Cynthia Jane Taylor (1936 – 2020)

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Cynthia Jane Taylor.  The CSEA/SCEA sends sincere condolences to her family, friends, students and colleagues.

Cynthia Jane Taylor, age 84, lover of life, mother, teacher, artist, conversationalist, musician, seeker, died suddenly at home in Sambro Head, Nova Scotia, on October 19, 2020. She was the wife of Hugh William (“Bill”) McKibbon; mother of Jeffrey, Tim, Eric, Melissa and their partners; stepmother of Eric and Lisa; grandmother of 8; step-grandmother of 2; proud great grandmother of 4; sister of Robin, Priscilla, and Melanie; aunt of numerous nieces and nephews; best friend and mentor of many all around the planet. She was beloved by all who knew her.
Exceptionally full of vitality and youthful energy, Cynthia had a beaming smile. She expressed her joy and love for life and other people through boundless hospitality, humour, and positive encouragement, especially in art, music, and thought.

Born in 1936 as the first of four daughters of Lorne and Ruth (née Smith) Macey of Montreal West, Quebec, Cynthia quickly showed her intelligence and creative spark. She studied architecture at McGill University and later art education. She met her first husband Bruce Taylor (1929-1996) at McGill. They soon embarked on what was to become a lifelong passion for international travel. When Cynthia was 22 years old, she and Bruce travelled throughout Europe in their campervan. She was not worried that she was pregnant with her first child, and was excitedly planning to have Jeff in Italy. However, just before his birth she had a change of heart and boarded a plane home while trying not to reveal her pregnancy. Cynthia and Bruce eventually settled in Peterborough, Ontario where they raised four children, and Cynthia began to teach art in high schools.

In 1975, Cynthia moved to Nova Scotia with her second love, Bill, and continued to teach art. She taught a year at J.L. Ilsley High School in Spryfield before becoming a professor in the Art Education department of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax. There Cynthia worked closely with an exceptional team of professors who cared deeply about their students and the future of art education. The ‘diva’ of Art Ed, Cynthia organized various conferences as well as the annual fun-filled retreats to Paradise, Nova Scotia for the students, staff, and their families. She also served as President of the Faculty Union of NSCAD. As a teacher of art educators, her focus was to encourage students to teach art playfully, with passion, good humour, and excellence.
While teaching at NSCAD, Cynthia returned to her own studies, earning a Ph.D in Art Education from Penn State University in State College, Pennsylvania, after which she became NSCAD’s first female full professor. She also developed the art of painting on silk, and her home and those of many of her friends and family are filled with her wonderful, vibrant silks bursting with colour.
Cynthia and Bill also shared a love of travel and meeting people from other cultures. After their retirement as art teachers, they travelled extensively and enthusiastically. In 1989, they travelled around the world for seven months. Later, they settled into the pattern of spending a few months of each year in Spain, Italy and India. Rarely would Cynthia be found without her watercolours and paper on which she would first sketch and then paint the beautiful vistas around her. Italy continued to spellbind them, and they eventually found the mediaeval Tuscan town of Barga to which they returned every spring for 17 years. In Barga, they established a large network of friends and enthusiastically hosted numerous guests from around the world in “Casa Rosa.” Cynthia radiated hospitality. Not only was she superbly generous with family and friends, but for many decades, hosted fellow travelers in their home in liaison with the non-profit peace organization SERVAS International.
Most importantly, Cynthia was at the heart of a large and loving family. She always gathered together as many as she could for birthdays, holidays or just to talk about the adventure of life. She loved to cook and serve carefully prepared meals, bake homemade cake, and have lively conversations full of laughter. Going to Cynthia and Bill’s colourful and artful ocean-side home, which they built themselves, was pure joy.

She was the consummate hostess and entertainer. Everyone has funny stories about Cynthia. Once, after pouring everyone a cup of tea, she put the tea cozy on her head and pulled bits of her hair through the holes meant for the handle and spout. We all burst out laughing as her face erupted with glee. She was pure joyful light: shining and shining and shining.
Cynthia’s approach to life was to bring out what was ‘artful’ in all things. She was also drawn to deep thinking, especially the writings of Martin Heidegger and the philosophical discipline known as hermeneutic phenomenology. For much of her life Cynthia was engaged in a search for deeper truth, for how to awaken, for how to live rightly and to serve what is worthy. In this search, she was guided by the teaching of G. I. Gurdjieff and by working with others in the community of fellow seekers who gained so much by being with her. She brought a sensitivity and a great love to playing the Gurdjieff-de Hartmann music and made it a sacred work. She often returned to the question “What really matters?”

Cynthia lived an abundant and adventurous life. She was deeply loved and will be greatly missed by her family and by her many, many friends.
A celebration of life will be held at a later date once current public health restrictions have been eased. For now, the family will be hosting a socially-distanced visitation at the gazebo near the Dingle Tower, Sir Sanford Fleming Park, Halifax from 2-4 pm on Sunday, November 1, 2020. All are welcome.

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