Visual arts students at the College of the North Atlantic in Stephenville are lamenting the loss of their program.

The two-year course, established in 1980, was eliminated with the recent provincial budget cuts.

Second-year student Tanya Crocker said she and her classmates are disturbed by the decision.

"Most are very upset — angry," Crocker said. "A lot of people are thinking, well maybe it doesn't affect us, because we're already through the program, but it's just sad knowing that beginning artists of all different ages are not going to be able to go through this program and become [artists] and grow as artists."

Staff shocked

Instructor Lori Deeley said she was surprised at the decision to cut the program entirely.

"I was shocked, actually. We had just finished a program review and had come up with a really new and great revised program, and we were anxious to try it out this fall," Deeley said. "It doesn't look like that's going to happen."

Deeley was a high school art teacher for seven years before taking a position with the college. She said it's likely she will be back on the substitute teacher list once the program is gone.

According to Deeley, part of the appeal of the program was the community.

"I think part of the beauty of coming to Stephenville to a program like ours is that it's not so overwhelming — it's not a huge university setting with a lot of people," she said.

"They're in smaller classes that [are] more welcoming and they can get their feet wet — they can figure out if art is the path that they want to follow."

The CNA program had transfer agreements with the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax. Students were also able to transfer credits to Memorial University's Grenfell campus if they wanted to continue on to a Fine Arts degree.

Ripple effect

Deeley said cutting the program will be felt throughout the community.

"I think the community as a whole is losing more than just the Visual Arts program — the building itself is a hub of creativity in the Bay St. George area," Deeley said.

"It's going to have a huge effect on the community, and the province as a whole."

Deeley said the second-year students held their annual art show this week, where the graduating class is able to showcase their work throughout the two years.

"We had over 250 people from the community come out and support that exhibition. I have one student that sold almost $1,000 worth of her work in an hour and a half, so I think that speaks volumes about the community support," said Deeley.

"I think everyone has been very quiet, and I think we need to speak out — we need to voice our opinion on this and if it matters, then you need to tell someone."

The first-year students currently enrolled in the program will be able to finish the course next year, but there will not be anyone new admitted for the fall semester.