There was a certain melancholy associated with attending the opening of the “last” College of the North Atlantic Visual Arts exhibition on Wednesday night.
Graduates and other students of the program had some great works on display that represented a number of media as it has for decades, yet there was a feeling of unease, not only for the last students of the program but also the instructors.
The students will likely be OK as they move on to more challenges in their lives. The instructors also have challenges before them, especially if they want to continue in their current occupation. That could possibly mean a change of scenery, even if they like what a small town like Stephenville has to offer.
There was a great vision by the people who started the Visual Arts program in Stephenville many years ago and instructors who have seen it through decades of educating students in different disciplines. Of course there are others who believe the arts can’t exist outside the larger centres in the province and unfortunately the numbers enrolling likely led to the demise of the program.
Through things like the arts and music — considered to be a luxury when times are tough — there is still a lot to be said about the culture and the arts can do for a community.
The Stephenville Theatre Festival, the longest-running live theatrical festival in this province with strong roots in the town, is living proof that the arts can work in a town the size of Stephenville. The Stephenville Rotary Music Festival, though having a one-year absence in 2013, is back and running well is more proof with a successful event just completed. Bay Theatre is hosting the 64th Annual Provincial Drama Festival this week and despite some challenges a few years back, is now chugging along and promises a good event.
While the Visual Arts program at College of the North Atlantic is a sadly a casualty of the restructuring of the 2013 provincial budget, those involved in the formation of the program and its many years of operation should still hold their heads high.
For decades it was a mainstay of the college, even having an individual building dedicated to what was taught. Great works and some talented students came out of the program and in the end it will be a loss to the community.