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NSCAD University Art Factory Empowering Future Artists

Phoenix youth

The NSCAD Art Factory was a pilot project developed by Leesa Hamilton, Education and Community Outreach Consultant and Catherine Allen, Manager NSCAD Extended Studies, in partnership with Phoenix Youth Programs. The Art Factory program provided senior level NSCAD students with employment, training and support in workshop development and delivery. To date, we have run 3 programs, each consisted of a series of weekly, hands on workshops for Phoenix Youth Participants. These pilots have employed and trained 15 NSCAD students and offered education and studio access to 23 participants from Phoenix Youth programs.

The Art Factory was designed to further develop the participant’s art making practices and demonstrate the opportunities available at NSCAD University. The Art Factory opened NSCAD’s professional art studios to a wider community of people, expanding the possibilities of art making. The first of the six-week programs culminated in a formal exhibition and graduation ceremony at the NSCAD Port Loggia Gallery which had approximately 80 attendees from the community.

We thank the Department of Communities Culture and Heritage for its generous contribution to this program, and we need your help to expand it. The Art Factory mentors NSCAD students in workshop development and delivery, offering valuable employment skills. In addition, this program is dedicated to supporting youth by enhancing self-esteem and developing skills through art making that can be directly applied to their future education and career goals.

Phoenix Youth


Leesa Hamilton has a BA from Dalhousie University and a M.Ed. OISE/University of Toronto. She has over 15 years, experience developing and delivering arts based programming in both Toronto and in Halifax, with a focus on working with homeless and street involved youth. In addition, Leesa is an accomplished Costume Designer who has taught at both NSCAD in the Textiles Department and Dalhousie University’s Costume Studies Program. Leesa is committed to increasing access to education, training and employment for youth. She believes that at its core art making is about self-expression, risk and reward and its practice can lead to positive personal change and increased resiliency.


Catherine Allen has a BSc from Dalhousie University and an MFA from NSCAD University. She has been working in arts education and programming for over 17 years, She has taught both community arts courses as well as University-level jewellery courses at OCAD (Toronto, ON) and at NSCAD University. For the past five years, she has been as the Program Coordinator at NSCAD University’s School of Extended Studies which offers courses in all mediums to the public. She is passionate about the transformative experience of art and making. At Extended Studies she endeavours to make Art accessible through outreach and innovation. Community also plays a significant role in her personal art practice, where she is currently working on a collection of jewellery based on children’s drawings of themselves and their families.

Phoenix Youth


LEESA HAMILTON (Coordinator/Fashion)

The most amazing thing about the Art Factory model is that everyone who participates in the program; staff, facilitators and participants has something great to offer the program and something greater to gain. We are all asked to take risks. It’s exciting, because we are all invested in making the experience the best it can be. The combination of collective risk taking and skills sharing has resulted in a fun and supportive space where good art is made.

CATHERINE ALLEN (Coordinator/Jewellery)

I truly believe in the transformative properties of art and making. The Art Factory program provides practical education and experience for NSCAD students to share their knowledge and talent with communities who may not have had access to these opportunities, empowering students and participants alike.

Learning NSCAd
NSCAD student lead ceramics class

JULIAN COVEY (NSCAD student facilitator)

I think the Art Factory benefits both NSCAD and Phoenix Youth participants. As a student, my academic environment often feels artificial and insular. Through Art Factory, I was able to employ many of the skills I developed over the course of my university career in real-world conditions. Catherine and Leesa provided me with structure and mentorship throughout the process which made for a nurturing and supportive introduction to teaching.

Over time, NSCAD has helped me to build confidence in my abilities leading me to feel comfortable in a studio setting. Art Factory provides that same opportunity to the Phoenix Youth participants in what can often feel like an intimidating space.

It was a joy to share my passion with others and see their creations come to fruition. I was also delighted to see the Phoenix Youth participants push through the challenges of studio work and loved seeing their satisfaction and pride with their finished pieces.


o I feel like just entered a whole other universe- WOW!

o I hope to learn new skills and make great things and I hope that Art Factory become[s] a lasting part of NSCAD.

o I never thought I could do this…the staff made me feel like one of their own.

o Art Factory gave me the confidence to be open minded to feedback of my work.

o Art Factory helped me take new risks and try new things that I usually don’t do.

o 3D design and print is mind-altering stuff.

o Thanks to the staff, I can make things that I like.

o Loved the feeling of opening the mould and seeing my shape!

o I hope to gain experience in new mediums. Art is expression. My life is dedicated to expressing one’s self. What I want to make always depends on listening to my heart.


Catherine Allen

Manager, Extended Studies

NSCAD University | 902.494.8224