Nova Scotia Festival of the Arts

With a provincial government grant of $2000, the festival began as a platform for professional and amateur Nova Scotia talent.

La Compagnie Gauthier Dance
La Compagnie Gauthier Dance (photo by David Asch).

Nova Scotia Festival of the Arts

 The Nova Scotia Festival of the Arts. An annual arts and crafts festival organized under the direction of Guy Henson (first president) and inaugurated in August 1956 at Tatamagouche, NS. It moved in 1968 to Wolfville and in 1970 to Halifax where it eventually became a regular feature in the summer activities of the Dalhousie University Arts Centre.

With a provincial government grant of $2000, the festival began as a platform for professional and amateur Nova Scotia talent. In its early days it featured freelance arts teachers, army bands, the Acadian Male Quartet, and such noted musicians as Francis Chaplin, Audrey Farnell, Gordon Macpherson, Diane Oxner, and Don Warner, all of whom donated their services. In 1962 the entertainment policy was changed and, with the help of a Canada Council grant, performers were paid. Subsequent guests have included John Allen Cameron, Maureen Forrester, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, Ed McCurdy, Catherine McKinnon, Murray McLauchlan, Alan Mills, the NYO, and Teresa Stratas.

During the early 1970s the festival was greatly expanded; a Halifax office was opened and efforts were made to take some of the activities to other parts of the province. The government, meanwhile, had repeated its initial grant with slight increases each year until 1973. At that time, the newly created Department of Recreation made a handsome expansion grant of $44,500. The festival responded and in 1975 the program listed more than 270 events during a nine-day period, but incurred a deficit of $17,000. The government thereupon curtailed its support and by 1978 the festival had retrenched to three days of mostly amateur performances. The festival ceased operations in 1979.

Festival presidents besides Guy Henson, were Isobel MacAuley, Rev Russell Elliott, Phyllis Stott 1969-72, Glen Hancock 1972-4, and John Barteaux 1974-5, succeeded by Dean Naugler.