Jacob Sampson, Kat McCormack and Martha Cooley all took new, top-brass roles at Halifax art organizations during the pandemic.

Halifax shoots a new scene

More and more artistic directors are leaving Halifax's galleries and festivals, changing the cultural sector in the process.

The wind is bending, the tides are pulling: A newness in the air as sure as a change in season is descending on Halifax’s art scene, as familiar names and longtime community pillars vacate top posts at galleries, organizations and festivals all over town. The reasons for leaving aren’t clear-cut or widely applicable: This isn’t an ousting. But, the high level of turnover means the changes will still be felt, as the reins are given to new hands and directions inevitably alter (even if only slightly). Many organizations have yet to announce who’ll be taking over for the vacating artistic directors, and there’s been a variance in how public the leaving of posts has been. So far, here’s the list of changing posts in Halifax’s cultural sector throughout the pandemic:

Shakespeare By The Sea announced in April that its last working co-founder, Elizabeth Murphy, would be retiring from the long-running, seasonal theatre. "I'm so happy to be able to say I did something nice for Halifax," she told The Coast on the heels of the announcement, adding her current co-artistic directors Drew Douris-O'Hara and Jesse MacLean will helm the ship henceforth.

Lindsay Cory stepped down as executive director of Nocturne—the annual, independent contemporary art festival—this May, after five years in the role. Cory’s replacement is yet to be announced, while she’s moving on to the role of Public Art Developer for Halifax Regional Municipality. (Full disclosure: Cory also worked as part of the events staff on Team Coast for a number of years.)

Peter Dykhuis announced he’d be leaving his post as director and curator of the Dalhousie Univeristy Art Gallery back in March 2022, telling The Coast at the time that he was excited to focus on his work at the indie Hermes Gallery co-op (which Dykhuis is a longtime member of). It’s unannounced at this time who is replacing Dykhuis at Dal.

The FIN Atlantic International Film Festival saw the exit of longtime showrunner Wayne Carter in March. His role will be filled by Martha Cooley, who has over a decade’s worth of experience in the city’s indie film scene, thanks to her time overseeing the Atlantic Filmmakers Co-Operative. This deck-shuffle does, of course, mean AFCOOP is now looking for its new head.

In the heart of 2020, Halifax stage stalwart 2b Theatre made the move to dismantle its current structure, creating room and new roles for marginalized artists. After three core team members departed—including one of the organization’s co-founders—2b recently brought in two new faces: Executive Director LaMeia Reddick and Associate Artistic Director Jacob Sampson.

During the height of COVID, Eastern Front Theatre did what many attempting to shelter in place were doing and moved home—that being downtown Dartmouth, at Alderney Landing Theatre. Along with the move, Kat McCormack took the role of artistic director.

These weren’t the only theatre organizations to make changes during the pandemic, of course. Halifax’s Keep Good (Theatre) saw its artistic co-director Laura Vingoe-Cram taking to Parrsborro as incoming artistic director for Ship’s Company Theatre.

Meanwhile, Lee-Ann Poole, executive director of the Halifax Fringe Festival, is helming her last fest this September before bringing someone new into the role. Poole will be returning to the gutsy and resonant theatre work she built a career on—and people have until July 8 to apply to be her replacement.

Over at The Khyber Centre for the Arts, co-director Bria Miller stepped down in May (though the organization is quick to say that Miller’s fingerprints will remain over the space for a long time to come, between upcoming showcases and the impact they imparted during their tenure). Applications for co-director are open until the end of the month.

Robin Metcalfe departed from his longtime post as curator at the Saint Mary’s University Art Gallery in 2021—a change of the guard so core-shaking that, immediately, rumors of the gallery’s impending closure began swirling in the visual arts community. SMU has debunked that talk on record with The Coast, saying COVID was causing delays in appointing a replacement for Metcalfe. After re-opening briefly to show a triumph of a show by Sobey Art Award shortlister Lou Sheppard this February, the gallery has since shut its doors for renovations. The space is expected to be open in July 2022.

About The Author

Morgan Mullin

Morgan is the Arts & Entertainment Editor at The Coast, where she writes about everything from what to see and do around Halifax to profiles of the city’s creative class to larger cultural pieces. She’s been with The Coast since 2016.

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