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NSCAD University celebrates 125 years of art education with Back to School Special, a weekend of music and art that shows off some of their history.

click to enlarge NSCAD alum Ghettosocks is true to his school. - ANGELA GZOWSKI

When you think of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, chances are music isn't the first thing that pops into your mind. But two years ago when it came time to plan the school's 125-year anniversary, it became apparent to Linda Hutchison, Director of University Relations, and Peter Wünsch, President of NSCAD's Alumni Association, just how rich the college's musical history was.

From Sarah McLachlan to Jimmy Rankin, to early performances by Sonic Youth, Thrush Hermit and Sloan, it seemed like the college was producing more than just the typical fine-art graduates.

So in honour of the school's artistic---and musical---history, the NSCAD Alumni Association is hosting a charity event called the Back to School Special, a weekend concert and special exhibits to celebrate the school's 125-year history.

The festivities begin Friday with a 24-hour film festival, as well as a VIP opening night reception where descendants of Anna Leonowens (the school's co-founder and subject of The King and I) will be unveiling the ring famously given to her by the King of Siam.

To further celebrate Leonowens' contribution to the school, Wünsch and alumni have organized what he refers to as a "flash mob-y style" event called ANNAmotion LOGOmotion. On Saturday, 143 volunteers will be given a "stadium style" flash card and stand on Citadel Hill to create an animation of the NSCAD 125-year anniversary logo, as well as portrait of Leonowens herself, which will be activated at the firing of the noon gun.

But the real focus of the event is the Saturday night concert.

Curated by NSCAD graduate Jenn Grant and hosted at the Granville Mall, the outdoor set includes performances by Buck 65, Matt Mays, Acres and Acres, Ria Mae, Tanya Davis and NSCAD alum Darren Pyper---AKA Ghettosocks.

Pyper, who came to NSCAD in 2001, had always had an interest in rapping and producing. But after graduating high school and with no clear future, he visited a friend in Halifax and fell in love with the city. He decided to enroll in the school's graphic design program, graduating with a degree in media arts a few years later.

He says that his music career wouldn't be the same if it hadn't been for his studies at NSCAD.

"There's a freedom there to sort of explore different areas," he says. "That's the nature of NSCAD. They're very open and allow you to discover what your calling is."

And although Pyper ultimately became a musician, he continues to use the skills he developed at NSCAD in his music career. His upcoming album---For You Pretty Things---will feature a hardcover book of personal designs and illustrations, as well as lyrical transcriptions. He's even in talks with the Art Gallery of Ontario for a future speaking engagement and art exhibition.

NSCAD hopes to raise $30,000 in proceeds from the event, which Hutchison says will go back to restoring the school's facilities. But the ultimate goal of the event is to raise awareness about the school's importance in the community.

"It's really about celebrating 125 years of NSCAD in Nova Scotia in a sense, and how integral our history is with the history of the province," Hutchison says.

And Wünsch hopes the event will attract more than just alumni, students and staff.

"We have flown under the radar for a long time," he says. "I think it would be much more interesting right now for NSCAD to open up and share what it does more broadly with the public."

Back to School Special w/Buck 65, Ghettosocks, Matt Mays, Ria Mae, Tanya Davis, and Acres and Acres, Saturday, September 22 at Granville Mall, 1891 Granville Street, 6pm, $30,


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