Fonds F-109 - School for the Contemporary Arts fonds

Title and statement of responsibility area

Title proper

School for the Contemporary Arts fonds

General material designation

  • Photographic materials
  • Graphic materials
  • Textual records
  • Moving images

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  • Source of title proper: The title of the fonds is based on the name of its creator.

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Edition area

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Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)

Dates of creation area


  • 1964 - 2007 (Creation)
    School for the Contemporary Arts

Physical description area

Physical description

6.7 m of textual records
ca. 1.4 m of photographic material
390 posters
305 moving images
24 sound recordings

Publisher's series area

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Archival description area

Name of creator

(1965 - )

Administrative history

The School for the Contemporary Arts is a department within the university's Faculty of Arts committed to the study, production and promotion of contemporary art. The School offers a graduate Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree, and undergraduate programs in art and culture, dance, film, music, theatre and visual art. Exhibit and performance are integral to the curriculum. The School also includes the Praxis Centre for Screenwriters; located in downtown Vancouver, Praxis is a non-profit organization devoted to the professional development of Canadian screenwriters and filmmakers.

The School's history can be divided into three broad periods: its origins as a Centre within the Faculty of Education in the university's early years (1965-1969); its years as an independent Centre emphasizing public-events programming (1970-1976); and its formation as an academic unit offering credit courses and degree programs (1976-).

In the university's first year of operation (1965), the Faculty of Education was organized into several Centres, including the Communications Centre (renamed the Centre for Communications and the Arts in 1966). The Centre's mandate included instructional programming (credit and non-credit courses in communications, media studies and the fine and performing arts) and public programming (theatre productions, films, art exhibits, lectures and demonstrations). In the fine and performing arts, artists were engaged as faculty and university residents, accessible to students and the university community through performances, exhibits, workshops, seminars and special events.

Over 1969 and 1970 the Faculty of Education reorganized; the Centre transferred out of the Faculty and reported instead first to the Director of General Studies, then to the Director of University Services (1971). The Centre retained its functions of public-events programming and provision of non-credit, non-degree instruction in the arts, while academic credit programming was transferred to the newly formed Department of Communication Studies in the Faculty of Education. During this period, the Centre focussed its energies on organizing the cultural life of the university, with an extensive series of public programs, including a full-scale production of Henry Purcell's 17th-century opera, "Dido and Aeneas" in 1973. The Purcell String Quartet became the SFU's Quartet-in-Residence in 1972, an association that continued until 1982.

In 1976 the Centre was reorganized as the Centre for the Arts, a department within the Faculty of Interdisciplinary Studies. Its mandate was to develop credit programs in the fine and performing arts, while inheriting its predecessor's public-programming functions, including management of both the university Theatre and Art Gallery. In 1984 the Centre sustained a large funding cut, approximately a third of its budget. Its home faculty -- the Faculty of Interdisciplinary Studies -- was disbanded in 1985 and the Centre moved to the Faculty of Arts. Despite these circumstances, the Centre continued to develop its academic programs, and in addition established strong professional development programs with the the annual Summer Institute series of intensive programs (1986-1994) and the Praxis Centre for Screenwriting (1986-).

In 1990 the Centre changed its name to the present form, the School for the Contemporary Arts. In the same year, the School created a graduate Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree.

Custodial history

The records were in the continuous custody of the School and its predecessors prior to transfer to the University Archives.

Scope and content

The fonds consists of records relating to activities of the School and its predecessors. Activities and events documented include the evolution of the department's structure, functions and governance; management of the School's budget and financial resources; management of School facilities; deliberations of School committees; correspondence of the Director with staff, faculty, other university departments and external organizations; curriculum development and course instruction; public-events programming; management of faculty and student relations; media relations, publicity and communications; and the organization of conferences and other special events.

Records include correspondence and reports; budgets and financial working papers; meeting agendas, minutes and supporting papers; course outlines and related material; media releases, event programs, flyers and booklets; audio and audio-visual recordings, films, photographs, posters and other graphic material; and departmental publications, including annual reports (1965-1976), course guides, newsletters and brochures.

Notes area

Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition

The records were acquired by the Archives through the application of university Records Retention Schedules and Disposal Authorities (RRSDAs).


The arrangement of the fonds into series and sub-series was provided by the archivist in May 2003. Series 4 (Committee files), 5 (Director's correspondence), 6 (Curriculum and instruction files), 7 (Public programming files), 12 (Photographs) and 13 (Publications and posters) are based on the creator's original groupings. Other series were established by the archivist to provide structure to the bulk of "subject files" transferred by the creator. Prior to 2012, most of the audio and audio-visual recordings (inlcuding student films and related textual case files) were maintained in separate media collections; these were discontinued and the material ntegrated into the fonds as series 14 in 2012.

Language of material

    Script of material

      Location of originals

      Availability of other formats

      Restrictions on access

      Some files may contain personal or confidential information. Access to these files may be restricted as required by law. Files marked 'pending review' must be reviewed by an archivist prior to release, and as a result of the review access restrictions may apply. Please see the file lists and consult the archivist for more details.

      Access to audio and audio-visual materials in analog format (film, video, audio reel, audio-cassette) is restricted due to the fragility of the media; consult with the reference archivist for more information about accessing these materials.

      Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

      Finding aids

      File lists are available. Item lists are available for all audio and audio-visual records. Amoung textual records, the archivist described down to the item level only in selective cases to identify significant reports and other documents. Please be aware that the textual item lists are not exhaustive; they do not list every report contained in the fonds and were prepared only to facilitate searches.

      For non-textual records (audio and audio-visual material), item lists are available. Director, cast and production crew credits are registered as access points where the information was available; please see Appendix A for an access points index.

      Generated finding aid

      Associated materials

      Records relating to the School's predecessor, the Centre for Communications and the Arts, may also be found in the Faculty of Education fonds (F-22) and the School of Communications fonds (F-92, not yet processed). Thomas J. Mallinson was Chair of the Centre for Communications and the Arts from 1967 to 1969; his personal papers are held by the Archives as fonds F-124. Some courses that became part of the School's curriculum were previously taught through the School of Kinesiology (see fonds F-60). For material relating to the School's tenure in the Faculty of Interdisciplinary Studies, see that Faculty's fonds (F-23). The Art Gallery was orginally part of the School's predecessor; for material relating to it after its separation from the School, see the Art Gallery fonds (F-90, not yet processed).


      As of September 2012, 5.4 m of additional material have been accessioned but not yet processed. Please consult the reference archivist for information about using these materials; restrictions may apply. Further accruals are expected.

      General note

      Predominant dates of textual records in the fonds are 1965-1994. Sound recordings, moving images and graphic materials (posters, flyers and brochures) date up to 2007.

      Photographs are predominantly located in series F-109-12 (ca. 1.37 m). Other series that includes photographs are 5-5 (Departmental correspondence – film program), 6-4 (Summer Symposium files), 7-1 (Public programming – general files), 7-5 (Purcell String Quartet files), and 7-6 (Dido and Aeneas opera files).

      General note

      Financial assistance for the arrangement and description of the records and production of the finding aid was generously provided by the Government of Canada through the National Archives of Canada and the Canadian Council of Archives' Control of Holdings Program (March 2003).

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      Dates of creation, revision and deletion

      Jan 2020: photographic material re-housed to flat storage, locations updated.
      Jan 2015: scope & content for item F-109-14-2-1-0-92 was revised, and a physical description note added and scope & content removed for item F-109-14-2-1-0-111.
      Sep 2012: items re-numbered, minor revisions to extents and descriptions.
      Feb 2006: finding aid updated.
      Mar 2003: finding aid prepared.

      Language of description

        Script of description


          Accession area