The next chapter for The Last Art College
January 11, 2016

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Gallery director Charlotte Townsend and NSCAD students wrote "I will not make any more boring art" on the walls of NSCAD's Mezzanine gallery using the directions of American artist John Baldessari in 1971.

Garry Neill Kennedy is considered one of Canada’s most prominent and pioneering artists. But his “greatest work of art” may well be the transformation of a small traditional art school on the east coast into a dynamic, degree-granting, artist-run institution at the cutting edge of the conceptual art movement.

The Last Art College: Nova Scotia College of Art and Design 1968-1978, a 454-page book and now also an exhibition at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, pays tribute to a 10-year time-period when all eyes in the art world were cast eastward to divine what was happening at NSCAD and Halifax.

“I am deeply humbled to be involved with this exhibition,” says David Diviney (MFA 1998), curator of the exhibition. “When I was looking into grad schools in the mid 1990s, I was attracted to NSCAD because of that history and the people. Then I got to know several of those involved—Garry Neill Kennedy, Gerald Ferguson and David Askevold—and to work with them. It’s truly a privilege.”

But there’s a problem. If the art movement is about ideas, what the heck goes in the exhibition?

“Conceptual art, or the loose network of ways of working that have fallen under that label, signaled a dematerialization of the art object ... ideas took precedent over traditional material and aesthetic concerns,” says Diviney, from Pennsylvania.  “Viewers will be surprised by the exhibition and there will be lots to see.”

Besides paintings, photography, lithographic prints, sculpture and more, there will be ephemera and revisiting of key artworks using original instructions—for example, Sol LeWitt’s wall drawings; Lawrence Weiner’s 5 Gallons Water Base Tempera Paint Poured Directly Upon the Floor and Allowed to Remain for the Duration of the Exhibition; and Gerald Ferguson’s Choral Reading of the Standard Corpus of Present Day English Language arranged by word length and alphabetized within word length, first performed at NSCAD in 1972.

Gabriel Huri and Sophie Wonfor create Sol LeWitt's Wall Drawing #196 directly on the walls of The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. Wall Drawing #196 consists of a "square divided horizontally and vertically into four equal parts with progressively longer lines 3", 6", 9" and 12" in each quadrant. All lines are drawn straight and drawn at random."
The Anna Leonowens Gallery will take on John Baldessari’s I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art. Some 45 years after the American artist sent instructions to gallery director Charlotte Townsend-Gault for a “punishment piece” for students, NSCAD students and the public will again cover the walls of the gallery with the words “I will not make any more boring art.”

“This wall work really encapsulates the spirit of the moment and what was happening at the school,” says Melanie Colosimo, Director of the Anna Leonowens Gallery. “Because what was happening wasn’t boring at all.”

Over the years, the phrase has become NSCAD’s unofficial motto. It’s etched into the NSCAD alumni ring, printed on the wallpaper in President Dianne Taylor-Gearing’s office, and provides the name for the Bill McGillivray 1988 documentary on the school. It continues to resonate, acting as a constant reminder to students, faculty and alumni to push, question and critique—and to make art that’s anything but boring.

With the installation of Dianne Taylor-Gearing as NSCAD’s 21st President last year, the school is enjoying a renaissance. The Board of Governors has affirmed the school’s independence, fending off pressure to affiliate. There’s a clear articulated direction for the school and exciting, positive developments lie ahead.

“Our NSCAD community knows where we’ve come from and celebrates this history, but we’re not looking backwards," says Prof. Taylor-Gearing. "Recent challenges are behind us and we wear our mantle of independence fiercely and without taking it for granted. Our shared vision is to deliver the highest quality of education in the visual arts, craft and design that we can.”

“We are and will always be a home for the rule breakers, the dreamers, the makers, the innovators, the exceptional, the forever curious,” she adds.

The Last Art College: Nova Scotia College of Art and Design 1968-1978 opens at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia on Friday, Jan. 16. After the opening, the After Party will take place at NSCAD’s new Art Bar + Projects and Cabaret Voltaire-Atlantique, 1873 Granville Street.
During the exhibition, there will be many associated lectures, artist talks and film screenings. The exhibition continues to April 3.

The Last Art College Events

Jan. 15: After Party for The Last Art College, which opens earlier at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. Featuring DJ Juicy Lippard. 8 pm at Art Bar + Projects and Cabaret Voltaire—Atlantique, 1873 Granville Street.

Jan. 16: An Abridged Choral Reading of the Standard Corpus with Heather Ferguson (Gerald Ferguson’s daughter). Gerald Ferguson first published The Standard Corpus in 1970 and it was performed in 1972 by 26 voices at NSCAD. 2:30-3:30 pm at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

Jan. 17: Curator in Conversation: Garry Neill Kennedy and David Diviney. 2:30-3:30 pm at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

Jan. 19: Re-staging of John Baldessari’s famed “Punishment Piece.” Gallery visitors are invited to write “I will Not Make Any More Boring Art on the walls of the Anna Leonowens Gallery. Ongoing to Jan. 30. starting at the opening reception on Jan. 18 at 5:30 pm. 1891 Granville St.

Jan. 21: Screening of William MacGillvray’s feature documentary from 1988, I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art. Introduction by NSCAD Prof. Sol Nagler. 7-8:30 pm at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

Jan. 29: The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia transforms into an arty nightclub for Art Party. 8 pm to midnight at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. Alumni pre-party at Cabaret Voltaire-Atlantique.