The earliest mention found of the Canadian Association of Fine Arts Deans appeared in the University of Victoria's campus newspaper, The Ring, in 2006.
"The late Peter Smith (who retired from UVic in 1999) was a member of the Canadian Association of Fine Arts Deans, and the organization's president from 1975-77. 'It was a funny organization, because there were only about five of us--only about five faculties of fine arts in Canada. We met under the International Conference of Fine Arts Deans, and sounded much more important than we actually were. But we may have had a minor role to play in shaping national cultural policy at that time. I can remember having a long and passionate conversation with Lister Sinclair, who was then vice-president of CBC, about the role the arts should play in radio and television in Canada,' Smith recalled."
CAFAD met regularly with the International Council of Fine Arts Deans (ICFAD) in the early years, as Peter Smith explained. Maurice Yacowar, a Dean of Fine Arts at the University of Calgary, recalled attending such meetings in Amsterdam and in New Zealand. However, Joyce Zemans who was Dean of Fine Arts at York from 1985 – 88 recalls hosting a CAFAD meeting at York at some point during her tenure and Mary Blackstone said it was her impression in 1990 that there had been regular yearly CAFAD meetings for some time. In 1989, CAFAD joined American colleagues for the annual ICFAD meeting in Ottawa, possibly the first time ICFAD met in a Canadian city. Canadian participants took great pride in an enthusiastic rendition of Oh Canada at the Saturday night banquet.
The first CAFAD Symposium was hosted by Dalhousie University in 1990. The topic was "Art in the Schools" and the Chair, John P. L. Roberts, organized a full day of presentations by members and guests. Roberts was a very pro-active for his three year term, reflecting a previous decision that "CAFAD should be more dynamic." Following a distinguished career in Music at the CBC, he was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Calgary in 1987.
It was at the 1990 Halifax meeting that members voted to engage Mary Hughes as a part time manager. Attendees included:
Mary Blackstone, University of Regina
Gordon Jones, Memorial University of Newfoundland
Alan Hughes, University of Victoria
Alice Mansell, University of Western Ontario
Joy Cohnstaedt, York University
Neil Armstrong, The Banff Centre
Raymond Montpetit, Université du Québec à Montréal
Maurice Yacowar. Emily Carr Institute
William Godfrey, Mount Allison University
Vondis Miller, University of Lethbridge
John Roberts, University of Calgary
Elvira Gonnella, Dalhousie University
Richard Wedgewood, University of Manitoba – School of Music
Joseph Culliton, University of Windsor
There were 23 institutions on the membership list in the fall of 1990 although only a handful had paid a membership fee. A year later when the first newsletter appeared, there were 31 fully paid members. There was small but steady growth through the 1990s with membership reaching 40 institutions for the first time in the 1997 despite an increase in fees from $65 to $80. Grant MacEwan College and Augustana University College were the first colleges to join CAFAD.
The first newsletter, just four pages long, came out in Winter 1991.
The struggle to resolve the creative research dilemma is referred to in the Minutes of the 1990 AGM, which are the earliest Minutes in CAFAD's files. Chair John Roberts suggested that a Committee be struck to study problems with the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and Canada Council guidelines and jurisdictions. Alice Mansell, Joy Cohnstaedt and Vondis Miller agreed to serve, with Mary Blackstone as Chair.
Dean Mary Blackstone prepared a brief for CAFAD on these funding issues in the fall of 1991 and submitted it to SSHRC and the Canada Council. Dr. Blackstone continued her efforts in this direction over several years, including the year she served as Chair of CAFAD. She reported in December of 1993 that the joint Canada Council-SSHRC Committee was reviewing the 1991 brief. Two years later, CAFAD provided a response to the bi-Council report entitled, " A Review of Access to Support for the Fine Arts Community."
The AGM in 1992 was hosted by the University of Victoria with 18 attending, and in 1993 it took place at McMaster with the focus on "Sponsorship of the Arts".
Seth Feldman, Dean of Fine Arts at York took over as Chair in 1995, and for three years provided strong leadership for the continually growing group. Early efforts to set up a List Serve and a website began at the time.
Ryerson's Ira Levine was CAFAD's Chair from 1995 to 1996. He focused on CAFAD's participation in the Education International Catalogue, a project intended to give Canada's fine and performing arts schools and faculties a higher profile internationally.
Phillip Silver (York) and Christopher Jackson ( Concordia) were Co-Chairs after Levine followed by Barbara Lounder (NSCAD) and Sheila Petty, Dean, Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Regina. During the terms of these chairs, CAFAD's efforts were directed at the research/creation issue and working with SSHRC on the implementation of their pilot Research/Creation Grant project. Catherine Wild, Dean, Faculty of Fine Arts, Concordia University, took the chair in 2009.
Bob Cross took over as Executive Director in early 2011 and the Association management was assumed by his company, Megram Consulting Services Ltd.