Class Notes


Jeffrey Spalding (MFA 1976) will be presented with the Diamond Jubilee Medal by Alberta’s Lt. Gov. Donald S. Ethell at a ceremony in Calgary on March 19. The medal will be presented “in appreciation of the service you have rendered to Canada,” as Jeffrey was informed in a letter from the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General of Canada. An artist, educator and art museum professional, he is currently the artistic director of the newly invigorated Museum of Contemporary Art in Calgary.

Donald McGrath (BFA 1976) grew up in a fishing village on Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula, leaving at 19 to study at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. He has been a longshoreman, factory worker and waiter, and currently works as a translator in Montreal. He has published one previous poetry collection, At First Light (1995). His poems have appeared widely in periodicals, and one was selected for the long list web anthology of this year’s Montreal Poetry Prize.

For decades, Susanna Heller (BFA 1977) has distilled the peripheral landscapes of New York City in her wildly expressive, near-abstract drawings and paintings. Figures rarely appeared in Heller’s work until March 2010, when her husband was hospitalized with a devastating illness. To cope with the anxiety, the artist began to draw her “agonized silent husband and his setting.” Susanna Heller: Intensive Care runs at Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery through to April 29, 2012.

A jeweler of international renown, Charles Lewton-Brain (BFA 1978) has been awarded the 2012 Saidye Bronfman Award. Awarded by the Governor General of Canada, the Saidye Bronfman Award recognizes excellence in fine craft. A resident of Calgary, Charles Lewton-Brain has forged a career of distinction over 30 years of dedication to fine craft. Last year’s Saidye Bronfman winner is silversmith Kye Yeon-Son, NSCAD professor in the Jewellery and Metalsmithing Department. Professor Emeritus Walter Ostrom was the 2003 Saidye Bronfman winner.

Linda Hutchison (BDes 1979) has been re-appointed as a trustee of the Board of the National Gallery of Canada. Linda is the director of NSCAD’s 125th anniversary, alumni and development in the office of University Relations.


Sharon Gunn (BA 1984) is retiring after a career of teaching overseas, most recently at the International School of Duesseldorf, Germany. Highlights from the past year of travel and teaching include a presentation at the Association of German International Schools conference in Hannover and trips to see the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the cave paintings in Altamira and to sketch and paint in Taormina, Sicily.  Sharon credits her training in art education at NSCAD for her successes, and singles out the support of professors Harold Pearse, Cynthia Taylor, Nick Webb and David York. “I wanted to share this with other NSCAD graduates and students who might think that exciting teaching posts are nonexistent,” writes Sharon. “If you are willing to travel overseas and enjoy the new and unfamiliar there are many possibilities.” Sharon can be reached at

Jay Rutherford (BDes 1987) has been teaching visual communications at the Bauhaus University in Weimar, Germany, since the founding of the Faculty of Art and Design in 1993. He is also an honorary professor at the Hubei University of Technology in Wuhan, China, which he visits twice a year during semester breaks.


Interdisciplinary artist and musician Lisa Lipton (BFA 2003) is the artist-in-residence at the Gatekeeper’s Lodge in Point Pleasant Park until March 31. During her residency, Lisa will be developing Blast Beats, a project which investigates the history and spirituality of drumming. As well, Lisa Lipton’s work is on display at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia as part of the gallery’s emerging artist series. Stop @ Forever, curated by Sarah Fillmore, features work that illustrates the multiple aspects of her artistic practice and includes installation, video, musical and sculptural work. The exhibition continues to April 29.


Courtney Kelsey (BFA 2010) received a grant from the Nova Scotia Department of Communities, Culture & Heritage. He is continuing with work on a body of photographs that he started in San Juan in 2009 while on a Roloff Beny Photography Scholarship.  He and Zac Barkhouse (BFA 2008) have collaborated previously on studies done in Florida and the Bahamas and will be returning to San Juan, Puerto Rico in March. They will be sailing to several Caribbean islands on the ship Carnival Victory to complete their body of work and intend to exhibit the project this summer.

Ben Stephenson (BFA 2010) started writing his first novel while on hiatus from studying filmmaking and fine art at NSCAD University.  A Matter of Life and Death or Something, published by Douglas & McIntyre, is the story of a 10-year-old boy and a weather-beaten notebook he finds in the woods behind his house. It’s described as “a heartbreaking story of love, death and the unspeakable pain of being small.”

Mengnan Qu (BFA 2012) continues to gather accolades. The fourth-year student in the Jewellery and Metalsmithing Department has just been named a Niche Award winner. Sponsored by Niche magazine, the awards celebrate excellence and innovation in American and Canadian fine craft. Mengnan is a graduating student originally from NanJing, China.

Gillian Lake-Thompson (BFA 2012) finished her studies in December 2011 and immediately left for Guatemala in January to work with Oxlajuj B’atz’ (Thirteen Threads), an NGO that works with 20 different Mayan women’s cooperatives in four areas: health and well being; artisan and product development; democracy and team building; and small business. As a textile design intern, Gillian is helping the women develop new products to sell in their fair-trade store and teaching workshops on sewing, dyeing, colour theory, embroidery, felting and jewelry-making—“basically everything I ever learned at NSCAD!” She adds: “I am in such awe of the women here and the beautiful textiles  they create.”

Caitlyn Vachon (BFA 2012) is back in her hometown of Montreal after completing the New York Studio Residency Program. While in New York, Cait completed two internships, dividing her time between J. Mendel, a fifth generation luxury fashion house, and STC Associates, a graphic design agency on Fifth Avenue. In her spare time, she created a short film with her roommate, NSCAD student Andrew Classen, who was in New York studying at Cooper Union. Betty Badlands, about a girl and a cockroach, was inspired by “our experiences in our first apartment,” she explains. “We threw ourselves into a total creative frenzy, storyboarding, making costumes, filming and editing. It was so much fun.” The New York Studio Residency Program will be offered again for the winter term 2013.

Charles Lewton-Brain (BFA 1978) is the 2012 winner of the Saidye Bronfman Award. Photo by Martin Lipman/Canada Council for the Arts.


Keep in touch
Do you have news you’d like to share? Send us your updates and we’ll include them in the next edition of Vivid. Please email Linda Hutchison, director of University Relations, Alumni & Development, at or give her a ring at 902-494-8244.