.


Donn Sabean

BFA, Major in Textiles/Fashion
Hometown: Halifax, NS

The first time Donn attended NSCAD in the 1990s, she enrolled in two programs simultaneously – a BFA, Interdisciplinary, and a diploma in graphic design. “I did much more romanticizing then about life and art and learning,” says Donn. “NSCAD was the perfect place for that.”

After completing her diploma is graphic design and being a mere nine credits away from finishing her BFA, she began working full time at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and never had a chance to finish … until now.

Fast-forward to 2011, “I decided to leave the AGNS and return to complete my BFA,” says Donn. “I had been feeling the call to return quite strongly after NSCAD established their Fashion Studies.”

Donn says the second time around she was much more calm and focused. Now that it’s over she’s ready to take everything she’s learned into her professional world. “I can tell you, in no uncertain terms; being at different places in one’s life makes for an entirely different experience.”

“I had the luxury of knowing precisely what I needed to take away from every course, every paper, every project,” says Donn. “It’s the clarity and freedom I wish I had in 1990, and is what had made this time through so much more fulfilling.”

"You get to build and make stuff, which for me is a ton of fun."

Evan MeisnerBFA, Major in Fine Art
Hometown: Mill Cove, NS

Evan Meisner describes his experience at NSCAD as “fun and tough.” He went into NSCAD with no knowledge on fine arts and came out with expertise in printmaking, sculpting and other art forms, but it wasn’t always an easy road.

“Trying to apply all this knowledge you don’t have a grasp on yet to your art practice can be extremely frustrating,” says Meisner. “Then you get to build and make stuff, which, for me, is a ton of fun.”

Meisner knows how difficult it is as an artist to have access to the tools and machines students do at NSCAD. Though he will miss the facilities, he will miss even more “the wealth of knowledge in a huge variety of disciplines and the ability to learn that knowledge one-on-one with peers and professors.” He explains this type of learning as “… irreplaceable, or at best very difficult to find elsewhere.”


Black Island by Hildur M.H. Jónasson


Hildur Jónasson

Visual Arts Certificate in Studio
Hometown: Reykjavik, Iceland

Hildur condensed her program into one year – a post baccalaureate visual arts certificate in studio – and even though she only spent a year at NSCAD, she felt the warm maritime welcome from the moment she arrived until the day she left. “The atmosphere is one busy and creative beehive and the community is absolutely accepting of everyone.”

“I originally graduated from ACAD back in 1993,” says Hildur. After a successful career in design and advertising, Hildur took some time off to raise her family. “I started dabbling in fine art, painting mostly, and that reignited my love for fine art. The printmaking department at NSCAD had historic significance, and I had heard so many positive comments of NSCAD from former graduates.”

Hildur has seen a few successes come out of her short year at NSCAD, including art created at NSCAD that was accepted into the permanent art collection in the Yukon and the International Print Centre of New York.

“I have gained printmaking skills from one of the best. I have grown as an artist,” says Hildur about her time at NSCAD. “I have learned that your art is what you make it, but with training, support and a caring environment, you can take it even further.”

Jenny Shi in NSCAD's printmaking studios.

Jenny Shi BFA, major in Art History

Hometown: Beijing, China

Jenny couldn’t ignore NSCAD’s rich history and the beautiful city it resides in. She travelled all the way from Beijing to get the NSCAD experience and has gained much more in the process. “At the beginning I had challenges integrating myself and it took a few years to find my bearings,” says Jenny. “In time I found out who I was, why I was there and what I was interested in.”

Jenny spent five and a half years at NSCAD completing two degrees: a BFA in fine arts and art history. “I really enjoyed the studio,” she says. “The search for myself really fed into my artistic practice.”

After finishing all of her class work last summer, she’s spent the past year volunteering with Team Possibles, The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and also teaching children. And though she still finds time to work on her art in the small amount of spare time she does have, it’s hard to find the drive NSCAD gives its students. “I miss the momentum,” says Shi. “Right now I don’t have as much momentum because I have to divide my energy.”

Jenny plans on staying in the city of Halifax for the next few years, continuing to practice her English and perhaps spend more time in school. “There’s still more for me to discover here. And I’ve built a fairly good network when I was in school. I want to see the current opportunities.”

 AJ MacDonald with the billboard she designed for Dine by Design East.
AJ MacDonald

Hometown: St. John's, Nfld

After getting a college diploma for graphic design, Aidrianna (AJ) MacDonald had the how down, it was the why she was curious about.

“I had a good technical foundation, but I wanted to know so much more,” says AJ, a 25-year-old from St. John’s, Newfoundland. “And so I came to NSCAD.”

She wasn’t disappointed, learning about the theory of design and doing loads of research for every project. As Prof. Christopher Kaltenbach advised her: Trust in the process. I will lead you to a solution. One of her favorite classes was Design Issues taught by Marlene Ivey; an infographic on ocean pollution that she designed led her to get her current position, Visual Merchandiser at the UK-based Lush Cosmetics.

“It’s turned me in a big hippy,” she says. “But it’s gratifying to have a job that brings together what I learned in school with my personal interest in the environment.”