for tomorrow



NMMU’s School of Music Art and Design (SoMAD) with its origins in Central – last week celebrated its return to this area with the official launch of its brand new NMMU Art Gallery.

The launch was also an opportunity for NMMU to showcase its new-look Bird Street Campus, a thriving arts and music hub.

SoMAD’s roots can be traced back to the Port Elizabeth Art School which first opened its doors in 1852 – making SoMAD the oldest surviving school of arts in the country.

The original PE Art School was housed in the historical Athenaeum Building in Belmont Terrace. Many decades later in the 1950’s, when the University of Port Elizabeth (now NMMU) was established, it was housed in Bird Street.

For the past decade or so, the campus was occupied by NMMU’S Business School (which has since moved to a new custom-designed, award-winning ‘’green’’ building in Summerstrand.

And, last week, a new chapter in the history of the Bird Street Campus began.

Builders and renovators have been working under the guidance of prominent Cape Town based Heritage architect Peter Buttgens top repurpose the ground floor of the campus’s historic Fleming House (later renamed Eendrag Building) into the stylish and contemporary NMMU – IAG which was launched at the Vice-Chancellor’s Cultural Evening with an exhibition featuring works by visual arts students from SoMAD.

Bird Street Campus fast facts

·         SoMAD’s postgraduate programmes have moved from NMMU’s North Campus in Summerstrand to Bird Street.

·         In the Kohler Building (the second historic mansion making up Bird Street Campus which was later renamed Wegspring), NMMU’s Department of Music has opened the doors of its Jazz Unit, and re-established its Music Conservatoire (Conservatory) for school learners and members of the public who wish to learn to play an instrument (pre-tertiary classical or jazz studies). Tuition in woodwind, brass, drum kit, jazz piano, guitar and bass are offered alongside an existing strings programme). The auditorium in the Conservatoire Building has been enlarged and refurbished, and a programme of public concerts, talks and lectures, easily accessible to the residents of the metro, has already begun.

·         NMMU’s music department has close links with the Eastern Cape Philharmonic Orchestra (ECPO), which provides a performance platform for staff and students. The ECPO manages a youth development projects that provides instrumental and choral tuition to 700 township children. As part of this, the Bird Street Conservatoire provides a home for an instrumental repair unit.

·         On the ground floor of the refurbished Music Conservatoire, a unique culturally-focused ‘’American Corner’’ will open shortly, to promote cultural engagement between local and American practitioners.

·         The final piece in Bird Street’s creative puzzle will be the SoMAD Propella –the visual arts incubator which launched the career of isiXhosa knitwear design star Laduma Ngxokolo. The incubator, part of the larger Propella project, provides technical and business support to selected ‘’incubates’’ as hey start up their own creative businesses. 

Guests looking at the art at the opening of the NMMU Art Gallery.