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Acclaimed Canadian Craft Historian Leaves Legacy at Selkirk College

Bob Hall
By Bob Hall
September 20th, 2020

The legacy of a trailblazing craft historian who helped shape the field in Canada will live on through the Dr. Sandra Alfoldy Memorial Scholarship that aims to assist Selkirk College students studying in Kootenay Studio Arts programs.

Raised in Creston, Alfoldy was the first person to earn a PhD in Craft History from a Canadian university and co-founded the prestigious Nova Scotia College of Art & Design (NSCAD) Craft Institute, now called the Dr. Sandra Alfoldy Institute of Craft. She lost her battle with cancer in February 2019 at age 49.

To honour her legacy, Alfoldy’s family and friends will now offer an annual scholarship to assist Selkirk College students pursuing a career in craft.

“It is a privilege to offer a scholarship that celebrated the life of such an important member of the Canadian craft community,” says Daryl Jolly, Chair of the Selkirk College School of the Arts. “Now more than ever, it is important to support artists. We are incredibly grateful for the support of Dr. Alfoldy’s family and friends who have made this scholarship possible.”

Kootenay Roots and Passionate Outcomes

Nestled within picturesque mountain ranges and an atmosphere of acceptance that inspires creativity, it is no surprise that Kootenay communities produce world class artists. Alfoldy’s parents—Andy and Elaine—own and operate the Alfoldy Gallery in Creston where she was raised surrounded by the art and artists of region.

“At the age of 15, Sandra helped set up our show in the Langham Gallery in Kaslo,” recalls Elaine Alfoldy. “We were guests in a cabin that had been a safe place for American draft refugees. Their history fascinated Sandra, especially their relationship to the arts in the West Kootenay.”

Alfoldy began her post-secondary study at the University of Victoria where she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1994 and then completed her MA in Art History at Concordia University in Montreal. For her master’s thesis, Alfoldy wrote about the impact that the Kootenay Christmas Craft Fair had on Nelson’s economy.

“We were vendors at this fair from 1982 to 1994, Sandra saw the fair grow into a venue for the fine crafts of the area and knew it was important for the economies of many selling their work,” says Elaine.

She earned her PhD at Concordia University in Montreal in 2001. In 2002, Alfoldy set up the first Department of Craft History at a Canadian university located at the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design.

Alfoldy became a powerhouse for Canadian craft through her extensive writing, lectures and curatorial work. She pushed the boundaries of art scholarship and set Canadian craft on the international stage. Her work was engaging, dynamic and vitally important, as she deconstructed craftmaker stereotypes and examined the ways in which corporations have appropriated the art of craftmaking.

A Vital Gift to the Future

Like Alfoldy’s imprint on Canadian craft, the history of Kootenay Studio Arts (KSA) extends well beyond the borders of the West Kootenay. Growing and evolving since the seeds were first planted in the late-1950s in Nelson, KSA has produced generations of artists and craftspeople who ensure creativity continues to blossom in communities big and small.

An important part of Selkirk College since 2006, KSA currently offers foundational education and skill development in studios that include Ceramics, Blacksmithing, Bronze Casting and Textiles. Located in downtown Nelson at the Victoria Street Campus, the KSA programs are an important part of Selkirk College’s scope of programming.

“Being able to offer this scholarship to future KSA students is something that Sandra would hold dear,” says Andy Alfoldy. “The students that graduate from those studio programs will continue to build the craft community locally, nationally and internationally. Education is at the foundation of what Sandra worked for in her career and she was well aware of the pressure students have to keep going financially. We hope this scholarship will enable more focus to be put on the work they produce on campus rather than what it costs to get there.”

The Dr. Sandra Alfoldy Memorial Scholarship will be available in Fall 2021. For more information about scholarships, award and bursaries visit:

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