Friends of NSCAD University

October 20, 2011 Subject: THE FUTURE OF NSCAD UNIVERSITY

Dear Friends,

NSCAD University is Canada’s oldest fine art degree granting university, and the only independent institution offering a full range of undergraduate and graduate programming in visual art and design east of Ontario.

As you may know, Howard Windsor, the former Policy Analyst with Labour and Advanced Education for the province of Nova Scotia, has been appointed by the Minister of Advanced Education to examine the future of NSCAD University. Mr. Windsor has been given an open mandate by the Minister to propose a fate for the school which may include the termination of programs to wholesale or fragmented mergers with other provincial institutions. 2012 marks NSCAD University’s 125th birthday, and we need your support in ensuring another 125 years for one of North America’s leading autonomous art and design institutions.

We are appealing to you to help communicate to the Province of Nova Scotia why NSCAD University’s continued existence is important to you. Please let the Premier of Nova Scotia, Darrell Dexter and the Minister of Labour and Advanced Education Marilyn More, a know how NSCAD University has contributed to the vitality of visual culture locally, nationally and internationally.

Please forward this message to those who may be able to play a part in supporting NSCAD University as an autonomous institution.


–‘Friends of NSCAD’ on Facebook



  1. James Hare says:

    I attended NSCADU between 2002 and 2005. Let me first say that I received excellent technical instruction from the professors and professional staff. I truly enjoyed my time at this institution. At the same time I have great reservations about the program offered by fine art departments and institutions at the post secondary level. I have in during my education (undergraduate and masters) attended 4 separate institutions, OCAD, NSCADU, USASK and a school in Germany so I feel I have a somewhat unique experience as a student. As such I feel that all the Canadian schools were failing in their core mandate of providing instruction in becoming an artist. All of the curriculum taught focused on skills and ideas, which as an instructor I know are easy to teach. What they failed utterly to do is to pass along the skills necessary to survive as a professional artist. When I attended there was no instruction in pricing work, negotiating studio leases, international shipping of work, marketing, small business management, artist and the tax system, grant writing, how to read contracts or all the myriad of skills that are of daily need to people trying to survive by their wits and hands. This is an absolutely huge and perennial failure of art schools in Canada which only tentative steps have been made in addressing.

    Rather schools such as Emily Carr, NSCADU, OCAD, and ACAD have focused their attention on the degree. They have moved away from their stated goal of providing professional training to people who want to be professional artists and instead focused the qualification rather then quality in their graduates. For this reason I can not support the continued funding and support of these institutions. They have failed in a very real way their graduates and the wider public to whom they owe their funding. I believe the future for art training is apprenticeships and smaller institutions not offering degrees and instead focusing on ensuring graduates have the much needed skills to take their talent and truly succeed on the world stage.

    • ceramicfundamentalist says:

      interesting – i attended nscad from 1998-2001 and did two courses on these topics. if memory serves one was called “art and entrepreneurship”, and the other “product design workshop”, but i may be wrong there. also, nscad has excellent opportunities for students to market their work before ever setting foot into the professional art world – two examples are the summer art store (which may have turned into a year round thing after i left?) and departmental art sales and fundraisers. These opportunities were light-years beyond those given to student at the three other (canadian) post-secondary art insitiutions i have been a part of. i left nscad with a decent sense of entrepreneurialism and professionalism, and have made it work for myself. perhaps you never availed yourself of these academic and extracurricular opportunities while you were a student?

      i can’t agree more that nova scotia, and for that matter the rest of canada, needs nscad. it is an incubator of art and culture with unquantifiable effect.

  2. James Hare says:

    Hi ceramicfundamentalist,

    I appreciate your response to my post. When I attended NSCAD the art store was just reestablishing itself after being closed I believe. I remember it being a student run facility at the time. Obviously its been a while. I agree that there were courses on business and art. I’d have to check on the product design class and I know that the art and entrepreneurship class did run at least once while I was there. I’m not disagreeing with your point (or excusing myself for not taking this class) that there were options for taking some business orientated courses. I think the biggest complaint I have is that there were business orientated classes. The need for these classes to be specialized and in addition to regular program is the problem. Why hasn’t this business training been integrated fully and appropriately into the regular curriculum? Why have them as separate courses or single specialized classes? If the goal of the school is to train artists isn’t this a fundamental part of being an artist? I’m not saying that what was taught wasn’t very valuable, it was, but the program was incomplete. Every class should have some gearing towards function as NSCADU was supposed to be more a technical college then a theoretical university. I went there to learn skills to become a professional as I’m certain you did as well. No where else offered the degree of hands on training that the art college did, but if that is why it is funded by provincial funding and student tuition, to give potential artists a way into the field then I feel that a lot of money is being misspent. I guess for me the proof is in the pudding. If NSCADU’s program of education was truly effective then more people would be able to continue as artists after graduation. The numbers both from stats Canada and if you dig through the provinces education numbers point to a problem the school is having attaining its stated goals. I hope that NSCADU can adapt and survive the current climate but I worry that the resistance to change inside academic institutions (all universities here) will prove to great to allow for the necessary changes to occur. Thoughts?

    James Hare

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