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Art History and Contemporary Culture Division

The Art History and Contemporary Culture Division will strengthen your skills as a critic not just of fine art but of craft, design and architecture as well. By engaging in lively debates with faculty and colleagues, you will graduate as a skilled writer and an astute observer of contemporary culture.


NSCAD University was the first Canadian degree-granting institution to offer a degree in art history. Decades later, the Art History and Contemporary Culture Division is still on the cutting edge of conceptual art criticism and practice. With a strong emphasis on theory, the Division offers courses in art history, literature, film history and theory, art education and critical studies. Ranging from introductory surveys to senior seminars, these courses bring together students from all Divisions, fostering a cross-disciplinary flow of ideas and interaction.

Many art history alumni go on to work in museums and art galleries or begin graduate work in a variety of fields, including history, media studies and visual culture. Others embark on successful careers as professional art critics, journalists and teachers.



Marylin McKay is an award-winning author and pre-eminent Canadian art historian. She received a PhD in Art History from the University of Toronto. She is the author of A National Soul: Canadian Mural Painting, 1860s to 1930s (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2002), Picturing the Land, Narrating Territories in Canadian Landscape Art, 1500 to 1950 (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2011), as well as articles in scholarly journals and chapters in books on North American art. Her current research is based on the Canadian reception of Walt Whitman. As part of this research she is working on a biography of Flora MacDonald Merrill Denison.
Email Dr. McKay.



Ann-Barbara Graff is a Professor and the Vice President, Academic and Research at NSCAD University. She holds a PhD, MA and BA in English from the University of Toronto. She practices critical theory, particularly the intersection of 19th century literature and science.
Email Dr. Graff.


Dr. Julie Hollenbach is a craft historian and material culture researcher, an artist, a curator, and an educator. Her interdisciplinary work uses queer, feminist, disability, anti-colonial, and critical race frameworks to engage with cultural production at the intersections of history and location, tradition and ritual, contact and connection, and meaning and use. Dr. Hollenbach’s SSHRC funded research expands considerations of amateur and professional craft as a gendered and classed activity to explicitly consider how craft is a racializing process that enshrines whiteness under settler colonialism. Her forthcoming co-edited (with Robin Alex McDonald) book Re/Imagining Depression: New Approaches to Feeling Bad harnesses critical theories to generate new paradigms for thinking about the depressive experience that demonstrates the diversity of affects, embodiments, materiality, rituals, and behaviors that are often collapsed under the singular rubric of “depression.” Dr. Hollenbach’s writing has been published in the popular press and scholarly platforms including: Canadian Art, Studio Magazine, VANS, PUBLIC, Craft and Design, and Cahiers métiers d’art ::: Craft Journal. She has curated exhibitions at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, MSVU Art Gallery, Union Gallery, and the Anna Leonowens Gallery.
Email Dr. Hollenbach.


David Howard received his PhD from the University of British Columbia in Art History and also holds degrees both in Canadian History and Fine Arts (Painting). He has published numerous book chapters, articles, and reviews on the history, politics, and theory of modernism and postmodernism in the United States and Canada after World War II. He focuses on art criticism and theory as well as 19th and 20th art history.
Email Dr. Howard.


As an Art Education specialist, Dr. April Mandrona teaches courses as part of NSCAD’s Visual Arts Certificate for Teachers and the Mount Saint Vincent University BEd program. Dr. Mandrona is also developing NSCAD’s new graduate program in Art Education. She received her doctorate in Art Education from Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec, and was a SSHRC postdoctoral fellow at McGill University in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education. She has published articles and book chapters on young people’s visual culture, rurality, ethics, and participatory visual research. She recently guest edited a Special Issue of Girlhood Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, “Ethical Practice and the Study of Girlhood.” Her co-edited volume, Visual Encounters in the Study of Rural Childhoods (Rutgers University Press) will be released in the spring.
Email Dr. Mandrona.


Darrell Varga has an MFA in Film Production and a PhD in Social and Political Thought from York University in Toronto. From 2005 to 2015 he held the Canada Research Chair (tier II) in Contemporary Film and Media Studies. Varga teaches courses in film history, culture and politics as well as documentary filmmaking. He is a filmmaker and author of numerous books and articles, including: Shooting From the East: Filmmaking on the Canadian Atlantic (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2015), John Walker’s Passage (University Toronto Press, 2013), Rain/Drizzle/Fog: Film and Television in Atlantic Canada (University of Calgary Press, 2008), and Working on Screen: Representations of the Working Class in Canadian Cinema (University of Toronto Press, 2005).
Email Dr. Varga.


Jayne Wark holds a PhD in Art History from the University of Toronto and a BFA from NSCAD University. She has published numerous articles and exhibition catalogue essays on performance, video, and conceptual art and is the author of Radical Gestures: Feminist Performance Art in North America (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2006).
Email Dr. Wark.