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 long-time 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. Her role in her 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 Theater 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 Theater did what many attempting to shelter in place were doing and moved home—that being downtown Dartmouth, at Alderney Landing Theater. Along with the move, Kat McCormack took the role of artistic director.
These weren’t the only theater 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 theater work she built a career on—and people have until July 8 to apply to be her replacement.
Over at The Khyber Center 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.