Nova Scotia

Plan to move NSCAD, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia to waterfront 'cultural hub'

The provincial government says the project will help make Nova Scotia a "world leader in visual arts." It will begin accepting proposals in the coming weeks.

Province touts 'iconic' project; Halifax art school, gallery, both eager to leave current locations

A new cultural hub is in the works for Halifax's waterfront.

A new "cultural hub" the provincial government says will help make Nova Scotia a "world leader in visual arts" is in the works for Halifax's waterfront.

The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and NSCAD University will both be moved from their current downtown Halifax locations to a new facility.

The project was announced Wednesday. A tender will be issued in the coming weeks to develop a detailed proposal that will consider where exactly the cultural hub should be located, how much it will cost, and look at issues like parking, according to Culture Minister Leo Glavine.

A co-location facility and feasibility study completed by Lord Cultural Resources indicates the two institutions are contemplating a joint facility on the Salter block of the waterfront. The report is strongly positive about that prospect.

"It is an opportunity to transform a parking lot on the waterfront of Halifax into a dynamic destination for creative innovation and contribute to the profound transformational changes remaking the city," reads the report.

NSCAD's president said the art and design school's two current downtown campuses aren't working for students, and it has "struggled" in particular with its location in Historic Properties.

"These properties are not accessible, we have deferred maintenance, and they were never really fit for purpose. We're excited to build something that is new," Dianne Taylor-Gearing said. "We have leaking roofs."

'The vision is very much for a one Nova Scotia arts and cultural destination,' said NSCAD president Dianne Taylor-Gearing. (CBC)

She said the cultural hub project is a "big vote of confidence in our future" for a university that faced deep budget problems only a few years ago and has managed to pull itself out of a financial hole.

The location of the cultural hub has not been finalized and the cost hasn't been determined. Premier Stephen McNeil said the provincial and federal governments will help fund the project, but he also expects it will require "significant private money." He also signalled some current NSCAD infrastructure "assets" could help with the bill.

While the Nova Scotia Art Gallery's current property belongs to the province, NSCAD's president said the school plans to sell its two downtown buildings.

The proposal for the new project, which will include a public consultation on a plan for public space, is expected to be completed this fall.

"Really, an iconic building that would give us a world-class opportunity to get collections from around the world to display in a modern art gallery," Glavine said.

A sign is seen outside the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia building in downtown Halifax.
The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia is currently located in downtown Halifax on Hollis Street, about a block away from the city's waterfront. (CBC)

The new space will also allow the province's art gallery to reimagine its purpose and allow for more art to be displayed, according to Colin Stinson, director of marketing and visitor experience at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

"A closer partnership with NSCAD will allow us to enhance the student experience and also the experience for the public as well," he said.

A new building will also allow for a better experience, he said.

"We do have some challenges with our facility," Stinson said of the gallery's current location on Hollis Street.

"At the moment we do have some leaks, air quality control issues, and a few other things that are happening behind the scenes that the public doesn't necessarily see, but are very prevalent in our day-to-day."


Marina von Stackelberg is a senior reporter at CBC's Parliamentary Bureau in Ottawa. She previously worked as a reporter and host in Winnipeg, with earlier stints in Halifax and Sudbury. Her stories regularly appear across the country on CBC Radio and CBC News Network. Connect with her by email at or on social media @CBCMarina.