NSCAD University

Campus of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design

NSCAD University

One of Canada’s oldest independent cultural institutions, NSCAD University continues to be regarded as a principal center for education and research in visual culture in North America. Part of our appeal is the ever-present relationship of the old to the new, and our convenient location in the heart of downtown Halifax’s waterfront district.

Behind the Victorian facades of our main campus and the Academy Building – both open 24 hours a day, seven days a week – students create some of the most cutting-edge images and objects being made anywhere on the continent.

After an experimental foundation year, students gradually focus in order to become specialists in some aspect of art, craft, design or historical and critical studies. They are educated to think critically, to balance academic issues with practical concerns in the studio, and to explore how the visual arts give meaning to both individual and community life.

NSCAD University fosters close creative relationships among artists, designers, academics and the public, and takes on leadership responsibilities in the regional, national and international art communities.

Our graduates go on to join the ranks of the most interesting and successful artists of their generations. As the university embraces the new century, it is building on the strengths of its history, maintaining and intensifying traditional arts and crafts while capitalizing on the many new technologies shaping the world and human interaction. A significant expansion currently underway will soon make NSCAD Canada’s largest centre for graduate programs in the visual arts.

We believe the next phase of modernity in the visual arts has begun, and it is our full intention to play a role in its formation. Things are happening behind those Victorian facades.


NSCAD University is wrapped in history – the distinctive stone, iron, concrete and brick facades of our Granville Campus are a daily reminder that we are one of Canada’s oldest independent cultural institutions.

Now well over a century old, NSCAD was once a twinkle in the eye of Oscar Wilde, who advocated art education during a well-publicized lecture tour that brought him to Halifax in 1882. But NSCAD owes its existence to another dynamic international personality, British teacher Anna Leonowens, who is best known for her years as a tutor for the King of Siam, immortalized in numerous stage and film productions of The King and I.

After her adventures in Asia, Leonowens relocated to Halifax and turned her energies toward establishing visual and literary culture in her adopted city, a former military base where the fine arts were virtually nonexistent in the latter half of the 19th century. In 1887, Leonowens and a committee of fellow citizens founded the Victoria School of Art and Design, commemorating Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee with an artistic enterprise that would have a lasting impact on the city’s cultural, industrial and educational life.

The school offered instruction in the fine and industrial arts, art education training to public school teachers, and Saturday morning children’s art classes, a tradition that continues today. The first classes were held in the Union Bank building at the corner of Hollis and Prince Streets and in 1890, the school rented three rooms in the Halifax Academy. It moved again in 1903 to the Old National School (now the Five Fishermen restaurant) near Grand Parade Square, where it remained for 54 years.

NSCAD boasts a long list of impressive school principals and presidents, including Arthur Lismer, member of the influential Group of Seven painting movement. During his 1916 to 1919 tenure, his artist friends from Toronto traveled east to offer lectures and demonstrations, and the school hosted exhibitions featuring the best in contemporary Canadian and British art. In 1925 under the direction of the school‘s first female principal, Elizabeth Styring Nutt, it was renamed the Nova Scotia College of Art and incorporated by Provincial charter. By 1957, post-war growth prompted the college’s next move, to a large four-storey church hall on Coburg Road near Dalhousie University, which saw a six-story expansion for studios and galleries in 1968.


NSCAD occupies three unique campuses in downtown Halifax: 200,000 square feet of heritage space on two sites in the heart of downtown Halifax, and 70,000 square feet at our new waterfront Port Campus.

The Granville Campus

Our Granville campus is housed in the Historic Properties district, adjacent to the scenic boardwalks of Halifax Harbour. The Victorian terrace-style campus – the only one of its kind in North America – is an interconnected row of 23 former merchant shops and warehouses bounded by Hollis and Duke Streets and the cobblestone Granville pedestrian terrace. Full of character and many mysterious nooks and stairwells, the interiors are open, rugged and hospitable, and have adapted well to varied needs.

The Academy Building

In 2003, NSCAD added another historic gem to its campus: the Academy Building at 1649 Brunswick St., a short walk from the main campus. Built in 1878, the former high school houses Canada’s first degree-granting film school east of Montreal. The building occupies 25,000 square feet and features distinctive dormer windows and granite accents. Studios at the main campus and the Academy are accessible to students 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Port Campus

Anchoring the new arts and culture district, the Port Campus is a successful brown-field development that incorporates most of the original warehouse structure while housing safe and efficient teaching spaces. Students, artists and the community at large are benefitting from the experience and precision of this modern industrial setting.

Arts and Culture

Anna Leonowens Gallery

Named after NSCAD’s Victorian founder—feisty heroine of film and theatre productions of The King and I—the Anna Leonowens Gallery is the public exhibition space and resource centre on campus. Three public galleries are devoted to the exhibition of contemporary studio and media art, craft and design, and curatorial projects generated exclusively within the university community. Weekly exhibitions primarily feature student work, with occasional shows by faculty members, visiting artists and curators, and two-week graduate thesis projects.

The gallery mounts 125 exhibitions per year on average, consistently attracting more than 20,000 visitors annually with a busy street-level location on a pedestrian mall in Halifax’s downtown core. Due to the gallery’s high profile, many exhibitions are reviewed by local, regional and national media outlets and arts journalists.

Port Loggia Gallery

In conjunction with the Anna Leonowens Gallery programming, we are pleased to announce the activation of Port Loggia Gallery, a dynamic new exhibition space located at NSCAD University’s Port Campus.

The Port Loggia aims to maintain an engaging program of student, staff and alumni led projects that can be viewed by visitors passing through the Halifax SeaPort. Vaulted ceilings, diffuse natural light, and a high-profile location make The Port Loggia Gallery an ideal presentation space for works in a variety of media.

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