A New Era


The first to hold the position title of president, Garry Neill Kennedy joined NSCAD in 1967 and soon set about modernizing the small art school into an educational hotbed of activity in the latest modes of art creation.

To recognize the importance of design studies in 1969, the school was renamed the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD). Also at this time, the college gained degree-granting status and made plans to return to downtown Halifax, undertaking an ambitious restoration of two city blocks of 19th century merchant shops and warehouses in the heart of the waterfront district. This initiative – an eight-year process completed in 1978 – has often been cited as an example of good citizenship, due to NSCAD’s central role in preserving and revitalizing Halifax’s historic downtown core.

Building an International Reputation

By this time, NSCAD had developed an international reputation – Andy Warhol received an honorary degree in 1972 and a year later, the influential magazine Art in America mused NSCAD might be “the best art school in North America.”

Kennedy was attracting cutting-edge art stars from across Europe and North America to lecture, teach and collaborate with students and faculty at the college. To name a few: Joseph Beuys, Eric Fischl, Vito Acconci, Sol LeWitt, Michael Snow, Joyce Wieland, Hans Haacke, Claes Oldenburg, A.R. Penck, Krzysztof Wodiczko and John Baldessari.

The Press

Many of these avant-garde artists left a lasting impression through works published by the NSCAD Press and prints produced through the Lithography Workshop. Many of these prints are now in important public and private collections, such as London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, and were exhibited at the Art Gallery of Ontario, the National Gallery, and New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

Baldessari print

John Baldessari, I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art, 1971, Lithograph on paper (57.0 x 76.2 cm). Anna Leonowens Gallery Archives: Lithography Workshop Collection

The best art school in
North America?

—Les Levine

By the early 1970s, NSCAD had become the art school emulated by others in Canada. In a landmark article published in Art in America (July/August 1973), influential U.S. artist and critic Les Levine mused that NSCAD was the best art school in North America, praising  the college’s “brilliant learning situation.”


How did a small art college in Nova Scotia become the epicenter of art education—and to a large extent of the post-mimimalist and conceptual art world itself—in the 1960s and 1970s? Like the unorthodox experiments and rich human resources that made Black Mountain College an improbable center of art a generation earlier, the activities and artists at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (aka NSCAD) in the 1970s redefined the means and methods of art education and the shape of art far beyond Halifax.

Read about it in The Last Art College: Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, 1969–1978 by Garry Neill Kennedy. Co-Published by MIT Press and the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.