"Im very committed to small art and design institutions. They're becoming rare," says Dianne Taylor-Gearing, the incoming president of NSCAD University. She will succeed Dr. David O'Brien in August, bringing decades of experience in arts administration to the school.
From the UK and currently in administration at the Alberta College of Art and Design, Taylor-Gearing is familiar with challenges faced by arts institutions in Canada and abroad. "It's not just NSCAD," she says. "The whole sector has been under tremendous stress since 2008. One of the biggest issues is financial sustainability. There's been such a reliance on arts institutions being publicly funded and working within that resource envelope, and there are more pressures of accountability for that public funding, and it's a significant culture change."
In the past few years, NSCAD has been struggling with budget cuts, deficits in the millions, space scarcity, personnel issues and rising tuition rates. As provincial budgets are reduced, there are growing concerns and need to increase community appreciation of the arts.
"It's really about raising awareness with the public at large of the value that such institutions bring to communities, that it isn't just local or short-term," she says. NSCAD alumni, for instance, contribute to the creative economy, become faculty in other institutions and add value to every industry in unrecognized ways. "It's very far-reaching and it's been embedded deep into the culture, and certainly beyond Canada. I do bring an international network with me."
Taylor-Gearing has experience working with academic arts communities: she founded the Strood Academy School in Kent and helped develop the Medway Cultural Partnership. "I've always worked with local communities, bringing community stakeholders together and developing strategic plans with local governments," she says. "I'm committed to access and recognizing diversity, providing accessibility in the widest sense. Often, academia doesn't always open their doors: I'm very open, I invite people in. I get the sense NSCAD is the heart of the community."
Moving to Halifax with her husband Colin, a graphic designer and musician, Taylor-Gearing has a "learning plan" to get to know NSCAD, with which she is already quite familiar. "There are only four of us---NSCAD, ACAD, OCAD and Emily Carr---and we're quite connected and I think there is an opportunity to develop more cooperation," she says. "Arts and culture has always been an integral part of an educational offer. We should celebrate the good stories and positive benefits, and find ways to share them, recognize them and value them."
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