NSCAD: The inside scoop at Canada's East Coast visual arts university

HALIFAX, NS - SEPT 16TH, 2014 - Student life at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. PICTURED: Angela Penton, 4th year metal smithing.  PHOTOGRAPH BY ANDREW TOLSON

Photograph by Andrew Tolson

Mollie Cronin, 21
Art History

With parents who were both NSCAD alumni as well as faculty, I’ve grown up around NSCAD, but even today, I still discover new spaces in the buildings. A school that supports a diversity of practices—offering not only ceramics and art history but hybrid classes like digital textiles and craft and food—NSCAD University has many faces, and this is reflected in the complexity of its campuses. Formerly a row of Victorian shops, NSCAD’s downtown Fountain Campus is a labyrinth at best. While I found it very difficult to navigate at first, I am now excited by the shortcuts that appear almost every day, or by new art installations that pop up in unexpected places.

At the tail end of the campus is the Anna Leonowens Gallery, named after NSCAD’s founder (a former governess to the king of Siam, she was also the inspiration for the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I). The small gallery predominantly shows student work and hosts more than 125 shows a year, and its Monday-night openings are a weekly rendezvous for the Halifax arts community. Attending these openings has become a routine of mine, and always begins with pints at a nearby pub with friends, family and my favourite professors.

In keeping with the diversity and unorthodox nature of their campuses, NSCAD students tend to congregate in unorthodox places. Whether working in the studios, chatting with professors over beer in the conveniently adjoining Split Crow pub or rubbing elbows at the student galleries, the makers, writers and activists that make up NSCAD’s community are a tight-knit bunch. And a good thing too—it’s close quarters.

With a politically engaged student body and an active student union, there are lots of ways to get involved at NSCAD. The queer, feminist and indigenous collectives meet weekly and are always open to new members.

In addition to the Anna, students can also show work in the NSCAD Microgallery, housed in a hole in the wall of one of Fountain Campus’s many stairways.
Want more? Take or swap supplies and clothes at the Love Dumpster, stock up on snacks at the NSCAD Pantry or take a selfie with one of the stone lions at the Fountain Campus entrance.

City Vibe
As the largest city on Canada’s east coast, Halifax has big-city perks with a small-town vibe. With several universities, Halifax houses a large student population, giving the city a youthful energy and active nightlife, helped by the fact that Halifax boasts more bars per capita than any Canadian city. In a bonus related to its size, everything is within walking distance.

The Skinny
Check out TheCoast.ca for local gossip, news and cool events.