Visual Impetus returns

How do arts and visual culture affect surrounding location and communities? That’s the question being asked at the 18th annual Visual Impetus Symposium. Organized by the graduate students of the Department of Art History & Visual Studies, this annual conference provides a venue for graduate students in Art History and related fields to present their research to fellow students, faculty and the greater community. Visual Impetus is open to graduate students at any university, and offers participants the ability to gain experience as presenters and receive the critical feedback that is so valuable to their research.

Participants at 2013's Visual Impetus

Participants at 2013’s Visual Impetus

Visual Impetus XVIII will be held January 23 & 24 in room 103 of the Fine Arts Building. It opens at 4pm Friday, January 23, with opening remarks by Acting Dean of Fine Arts Dr. Lynne Van Luven, followed by the introduction of the first panel (Technology & Arts: Engineering the Future) by Art History grad student Regan Shrumm, with a charcuterie-and-cheese reception following at 6:40pm. On Saturday, January 24, sessions start at 9am and will end at 2:30pm and feature four more panels (Craft Communities: Rituals & Collective Memories; Devotion & Violence in Sacred Spaces; Identity in Space & Communities; Imagery Symbolism: Status & Legitimacy in Art).

You can read the full schedule of events and presenters here.

Not a real Cowichan Sweater, but the Olympic-branded knock-off

Not a real Cowichan Sweater, but the Olympic-branded knock-off

“The committee tried to feature an interdisciplinary symposium featuring UVic students, so this year’s presentations are on diverse topics, including on textiles of Oak Bay’s St. Mary the Virgin Anglican Church, understanding aerial images in historic cities and Jewish iconoclasm,” says organizer Regan Shrumm. “Along with nine Art History and Visual Studies graduate students, we also have presenters from Visual Arts, the School of Music, the Department of Theatre and UVic’s English department. Graduate students from as far away as Riverside, California, and Kingston, Ontario, will also be traveling to present.”

For her part, Shrumm will be presenting the paper, “Knitting for Our Lives: The Appropriation of the Cowichan Sweaters by the Hudson’s Bay Company during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics,” on Friday.

A scene from the recent Applied Theatre field school in India (photo: Laura Buchan)

A scene from the recent Applied Theatre field school in India (photo: Laura Buchan)

This year’s Visual Impetus keynote speaker will be Matthew Gusul, PhD candidate in the Department of Theatre. His 1pm Saturday  presentation will offer a survey of his recent Indian Field School, which created India’s first intergenerational theatre company.

The department’s graduate students and the Symposium Committee are also honouring Art History professors Dr. Anthony Welch and Dr. Christopher Thomas, for their long service with the department.

VI-XVIII_2015-x508The subject matter of the presentations delivered at Visual Impetus reflects the department’s dedication to a global art history. Students engage with a wide array of culturally diverse mediums, including architecture, painting, digital media and the ephemeral arts. Presenters from past symposiums have addressed topics ranging from medieval Persian illuminated manuscripts and contemporary First Nation textiles to Baroque Italian chapels. Due to the diverse nature of the topics discussed, students employ a multitude of theoretical approaches to augment their analyses.

Visual Impetus is free and open to the public. It is supported by the generosity of the Department of Art History & Visual Studies, the Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts, and the University of Victoria Graduate Student Society.

Sessional artists now In Session

While the spotlight often shines on our full-time teaching faculty, it’s nice to see our sessional instructors get a well-deserved moment in the sun. Kudos then to UVic’s Legacy Art Gallery for stepping up with a new series of exhibits focused specifically on the creative practices of our sessional instructors in the Department of Visual Arts—titled, appropriately enough, In Session.

Tara Nicholson, "Tabletennis Berlin"

Tara Nicholson, “Tabletennis Berlin”

In Session – One celebrates four UVic sessional artists who work with photography, video and digital media arts—Megan Dickie, Laura Dutton, d. bradley muir and Tara Nicholson. “Sessional instructors enliven art departments across the country with their professional experience,” says Visual Arts chair Paul Walde. “They enable us to expose our students to a much wider array of professional practitioners than would be possible if teaching duties were left to full-time faculty alone. Often students do not realize that many of their favourite instructors are in fact successful professional artists who leave their busy studios to come and teach a few times a week. Their contribution in this role cannot be overstated. It should be obvious to anyone seeing this exhibition that the artists represented are some of the finest practicing in Victoria today.”

Megan Dickie, "The Gleamer"

Megan Dickie, “The Gleamer”

Running January 17 to March 28 at UVic’s free downtown public art gallery at the corner of Broad and Yates, In Session – One will explore the significance and power of photo-based art in an age where social media and advertising threaten to inundate us with visual overload. The exhibit will also investigate such themes as the relationship between the photographic image and its physicality as an object, light as a material presence, and the relationship between time, space and memory in digital media arts.

Laura Dutton, "Horizons"

Laura Dutton, “Horizons”

“More than 35 years ago renowned writer and political activist Susan Sontag bemoaned the ubiquity of photography: ‘Taking photographs has set up a chronic voyeuristic relation to the world which levels the meaning of all events’,” says Legacy Art Galleries director and exhibit curator Mary Jo Hughes. “What would she have thought of the estimated 55 million images that are uploaded daily on Tumblr, Facebook, Snapchat and other social media sites? Given the popularity of smart phones and the addiction to image sharing amongst the 18 to 39 demographic, the number of images young people see daily is staggering. And yet photography-based and digital media persist and continue to be engaging and relevant as art forms.”

d. bradley muir, The Supernova Scene

d. bradley muir, The Supernova Scene

Each of the four artists, says Hughes, were chosen to reflect these concerns. “In Session – One looks at how their work rises above the visual overload of popular culture,” says Hughes. “Their varied practices demonstrate the vast possibilities of these genres to achieve subtlety, nuance, and inspiration. These professional artists teach many of the students enrolled in degree programs [and] their sensitive and rigorous teachings guide the next generation of artists to emerge from our city.”

Walde agrees. “[These are] four excellent artists who also happen to be excellent teachers,” he says. “This combination of talents is rare, and as such they represent true assets to the department. We are very fortunate to be able to hire professional artists from within the community to teach on a part-time basis.”

In Session – One is the first of a new ongoing series of exhibitions featuring the artists who work as sessional instructors in UVic’s Department of Visual Arts.

In Session – One opens with a reception from 2-4pm Saturday, January 17 and runs 10am-4pm Wednesdays to Saturdays to March 28, 2015, at Legacy Art Gallery Downtown, 630 Yates St. Admission is always free.

Realities Follies at Open Space (photo: Todd Lambeth)

Realities Follies at Open Space (photo: Todd Lambeth)

Curiously, a totally separate local gallery is looking at similar themes in an exhibit which features three alumni of the Visual Arts department.

Realities Follies, running to February 21 at Open Space, is co-curated by Visual Arts professor Lynda Gammon and Wendy Welch, executive director of the Vancouver Island School of Art. Featuring the work of Visual Arts alumni Todd Lambeth, Neil McClelland, and Jeroen Witvliet, as well as local painters Jeremy Herndl and Rick Leong,this survey examines the impact of living in an image-driven world.

“Selfies on Facebook, instant sharing on Instagram and photo albums on Flickr all demonstrate our intense desire to re-present our world,” note the curators. “Through the practice of painting, the artists in this exhibition, each in their own way, are re-presenting and interrogating the meaning of representation, and in turn, questioning our ways of perceiving reality.”

Each artist takes a separate approach to the exhibit’s central concept: Neil McClelland explores and creates relationships between the art historical tradition of the bather and the image-sharing of #beachday photos, while Todd Lambeth challenges prevailing notions of still life by painting images of the backsides of his previously painted canvases and Jeroen Witvliet is inspired by media images of stadiums and other social/cultural architectural icons. Meanwhile, Rick Leong translates the visual language of Asian landscapes to contemporary European formats and Jeremy Herndl employs the historical technique of plein air painting to depict the contemporary urban landscape.

The artists & curators will hold a panel discussion at 2pm Saturday, January 17. Realities Follies runs to Saturday, February 21, 2015, at Open Space, 510 Fort. 

 

Vikky Alexander’s troublesome temptations

It’s been a busy fall for Department of Visual Arts professor and acclaimed photographer Vikky Alexander. In addition to her busy teaching schedule, she opened two recent photography exhibitions and now has the first of two more early 2015 shows open.

Vikky ALexander's "The Troublesome Window"

Vikky ALexander’s “The Troublesome Window”

Opening January 30 is a solo exhibit of new work at Calgary’s TrépanierBaer Gallery titled The Troublesome Window. Focusing on the seductive mechanisms of display used in shop windows in Paris, Istanbul and Tokyo, Alexander’s The Troublesome Window further explores themes of consumption and seduction—a consistent theme since the early ’80s. The Troublesome Window will establish the depth of her visual investigation by combining several series of works from different periods.

As TrépanierBaer notes, “Vikky Alexander has constructed a body of critically engaging multi-media work examining the relation between nature and the fabricated “natural”. Drawing upon the varying aesthetic devices of interior and graphic design, and architecture and media, Alexander’s critique centers on the way culture uses simulation to create fictionalized versions of the perfect world. Her analysis of the artificial impulse in cultural production configures a repertoire of appropriated materials that recall modernism’s promise that technology would lead to power over nature and transcendence beyond the mundane. Alexander’s representations of the simulated natural posit an ironic stance calling attention to notions of absence that simulation typically masks.”

The "Oh, Canada" exhibition catalogue

The “Oh, Canada” exhibition catalogue

The Troublesome Window is part of the Exposure Photography Festival 2015, and presented in conjunction with the opening of the 2012/13 MASS MoCA exhibit Oh, Canada, now running February 1 to April 26 in Calgary. Huge in both scale and scope, Oh, Canada is the largest survey of contemporary Canadian art ever produced outside Canada and features more than 100 artworks by 62 artists and collectives from across the country. Too big for one gallery, the exhibition will be presented in Calgary at the Esker Foundation, the University of Calgary’s Nickle Galleries, the Alberta College of Art + Design’s Illingworth Kerr Gallery, and the Glenbow Museum.

The exhibit opens with a 6-8pm reception on Friday, January 30, 2015, at which Alexander will be in attendance. The TrépanierBaer Gallery is at 999 8th Street S.W., Calgary.

From Vikky Alexander's "The Temptation of St Anthony"

From Vikky Alexander’s “The Temptation of St Anthony”

In other Vikky Alexander news, her winter 2014 exhibit at The Apartment Gallery in Vancouver is the retrospective The Temptation of St Anthony. Appropriated from 1980s fashion photography, these pivotal historic works by Alexander are arranged as near religious diptychs and triptychs, offering classic postmodern takes on objectification and temptation.

Described by pioneering Vancouver artist and writer Ian Wallace as “an expression of the imaginary, wherein fantasies of hope and utopia are acted out in the daydreams that call reality into question . . . . Alexander’s work projects the raw indulgence that exists on the inside of these fantasies, heightening our apprehension and anxieties of them from within.”

From Vikky Alexander's "The Temptation of St Anthony"

From Vikky Alexander’s “The Temptation of St Anthony”

“These are collective fantasies and are linked to popular taste for images that transcend the everyday,” says Wallace. “The images of extreme beauty, which are ubiquitous in commodity culture, function as a cult of escape from the everyday.”

The Temptation of St Anthony runs until January 24 at Vancouver’s The Apartment Gallery, 119B East Pender. The gallery is open noon-5pm Saturdays, or by appointment via email info@theapt.ca or by calling 604-336-4046.

She will also have a project in Montreal coming in February 2015.

Vikky Alexander, snapped in Paris

Vikky Alexander, snapped in Paris

Working as a photographer, sculptor, collagist and installation artist, Vikky Alexander is a leading practitioner in the field of photo-conceptualism. Her work explores the relationship between art, architecture, and nature, and in particular the modernist tendency for incorporating landscapes into buildings and the notion of domestic utopia. She is interested in how nature is experienced in a consumer society, which she investigates in her photographs of artificial environments as well as her use of mass-produced decorator materials such as wood veneers, wallpaper murals of landscapes, and mirrors.

Alexander has long established herself as an important voice in contemporary photography, and her work is also part of the permanent collection in The National Gallery. Over the past 30 years, her solo exhibitions have been seen in Los Angeles, New York City, Bern, Vancouver, Toronto, Windsor, Ottawa and Wellington, as well as the National Gallery of Canada. And her work has been included group exhibitions at the likes of London’s Barbican Art Gallery, New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art and Dia Art Foundation, the Yokohama Civic Art Gallery, the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, and the Seattle Art Museum.

You can glean some insights into her work in this 2013 interview with Vancouver’s online Here and Elsewhere magazine.

Alexander_promoHer fall 2014 exhibit at the Wilding Cran Gallery in Los Angeles—titled Theatergarden Bestiarium—focused on a series of photo-collages featuring cutout images of animals from a toy catalogue overlaid onto a photo of a historical site, sans people. As the Huffington-Post noted in this review, “The flat-footed austerity of the collages’ artistic construction stands in diametric contrast to the opulence of each depicted site; suspended in this dialectic is a multiplicity of meanings.”

Vikky Alexander, "Cheetah and Pavilion at Sans Souci," 2013

Vikky Alexander, “Cheetah and Pavilion at Sans Souci,” 2013

Alexander’s photos highlight the improbability of the fabricated scenes, with intentionally less-than-seamless construction of each collage—the animals, for example, cast neither shadow nor reflection. “In using source materials from toy catalogs and postcards from her own travels, Alexander invokes the persona of an eccentric preoccupied with the creation of a fantastic world analogous to Huguette Clark’s dollhouses, William Randolph Hearst’s menagerie, or the fictional character Jean des Esseintes’ idiosyncratic interiors in the 1884 novel Against Nature,” writes Annabel Osberg in the Huffington-Post.

Vikky Alexander, "Bengal Tiger in Large Drawing Room," 2013

Vikky Alexander, “Bengal Tiger in Large Drawing Room,” 2013

“The luxurious sensibility of Alexander’s grand interiors and gardens further reinforces such a persona. However, Alexander creates her worlds not for entertainment, but to show the dichotomy between the consumption that accompanies humans’ extreme affluence and the comparatively modest use of resources by animals, to whom wealth means little except insofar as it contributes to humans’ power over them. The more complex and affluent our societies become, the more we dominate the earth, annexing land and forcing other creatures to either adapt to artificial conditions or withdraw into ever-shrinking natural habitats.”

Osberg concludes with the thought that “Alexander’s show is a two-dimensional simulation of a zoo or museum that, rather than proffering specific instructive facts about animals or history, exhibits the spuriousness of common representations and treatments of them.”

Prior to Theatergarden Bestiarium, Alexander was one of 12 artists selected for a summer 2014 group exhibition at the Wilding Cran Gallery.

Endowing the Gift of Music

How do you cap a life spent in music? By investing your legacy in future generations. That’s what beloved School of Music brass professor Eugene Dowling is doing with a special January 11 concert inaugurating the Eugene Dowling Scholarship for Tuba and Euphonium. Not only will this kick off fundraising efforts for the scholarship itself, but the concert will also tie together Dowling’s friendships, musical life and his years performing in both the School of Music and the greater Victoria community.

Eugene Dowling

Eugene Dowling

While Dowling officially retired in 2014, he has continued to teach a reduced workload at the School of Music while undergoing chemotherapy for stage four prostate cancer—a harsh reality that Dowling is meeting head-on. “It’s important to approach it realistically, and with a note of optimism,” he says frankly. “You know, one out of every seven men go through these hormonal cancers. I had really planned on working longer, but unfortunately it really moved fast. In fact, I’m getting a chemo treatment then playing this concert five days later.”

Dowling’s cancer has also stirred him to contemplate his own mortality and examine the things that have been most important to him: his love of teaching, the relationships he’s developed with students and colleagues, and the importance of sharing what he had been given as a student so many years ago.

“My teachers gave me a deep, beautiful gift: a love of music, an instinct for musical line and the desire to keep growing as a musician and person,” says Dowling. “By starting a scholarship fund in my primary teaching area, I wish to share with future students of the instruments that I play, the same things that I have tried to pass on to my students for the past 38 years.”

A young Eugene Dowling shows his brass

A young Eugene Dowling shows his brass

A beneficiary of scholarships himself as both an undergraduate and graduate student, Dowling can’t stress enough the importance of these kind of financial incentives to future students. “The older established universities like UBC have more scholarship money than they know what to do with,” he says. “As a school, we have a lot to offer but as a comparably young institution, we don’t have the same alumni base. I thought this would be a way of acknowledging what UVic has meant to my life—these wonderful relationships with students going back to 1976, two years before our current building was even built.”

Dowling chuckles as he recalls his early days on campus, back when the MacLaurin building only had an “A” wing and the School of Music was limited to just three classrooms, two practice rooms and no dedicated auditorium. “It was nuts,” he laughs. “People had to practice in washrooms or in storerooms!”

MacInnes (second from left) and Dowling (far right) in the Pinnacle Brass Quintet

MacInnes (second from left) and Dowling (far right) in the Pinnacle Brass Quintet

The concert, he notes, “is largely based on friendship.” Dowling will be joined on stage by some of his closest colleagues, including most of the Victoria Symphony brass section (“half of which I’ve taught,” he chuckles), two local bands he regularly performs with—The Bastion Jazz Band and The Pinnacle Brass Quintet—as well as a range of students and alumni.

Notably, the program will include School of Music instructor Scott MacInnesQuintet No. 1, a piece he composed last year in honour of his long time mentor, colleague and friend. “The piece is divided into three movements that each visits a wide-ranging spectrum of emotions,” explains MacInnes. “Although saturated with sorrow, there is the ever present sense of hope and even joviality that triumphs over all else.”

515D8TF783LAs a young man, Dowling studied with euphonium virtuoso Leonard Falcone at Michigan State, as well as at Northwestern with legendary pedagogue Arnold Jacobs, former principal tubist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. A Yamaha Artist, Dowling was himself principal tubist with the Victoria Symphony for 25 years, and his recording of The English Tuba (Fanfare/Pro Arte) was nominated for a Juno Award.

Dowling leads 2014's TubaChristmas event to a packed house at Market Square (photo: Robert Davy)

Dowling leads 2014’s TubaChristmas event to a packed house at Market Square (photo: Robert Davy)

Another Dowling legacy is the Victoria TubaChristmas Ensemble which, under his direction, has raised thousands of dollars for local charities over the past 36 years—including $2,600 in two hours this year alone. Looking to the future, Dowling co-conducted the 2014 TubaChristmas event with former student and 2011 Distinguished Alumni recipient Paul Beauchesne. Beauchesne, who stepped into Dowling’s shoes as the Victoria Symphony’s current principal tubist, will not only be taking over TubaChristmas but also Dowling’s teaching load. “We’re really looking towards the future—that’s why I’ve taken steps for Paul to succeed me with TubaChristmas and sessionally at UVic.”

But for now, Dowling is primarily focusing on his cancer treatments and the scholarship fund. “We’re going to kick off the scholarship with this concert, and then my estate will pony up the money for the yearly scholarship until it gets to the $25,000 level in perpetuity,” he says. “It’s been a wonderful career, a wonderful life and a wonderful chance to work with some really, really great people.”

—with files from Kristy Farkas

The Eugene Dowling Scholarship for Tuba and Euphonium concert begins at 2:30pm Sunday, January 11, in UVic’s Phillip T. Young Recital Hall (MacLaurin Building B Wing), featuring performances by tubist Eugene Dowling with pianist Charlotte Hale, violinist Ann Elliott-Goldschmid, tenor Benjamin Butterfield, the Bastion Jazz Band, the UVic Student & Alumni Tuba & Euphonium Ensemble, and the Pinnacle Brass Quintet. Tickets are $18 & $14 and available at the door or through the UVic Ticket Centre (250-721-8480).

Donations to the scholarship can be made here using this online donation form.

A Life in Music

It isn’t always the best-known works of art that make the strongest impression. For School of Music professor and trumpeter Louis Ranger, some of the music that has most inspired him throughout his lifetime are pieces that fall a little under the radar. He has thoughtfully assembled some of these works for his January 10 Faculty Chamber Music concert, Favourites From a Life in Music—but for Ranger, a more accurate theme for the concert would be “music that I find interesting and rewarding that does not get performed frequently enough.”

Retiring trumpet professor Louis Ranger

Retiring trumpet professor Louis Ranger

The concert marks a double milestone for Ranger—36 years of teaching at the School of Music, as well as his forthcoming retirement—and features many current students, alumni and faculty colleagues, including Benjamin Butterfield, Susan Young, the Lafayette String Quartet and the UVic Chamber Singers. “Ironically, the best thing I can do is make myself unnecessary,” says Ranger in this video about his approach to teaching music. “When a student leaves here, they should understand their strengths, what they need to work on and how they’re going to get where they want to be.”

Ranger’s concert in the Phillip T. Young Recital Hall is the latest in the School of Music’s ongoing Faculty Chamber Music series. “It has become a bit of a tradition to honor various milestones in our colleagues’ lives in these concerts,” says Pamela Highbaugh Aloni, co-head of performance and cellist for the LSQ. “Lou has been a key inspiration and leader in our faculty since I can remember. His insights as a musician, educator and member of the university community at large have so positively impacted all of us. We look forward to sharing an evening of music that he loves.”

Lou Ranger in action (photo: Kristy Farkas)

Lou Ranger in action (photo: Kristy Farkas)

Looking back, Ranger can’t emphasize enough the importance of the chamber music experience to developing musicians. “The chamber music aspect is one of the strongest things about the School,” he says. “It’s kind of rare—very few schools offer faculty coaching of small groups, but this is where people really learn to listen and take responsibility. You can sit in a large ensemble and not necessarily know what’s going on all the time . . . but in a small group, if you don’t do it, it doesn’t happen. It does a lot to make students independent musicians.”

As a young man, Ranger studied with the noted likes of late Boston University orchestral trumpeter Armando Ghitalla and Juilliard’s William Vacchianoformer principal trumpet of the New York Philharmonic. From 1970 to 1978, he then performed internationally as a brass chamber music clinician with the acclaimed American Brass Quintet.

Ranger CDHe has also performed with such orchestras as the New York City Ballet, the New York City Opera, Radio City Music Hall, the Boston Symphony, the Berlin Philharmonic and the New York Philharmonic, where he followed in Vacchiano’s footsteps as co-principal trumpet. Ranger was also first trumpet with the Musica Aeterna orchestra and, during the summer months, he is principal trumpet of the Aspen Festival Orchestra. He has released a CD entitled The Trumpet Comes of Age: 1940-1980 (with School of Music colleague Bruce Vogt).

Among Ranger’s Favourites From a Life in Music are the likes of the Capricorn Concerto (Samuel Barber’s homage to Bach), and Serenata by Alfredo Casella—a piece that entered Ranger’s repertory in the 1960s while studying with brass players of the Boston Symphony. Ranger gives credit to the music of Igor Stravinsky as one of his primary reasons for becoming a musician, and has dedicated the majority of this program to his works, including In Memoriam Dylan Thomas, The Owl and the Pussycat, and his Mass for Mixed Chorus and Double Wind Quintet.

Louis Ranger’s Favourites From a Life in Music
8pm Saturday, January 10 in the Phillip T. Young Recital Hall
MacLaurin Building B-Wing, University of Victoria
Tickets are $18 regular / $14 students, seniors or alumni and are available at the door or through the UVic Ticket Centre or 250-721-8480).

—Kristy Farkas, with files from John Threlfall

Top 10 Fine Arts stories for 2014

2014 sees the end of another busy year here at the Faculty of Fine Arts, where there was always something afoot. Five departments and hundreds of annual concerts, theatrical productions, readings, exhibits and lectures by visiting artists, academics and professionals means Fine Arts is always one of the busiest faculties on campus when it comes to community engagement. Here’s a quick wrap-up featuring some—but certainly not all—of the leading Fine Arts stories of the year.

“Hear us roar!”

UVic President Jamie Cassels and Vikes mascot Thunder present Rally Song winner Colleen Eccleston with her iPad  (photo: Armando Turo)

UVic President Jamie Cassels and Vikes mascot Thunder present Rally Song winner Colleen Eccleston with her iPad (photo: Armando Turo)

To the cheers of a tight game and the applause of a packed house, the winner of the School of Music / Vikes Nation Rally Song Contest was decided at the Vikes men’s basketball game way back on January 10—and first prize went to the School of Music’s own songwriting instructor Colleen Eccleston. With 18 submissions from across campus—including entries by students, faculty and administration alike—the top three finalists were performed live at half-time by fourth-year Music student Josh Lovell. Eccleston picked up a brand new iPad for her winning song, “Vikes Nation” (“We are Vikes Nation, hear us roar!”) as chosen by judges UVic President Jamie Cassels, Director of Athletics and Recreation Clint Hamilton, Director of School of Music Dr. Susan Lewis Hammond and varsity athlete Kyle Irvine. Attendees now hear a recorded version of Lovell’s rendition before the starting lineups of each Vikes home game.

On the button blanket

The button blanket receiving its inaugural dance at UVic's First Peoples House (Photo Services)

The button blanket receiving its inaugural dance at UVic’s First Peoples House (Photo Services)

It may have been nicknamed “the big button blanket project” by Art History & Visual Studies, but the creation and subsequent exhibit of Adasla: The Movement of Hands at the Legacy Galley garnered a great deal of attention in the community and the media. Both the blanket’s inaugural dance at the opening ceremonies of UVic’s annual Diversity Research Forum in February at First People’s House and the accompanying exhibit—featuring a special contemporary performance collaboration between Governor General’s Award-winning performance artist Rebecca Belmore, former Audain professor for the Department of Visual Arts, and blanket co-creator, Tahtan Nation artist Peter Morin—represented one of the strongest examples of community engagement of the year.

A name you can trust

Chancellor-designate Shelagh Rogers meets the media. Credit: UVic Photo Services

Chancellor-designate Shelagh Rogers meets the media. Credit: UVic Photo Services

It was the kind of news that would warm the heart of any arts supporter when famed CBC Radio host Shelagh Rogers was named the University of Victoria’s 11th Chancellor in May. “To speak in a very non-chancellorian way, I’m thrilled out of my bean,” Rogers said at the time. “I feel like over the last little while I’ve been dating UVic—I’m glad now to be in a relationship with you.” Nominated by Fine Arts Dean Dr. Sarah Blackstone and Associate Dean Dr. Lynne Van Luven, Rogers’ term begins in January 2015. “As UVic’s chancellor, Shelagh Rogers will enhance the excellence of our university,” said Blackstone. “She will bring tremendous energy and great insight to her new role. Her national reputation as an advocate for Canadian arts and culture will serve the university well. UVic could not ask for a better ambassador as we build on our reputation for excellence in teaching, research, and community engagement.”

Getting an A in Queen B

Melissa Avdeeff

Melissa Avdeeff

There’s nothing like a little controversy to spark interest in a course, as School of Music instructor Melissa Avdeeff discovered when word broke in July that she’d be teaching a course on the music of Beyoncé at UVic, resulting in some less than positive comments (“I think I just gave up on Western culture!” “Truly a waste of education and money!”). It didn’t take long for media outlets ranging from the CBC, CTV and Macleans to the Globe and Mail and the Huffington Post to jump on the Beyoncé bandwagon. “I don’t see studying popular culture as any less academically or socially relevant than studying other forms of musicology like historical musicology or music theory,” Avdeef told the Globe. “It’s important to have these courses. They get people thinking more critically about how they are engaging with media.”

Art on view

"Hit for the sculpture!" Stillwell's piece in context of the baseball diamond

“Hit for the sculpture!” Stillwell’s piece as it appears from the baseball diamond

It was a busy year for professors in the Department of Visual Arts, with a number of exhibits and new sculptures being unveiled. Both Jennifer Stillwell and Robert Youds debuted new pieces of public art—Stillwell’s High Five began reaching for the sky in Winnipeg back in August and Youds’ For Everyone a Sunset was unveiled at the Vancouver Art Gallery’s Offsite in October—while departmental chair Paul Walde‘s Requiem For A Glacier installation appeared in Nelson in January, was written up in a  Times Colonist UVic Research feature in July, ran from September to November at the Evergreen Cultural Centre in Coquitlam, then ran at Laval University Art Gallery in Quebec City until the end of December. Meanwhile, photographer Vikky Alexander opened two photography exhibitions this fall—a show of new work Theatergarden Bestiarium in Los Angeles and the retrospective The Temptation of St Anthony in Vancouver—and will have two more shows opening in early 2015 in both Calgary and Montreal.

All for Two 4 One

Bradley considering a shot on set  (photo: Arnold Lim)

Bradley considering a shot on set (photo: Arnold Lim)

Department of Writing professor Maureen Bradley‘s locally lensed debut feature film, Two 4 One, had  its world premiere at the 2014 Calgary International Film Festival in September, before moving on to its BC premiere at the Vancouver International Film Festival in October, and the Eastern Canada premiere at Montréal’s Image + Nation Film Festival in November.
Coming up in February 2015, it will be the opening gala film at the Available Light Film Festival in the Yukon and local audiences will be able to see the film—described as Canada’s first transgendered romantic comedy—as part of the Victoria Film Festival, also in February. Two 4 One is written and directed by Bradley and produced by digital media staffer Daniel Hogg.

The best exotic intergenerational theatre company

Theatre PhD Matthew Gusul (centre) at the field school in India

Theatre PhD Matthew Gusul (centre) at the field school in India

Department of Theatre PhD candidate Matthew Gusul attracted attention with his field school to India in October. Gusul and 13 undergraduates spent two months in the Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry regions to create the country’s first intergenerational theatre company. By positively highlighting the life experiences of residents at the Tamaraikulam Elders’ Village and the students of the Isha Vidhya Matriculation School, Gusul and his students worked with a team of Indian directors to encourage these seniors and rural youth to perform their own stories, develop strong community relations and create new lines of dialogue across generations. Stay tuned for an update on their efforts, coming the first week of January.

World War I history mystery

Marcus Milwright with JM's diaries

Marcus Milwright with JM’s diaries

When Art History and Visual Studies professor Marcus Milwright began planning his November exhibit The Arts of World War I, he had no idea that his use of a two-volume leather diary set featuring illustrations of life during the Great War—signed only by the initials “JM”—would generate so much publicity. But Milwright’s search for JM’s identity sparked a flurry of international media attention, which you can read about here. His hunt for JM’s identity also earned Milwright a spot on UVic’s own Top 10 News Stories for 2014. The Arts of World War I continues to March 2, 2015, in the McPherson Library’s Legacy Maltwood Gallery, and will be a featured part of UVic’s IdeaFest in March.

National honours

Arleen Paré accepts her award from the Governor General

Arleen Paré accepts her award from the Governor General

The Faculty of Fine Arts was remarkably well-represented in national awards this year, thanks to the nomination of five Fine Arts faculty and alumni in the 2014 Governor General’s Literary Awards—Writing professor Bill Gaston, Writing alumni Garth Martens & Arno Kopecky, and Department of Theatre aluma & playwright Janet Munsil, as well as eventual Poetry winner and Writing alumna Arleen Paré. But there was also Writing professor Tim Lilburn‘s induction as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, retired Writing professor Patrick Lane receiving the Order of Canada and Department of Visual Arts student Kim Adams winning the 2014 Governor-General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts. “Having so many areas of the Faculty of Fine Arts recognized illustrates the strength and vibrancy of fine arts at the University of Victoria in particular and in British Columbia generally,” says Dr. Lynne Van Luven, Acting Dean of Fine Arts. “Such achievements are all the more impressive given budget cuts for fine arts programs overall.” Add to that new books by Writing professors Lee Henderson (The Road Narrows As You Go), Bill Gaston (Juliet Was a Surprise) and Kevin Kerr (Tear The Curtain).

Fine Arts can be a picnic

Evocative 1940s costumes made Picnic a winner in the Spotlight Awards (photo: David Lowes)

Evocative 1940s costumes made Picnic a winner in the Spotlight Awards (photo: David Lowes)

Finally, Phoenix Theatre rounded out another busy year of productions in the Department of Theatre with their 1970s revamp of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by professor Fran Gebhard, which followed their latest Spotlight on Alumni production The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe—which was so popular that it had to be held over! Both their spring productions—Picnic (directed by professor Peter McGuire) and Unity (1918) (written and directed by Writing professor Kevin Kerr)—were well-received and recently earned nominations and a win for Best Costumes in Victoria’s annual Critic’s Choice Spotlight Awards.

Here’s looking forward to an equally busy 2015!

Running with honours

Fourth year Department of Writing student Grace Annear was recently announced as the only Faculty of Fine Arts student named to the 2014 University of Victoria Vikes Honour Roll. Annear specializes in cross-country running and track, and was one of 69 student-athletes honoured at the November 19 event at the University Club.

4th year Writing student Grace Annear has been named to the  Vikes Honour Roll

4th year Writing student Grace Annear has been named to the Vikes Honour Roll

“I was recruited out of high school, but I came to UVic because of the Writing program and the varsity athletics,” says Annear.

Student-athletes can only earn a place on the Vikes Honour Roll by achieving a minimum of a 6.6 GPA (80%) during the school year, while training and competing at the highest level of sport. This is Annear’s third year being named to the Honour Roll—and, since she is also a Canadian Interuniversity Sport athlete, she was awarded a CIS Academic All-Canadian Certificate signed by His Excellency, the Right Honorable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada.

“It’s a lot of work,” she admits. “I have to be really focused with my time management—and my time management skills have increased dramatically, especially as the word counts increase in my upper-level courses. As an athlete, you’re used to doing a lot of homework on Friday and Saturday nights, so I don’t have as much of a social life as most university students might have. I guess my training is my social life.”

But while running may be the athletic passion of this Hampton, New Brunswick native—her athletic achievements include Canada West First Team All-Star, CIS First Team All-Canadian and a trio of gold-medal wins for both 400- and 800-meter races—Annear’s writing focus is clearly set on fiction. “Ian McEwan’s Atonement was the book that made me want to be a writer,” she says. “I read it when I was 13 and it was my first real ‘adult’ book. Before that I was reading things like Twilight, but Atonement was my immediate launching point into the world of real literature.”

Annear with Acting Dean of Fine Arts, Dr Lynne Van Luven at the Honour Roll luncheon (photo: Armando Tura, APShutter.com)

Annear with Acting Dean of Fine Arts, Dr Lynne Van Luven at the Honour Roll luncheon (photo: Armando Tura, APShutter.com)

Annear sees a lot of parallels between her athletic and creative pursuits. “Being a distance runner is like being a writer—you have to be completely self-motivated,” she explains. “With running, it’s all about what you can do within yourself and then bring to the table on race day; with writing, it’s about how much you can pound out a good story. You don’t rely on anyone else, it’s just what you can do. If you’re motivated, and you want it bad enough, you can achieve in both areas.”

And has her running crossed over onto the page yet? “Every time I have a new professor, they ask, ‘Oh, have you written about running?’” she says with a laugh. “And I have—for every single prof—so now I’m trying to write other stuff.”

Annear says there is definitely a running/writing niche, but it’s not one to which she’s particularly drawn. “A lot of time it’s about marathoners and the self-reflection and peace and flow that comes with running—which is kind of true, but it’s very different than being a track athlete,” she says. “That’s a lot more intense, a lot more about launching yourself into the mind-numbingness of pain, to postpone that eternal struggle while you’re slogging through it.”

once a runnerShe can only point to one book that parallels her own experiences. “There is an iconic book called Once A Runner by John L. Parker Jr., which is basically about an American university miler during the 1960s, so it has a lot of historical context—but it’s more about what every college runner wants, this journey we all undergo. It’s the only book I’ve ever read that has captured what it actually feels like to be in a race, to undergo months and months of long training.”

This year marks the 10th annual Vikes Honour Roll Luncheon, but only the second time an associated $500 Vikes Honour Roll Award has been associated to each award, thanks to the generous support of UVic and the on-campus partnership between Nike, T. Litzen Sports and the UVic Bookstore.

In 2013-14, a record 2,863 CIS student-athletes across Canada achieved the prestigious Academic All-Canadian status, eclipsing the previous mark of 2,695 set a year ago.

Writing alumna Arleen Paré wins Governor General’s Award

Department of Writing alumna Arleen Paré has been announced as the winner of the 2014 Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry for her newest book, Lake of Two Mountains (Brick Books). On top of national recognition and a trip to Ottawa’s Rideau Hall to receive the award on November 26 from His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, Paré also receives a cash prize of $25,000.

Arleen Paré accepts her award from the Governor General

Arleen Paré accepts her award from the Governor General

“We are all thrilled with this national recognition for Arleen’s unique poetic vision and her commitment to the craft of writing,” says Writing chair David Leach. “The fact that the Writing department had four nominees this year for Governor General’s Awards—three alumni and a faculty member—emphasizes how UVic is an incubator of literary excellence in Canada.”

The other Faculty of Fine Arts representatives nominated include Department of Writing professor Bill Gaston, Writing alumni  Garth Martens (BFA and MFA) and Arno Kopecky (Harvey Southam diploma grad), plus Department of Theatre aluma and playwright Janet Munsil—each of whom will receive $1,000. In all, Fine Arts had five out of 18 nominees in the Fiction/Poetry/Non-fiction/Drama categories of this year’s awards.

“Having so many areas of the Faculty of Fine Arts—poetry, with Arleen’s win; poetry again with Garth’s nomination; fiction with Bill Gaston’s and drama with Janet Munsil’s— illustrates the strength and vibrancy of fine arts at the University of Victoria in particular and in British Columbia generally,” says Dr. Lynne Van Luven, Acting Dean of Fine Arts. “Such achievements are all the more impressive given budget cuts for fine arts programs overall.  Wonderful news all around!”

"A poem of sustained beauty”—jury comment

“A poem of sustained beauty”—jury comment

The jury praised Lake of Two Mountains as being “a poem of sustained beauty, an almost monastic meditation on the overlapping centres of human and natural reality. Whether she is describing the Oka Crisis, bullfrogs, sunbeams or religion, ‘anything that passes through [this shape-shifting landscape] is transformed,’ including the reader.”

Paré’s first book, Paper Trail, won the City of Victoria Butler Book Prize and was shortlisted for BC Books Dorothy Livesay Prize in Poetry. She has also written the novel, Leaving Now (Caitlin Press, 2012). Her fourth book, a collection of poetry titled Face in the Funeral Car,, is forthcoming from Caitlin Press in fall 2015. Her writing has also appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies in Canada.

Department of Writing poetry professor—and fellow Governor General’s Literary Award winner—Tim Lilburn fondly recalls Paré’s time as both an undergrad and graduate student, working on early drafts of what would become her now award-winning poetry collection. “I remember working on some of those poems with her in workshop, and I think that’s where the idea for this book started,” says Lilburn. “Lake of Two Mountains is essentially her thesis that she’s added onto.”

Fellow GG nominated poets Kevin Paul (left), Melanie Siebert & Garth Martens

Fellow GG nominated poets Kevin Paul (left), Melanie Siebert & Garth Martens

Lilburn is also quick to point out the success of the Department of Writing’s MFA program. “We’ve had uncanny success in terms of the Governor General’s Awards since we started the MFA program in 2008,” he says. “We’ve had four GG nominations—Melanie Siebert, Kevin Paul, Garth Martens and Arleen Paré—and now one winner. All have been poets, and all four of them were undergrads, too.”

Lake of Two Mountains is a praise poem in 45 parts that contemplates landscape and memory, officially described as “a portrait of a lake, of a relationship to a lake, of a network of relationships around a lake. It maps, probes and applauds the riparian region of central Canadian geography that lies between the Ottawa and the St. Lawrence Rivers. The poems portray this territory, its contested human presences and natural history: the 1990 Oka Crisis, Pleistocene shifts and dislocations, the feather-shaped Ile Cadieux, a Trappist monastery on the lake’s northern shore. As we are drawn into experience of the lake and its environs, we also enter an intricate interleaving of landscape and memory, a reflection on how a place comes to inhabit us even as we inhabit it.”

Arleen6Retired Writing professor Patrick Lane lauded Paré’s poems as being “monastic prayers of forgiveness, intense simplicities that praise all we have lost, all we have left. She is a gift the world has given us. Read her and then in deep quiet read her again.”

Originally from Montreal, the 68-year-old Paré lived for many years in Vancouver, where she worked as a social worker. She is currently the director of Victoria’s Cool Aid Society, which works to end homelessness in the Capital Region.

She told the local Times Colonist newspaper in this interview that she was “amazed” to learn of her win. “It was actually shocking in that way you find yourself at the end of a parachute or something,” she said. “I felt weightless.” When asked what she’ll do with the prize money, Paré said she’ll use it to buy a heat pump for her cottage on Mayne Island.

“I love using language and trying to make it sparkle off the page,” Paré says in this Victoria News interview. “I love trying to use the right word in the right place. This is the puzzle that I work with all the time, and I enjoy that challenge very much.”
Paré will also join in a public reading with the other English-language winners at the Canada Council in Ottawa on November 26.

Five for Fine Arts in Long Service Awards

Patricia Kostek with Chancellor Murray Farmer at the Long Service Awards (Photo Services)

Patricia Kostek with Chancellor Murray Farmer at the Long Service Awards (Photo Services)

The annual Long Service Awards were once again held in October, and Fine Arts was well-represented among the faculty and employees being honoured for 25 years or more at UVic.

This year, congratulations go out to five Long Service Recognition recipients in Fine Arts. From faculty, recognitions went out to Visual Arts professor and alumnus Robert Youds, School of Music professor Patricia Kostek and Art History & Visual Studies professor Victoria Wyatt, each clocking in at 25 years—and seen here with outgoing Chancellor Murray Farmer.

For staff, Visual Arts building caretaker Cheryl Crooks—previous winner of the President’s Distinguished Award for Excellence in Service—celebrates 25 years, and the School of Music’s Anthony Booker clocks in with an impressive 30 years under his belt as the accompanist for the UVic Chorus.

Victoria Wyatt (Photo Services)

Victoria Wyatt (Photo Services)

“You are the backbone of this university,” said Chancellor Farmer at the event. “It is your talent, hard work and dedication that make UVic’s accomplishments possible . . . that is what sets UVic apart: great people, people like you. On behalf of President Cassels and myself, I extend our deep gratitude for your years of service. We are all fortunate to be part of a university that has such caring, committed and enthusiastic faculty and staff. You have made UVic what it is today.”

“‘All the changes they must have seen,’ I was thinking as I attended the recent long-service awards,” noted Acting Dean Dr. Lynne Van Luven. “Twenty-five years, 30 years, all dedicated to one employer. The University of Victoria is a good place to work, and we attract good people. I’d like to say congratulations on your perseverance and dedication to all the Fine Arts staff and faculty who have served us all these years. Our campus is a better place because of you.”

Cheryl Crooks (Photo Services)

Cheryl Crooks (Photo Services)

First held in 1988 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the university, the awards have been presented each year since then, with the university president presenting each recipient with a special gift or silver pin crafted for the occasion. The event was expanded in 1999 to recognize long service beyond 25 years, in increments of five years.

Dreamy reviews for Phoenix’s Dream

Media coverage of Phoenix’s new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream has been brisk, with both previews and reviews praising director and Department of Theatre professor Fran Gebhard‘s 1970s revamp of Shakespeare’s much-loved romantic comedy fantasy.

Gebhard talks about her New York experiences that influenced her revisioning of the play in this Times Colonist preview article. She also spoke with the Oak Bay News, explaining that, “We’ve all seen traditional productions of it. I just started listening to the music of the ’70s [and] the idea that rather than being fairies, I would think of those gals as sisters in a white which coven.”

"Dream" director Fran Gebhard on CTV

“Dream” director Fran Gebhard on CTV

Gebhard also has a conversation with Fine Arts alumnus and CTV Vancouver Island A&E mainstay Adam Sawatsky in this video, talking about the various music themes for each group of characters in the play. (Starts at the 3:00 mark.)

And, based on the reviews so far, it looks like Gebhard has mounted another strong production to follow up her award-winning 2013 staging of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.

TC review“Shakespeare in NY rocks!” exclaims this Times Colonist review, which goes on to describe the play as “an energetic, music-stuffed romp . . . smartly directed by Fran Gebhard . . . in this show, music—mostly rock, jazz and pop—is almost a character unto itself . . . used cleverly to accentuate characters and themes rather than serving as aural wallpaper.”

Monica Prendergast of CBC Radio’s On The Island also offered this enthusiastic review, noting that it would make a great introduction to Shakespeare for young audiences. And in this review local arts blogger Janis Lacouvee said, “Once again the University of Victoria theatre department spares no effort in bringing an extraordinary spectacle to the stage . . . you won’t go wrong with this production.”

Cheers to good reviews of  Phoenix's Dream (photo David Lowes)

Cheers to good reviews of Phoenix’s Dream (photo David Lowes)

The Marble Theatre Review declares Gebard’s Dream to be “the best play I’ve seen come out of the Phoenix in a decade . . . the choice to set the play in 1978 New York City amidst the contrasting bands of Oberon’s punks and Titania’s hippies was a conceit so beautiful that I refused to believe it could work. Until it did, over and over, until the applause was done.”

Camosun College’s Nexus newspaper came out saying, “The Bard would be proud” and declaring Dream a “big win . . . [which] should appeal to Shakespeare novices and stalwarts alike. Strong performances, excellent costumes, and a few surprising and delightful musical numbers make for terrific theatre.”

A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs to November 22 at Phoenix Theatre. Evening performances run 8pm Tuesday to Saturday, with a 2pm matinee on Saturday, November 22. The Phoenix Box Office is currently open for single ticket sales, and three-play subscription packages are still available for just $36!