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Scholarship waiting in the wings for emerging Nova Scotia artists

The Nova Scotia Talent Trust has been supporting artists in everything from literature to dance, music, film, theatre and more for nearly 80 years
Caroline MacKeen wrote, directed and starred in the short film, 'The Watcher' — which helped her win a NSTT scholarship in 2022

The deadline is rapidly approaching for one of the province's longest running charities dedicated to handing out scholarships to emerging artists from Halifax to Port Hawkesbury to River Hebert and beyond.

The Nova Scotia Talent Trust is marking nearly 80 years of supporting Nova Scotians who exhibit a potential for talent and are pursuing a professional arts career with grants between $800 and $4,000.

“The one that is open now with a deadline of March 1, that is for studies that take place between May 1 and August 1,” explains executive director Andrea Urquhart of the spring/summer scholarships. “So all of the summer camps and all of those kind of summer intensives.”

To be eligible for a Nova Scotia Talent Trust scholarship, applicants can be from anywhere in the province, however they must be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident who has lived in Nova Scotia for at least two years prior to the date of application and has filed taxes in the province since 2021.

Successful applicants must also be “pre-professional” artists in such fields as music, theatre, literary arts, dance, visual arts as well as other mediums.

“You have to be an emerging artist so, for us, that is kind of defined as pre-professional — meaning you are not doing any exhibitions yet or you’re not signed with a big record label or you are not funded by somewhere like the Canada Council for the Arts,” explains Urquhart about who can apply. “As long as they’re an emerging artist that is still on their journey to become established in their field, then they are eligible.”

One such person who was not only eligible to apply but wound up receiving a scholarship last year was Caroline MacKeen.

The aspiring, young filmmaker was one of 45 Nova Scotians to be awarded a scholarship of $2,000 – funds that will help MacKeen continue with her film production studies over the next four years at Toronto's York University.

“I’m extremely grateful for receiving this because I feel like film is something I do have a genuine passion for, but even then there are always little doubts in the back of my mind because it’s such a challenging industry to get into,” says MacKeen, whose self-made short thriller, The Watcher, got her noticed by the NSTT judges.

“Being selected for this, it kind of blocks out these doubts in a way and it helps me push forward to achieving my goals.”

In particular, the Nova Scotia Talent Trust is unique because it welcomes applications from people who may be trying their first attempt to access funding for their work with little experience.

“We recognize that often this is the first time that a student or artist will be applying for any kind of funding,” Urquhart says, adding that even if an application isn’t perfectly put together, they’ll help support the process if it shows enough potential.

“It’s important for me personally that at this stage of an artist’s life that we don’t just scrap (their application) — that if there is a problem, we call them and give them a chance to improve because that’s just going to launch them into that next stage of their career.”

The NSTT scholarships support everything from university and college arts programs to summer intensives and camps or festivals as well as private studies for such things as private music or voice lessons.

However, they also support mentorships if it’s the right fit.

“Sometimes a professional artist has taken you under their wing and (will) kind of show you the ropes and so sometimes we can even fund that if there are other expenses like equipment or travel expenses or moving expenses,” adds Urquhart. “(So) they can even apply under a mentorship.”

For more information about the Nova Scotia Talent Trust, visit the website.

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