A classroom doesn’t always need to have four walls, a ceiling and a floor. Sometimes, escaping these traditional confines leads to an expansion of ideas and creativity.
Take for instance, NSCAD University’s Parks Canada Project.
Since 2013, NSCAD and Parks Canada have partnered on this unique and innovative event. Each year, NSCAD faculty member anna sprague takes students to different parks throughout Nova Scotia, to get outside of the city and explore nature through painting, photography, site-specific installations, public intervention, and performative gestures.
This year, 15 emerging artists made their way to Kejimkujik National Park, including NSCAD student curators Brody Weaver and Avery Morris. After a week working and staying in the park, Weaver and Morris found new doors of inspiration and imagination opening.
“During our week-long residency, we learned collaboratively – from ourselves, from one another, and the cultural, social and ecological systems of the park. We produced sketchbook work and generated ideas in response to the site,” explained Weaver.
“Our studio research will be directed towards the role that Kejimkujik – a geographical and cultural landscape collaged of indigenous/settler histories and contemporary realities – plays in the process of building personal, communal and national identities,” added Morris.
The NSCAD students left Halifax on August 25, 2019 for their week-long expedition. While in the park, they cultivated connections with the teachings of nature generously guided by Mi’kmaw Cultural Interpreters Jill Francis and Rose Muse. This included taking in a demonstration of traditional Mi’kmaw craft processes by Robbie McKewan; participating in a durational labour-based collaboration with Kinuk – an ongoing collaborative project between NSCAD alumni Angela Parsons and Ursula Johnson, and much more.
Some of the most impactful moments of the course were the interim between programs: road trips, living together in tents, cooking for one another, and sharing stories.
“The aim of this course is to cultivate life-long appreciation of the wilderness and to celebrate the intersection between the natural world and the visual arts,” explains sprague. “This class continues to gain in popularity, which demonstrates a growing student interest in unique integrative approaches to learning and sharing knowledge like this one – experiences that push the boundaries of conventional learning.”
The goals of the NSCAD and Parks Canada partnership are twofold: have students engage with a place that is at once a National park, a National historic site, and the only old growth forest left in Nova Scotia; and to have students create artworks inspired by the immersive park experience and a reimagined way of learning, enriched by collaboration and informed by relationship with place.
The works produced during this project will be showcased in a professional exhibition at the Anna Leonowens Gallery from November 19-30, with an opening on Monday, November 18 from 5:30-7 p.m.
For more information on this project, or other NSCAD programming, visit www.nscad.ca.