Wednesday, September 28, 2022

NSTT: Behind the Scenes

The Nova Scotia Talent Trust is a small-but-mighty organization that has supported over 1000 emerging artists to pursue their dreams in music, dance, literary arts, visual arts, theatre, and film.  Each year we receive hundreds of applications and award thousands of dollars in scholarships and special awards to the applicants who show the most potential in their respective disciplines.  But how does it all work?

Let’s start at the beginning:

How the Talent Trust began…

In 1944, members of the Halifax Ladies Club, along with voice teacher Dr. Ernesto Vinci, successfully advocated the city of Halifax and the province of Nova Scotia to provide financial support for vocalist Portia White to pursue studies in New York. Portia ascended to become one of the best singers of the 20th century. The province recognized the difference their support made in Portia White’s career and founded the Nova Scotia Talent Trust on May 2, 1944, to help other deserving and talented Nova Scotians succeed.

NSTT's first directors included provincial and municipal government representatives and its initial source of funds was a grant from the Province of Nova Scotia.  In 1994, the Talent Trust was restructured to include the Scholarship Selection Committee, an arm’s length group that would review the applications and disperse the scholarships. In 2002, the Board decided to appoint a Chair from the community.  Timothy C. Matthews was elected as the Board Chair, and now serves as Honourary Lifetime Director of Nova Scotia Talent Trust and Chair of the NSTT Foundation. The Talent Trust became fully independent and opened its own office in 2010.

Where does the scholarship and special award money come from?

The partnership between the Talent Trust and the government – specifically, Arts Nova Scotia – allows NSTT to direct nearly all financial resources to scholarships.  Arts NS covers NSTT’s administration expenses and contributes to the scholarship program.

Named Scholarships

The Arts Endowment Fund Scholarships are funded by the Creative Nova Scotia Leadership Council.  These five scholarships are $2,000 each.

The CN Community Fund Scholarship established this scholarship in 2021 with a grant of $25,000 that was invested in the NSTT Foundation.  This investment will fund the $1,000 annual named scholarship in perpetuity.

The Curtis Botham Scholarship is a one-time, $1,000 scholarship that was generously donated by visual artist and past Talent Trust recipient, Curtis Botham.

General Scholarships

In 2022, the Talent Trust awarded $59,000 in scholarships in addition to the named scholarships noted above.  This amount can vary year to year and is funded through several sources:

- Individual donations and community fundraisers: 39%

- Arts NS: 29%

- Foundations and corporate donations: 27% 

- NSTT Foundation: 5%

Special Awards

The 2011 Canada Games Young Artist of Excellence Awards were established in 2012 by the 2011 Canada Games Legacy Fund Committee.  This award of $10,000 was to be given to two recipients annually for 10 years.  2022 will be the final year for this award.  

Some of the special awards such as the RBC Emerging Artist / BIPOC Emerging Artist Award, Theatre NS Award, and Portia White Award are funded on an annual basis.  Other special awards, such as the Charlotte Wilson-Hammond/VANS Award, Kenneth Elloway Award, and Raymond Simpson Award are established with a donation and topped up annually by friends and family of the original donor.  The rest of the special awards such as the Shelagh MacKenzie Award and James Burchill Award are established with an investment to the NSTT Foundation.  The dividends of that investment funds the annual award in perpetuity. 


How are the scholarship and special award recipients chosen?

The Scholarship Selection Committee

The SSC is an arm’s length, volunteer group that is comprised of 12 professional artists from the disciplines of Music, Dance, Theatre, Film, Visual Arts, and Literary Arts.  Each member serves a 2-year term.

The SSC meets three times a year: twice to review scholarship applications, and once to determine the special awards recipients.

Once the applications have been submitted, the SSC members begin reviewing them independently using a scoring system.  Each member comes prepared to the meeting with a score and feedback for each applicant in their discipline. The applications are then reviewed again at the meeting and the SSC engages in collaborative discussion about each submission until a final score is agreed upon.

Dispersing the Funds

The Scholarship Selection Committee starts with the highest-scoring applicants and decides the amount of scholarship funding for each.  They do this by reviewing the applicant’s funding request and budget provided in the application.  Each year the funding requests far exceed the amount the Talent Trust has available, so the SSC members strive to allocate scholarship amounts that will make an impact in the artists’ studies.  The scholarship recipients are announced each September.

Special Award Selection

The Scholarship Selection Committee again reviews the applications of the scholarship recipients.  They are given a list of the available special awards and eligibility criteria for each.  The SSC then has a discussion to determine the recipient of each award, led by the SSC members representing the discipline for that particular award.  The recipients are announced at the Special Awards Ceremony each December.


What happens after someone wins a scholarship?

Emerging artists who have not completed their studies are welcome to apply again each year.  Once an artist completes their studies and/or becomes a professional artist, they become Talent Trust Alumni!  While they are no longer eligible to apply for a scholarship, the Talent Trust will continue to support and promote all past recipients.  Many past recipients stay involved with the Talent Trust by joining the Board, helping to fundraise, volunteering at live events, or being involved with special projects like our blog or Artist Spotlight.


Want to help support our scholarships? Check out our Raffle!

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Want to support the next generation of Nova Scotian artists? Donate today!

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