Victoria Film Fest features Fine Arts filmmakers

Like spring rains and sleepy groundhogs, the Victoria Film Festival is back and is once again featuring a number of contrbutions from the Faculty of Fine Arts. As well as representation on the VFF jury by current Writing MFA playwriting candidate Leah Callen and recent MFA filmmaker Connor Gaston, a number of faculty and alumni filmmakers are well represened in this year’s fest, running Feb 6-15 at various venues around the city.

Who is Theatre's Leslie Bland with Alex Trebec?

Who is Theatre’s Leslie Bland with Alex Trebec?

Up first is the feature documentary Gone South: How Canada Invented Hollywood, co-directed by Department of Theatre alumnus and instructor Leslie D. Bland. Created with bestselling local humourist Ian Ferguson (author of How To Be A Canadian), Gone South seeks to expose the dirtiest secret in all of Hollywood—who is secretly Canadian?

A hilarious history of Canada’s contributions to Hollywood from the early 20th century onwards, Gone South documents the role Canadians played in founding Tinsel Town, and the roles Canadians continue to play to this day. From Alex Trebek and Monty Hall to Neve Campbell, Howie Mandel, Tommy Chong and Alan Thicke, Gone South features funny and frank interviews with some of the most famous actors, directors, musicians and producers who share this secret heritage. No surprise, Canadians are everywhere in Los Angeles . . . you just have to know where to look.

This is another kudo for Bland, who was recently awarded a UVic Continuing Sessional Lecturer Scholarship from the Learning and Teaching Centre. Gone South screens at 6pm Friday, Feb 6, at the Vic Theatre. Read more about it in this Globe and Mail article and in this piece from the Times Colonist.

Bradley on the set of Two 4 One  (photo: Arnold Lim)

Bradley on the set of Two 4 One (photo: Arnold Lim)

Up next is Department of Writing professor Maureen Bradley and her transgender romantic-comedy Two 4 One. Frequent readers of this blog will have followed Bradley’s debut feature film from its inception at the National Screen Institute’s Features First initiative through its filming during her study leave in early 2014 and its world premiere in Calgary and popular screenings at follow-up festivals. Just before their appearance at the VFF, Two 4 One will be the opening gala at the Available Light Film Festival in Whitehorse, Yukon—Canada’s largest Film Festival north of 60—an event at which Bradley and producer/Fine Arts staffer Daniel Hogg will be on hand.

two 4 oneA bittersweet romantic comedy, Two 4 One finds its transgender hero in an unimaginable predicament when ex-lovers Miriam and Adam have an ill-advised one night stand that sees them both end up pregnant. Featuring a standout performance from Gavin Crawford (This Hour Has 22 Minutes)—who was recently nominated for an ACTRA Award for his role in Two 4 One—Bradley feels the fact that she could write and shoot her film in Victoria is a strong indicator of the growth of the local film scene.

“There are a lot of amazing filmmakers locally now, and many are coming out of the Writing department,” she says, noting the likes of alumni Connor Gaston, Stacey Ashworth, Amanda Verhagen, Jason Bourque and Scott Amos. “It’s engaged learning at its finest; my students learn so much from being on set in my classes. Plus, they’re good writers. The department creates great poets, great fiction writers, great CNF and now we’re getting great screenwriters.”

You can hear Bradley discuss her film on CBC’s All Points West “Creative Class” column with Amanda Farrell-Low (skip ahead to 4:58), as well as in this CFAX 1070 interview with Pamela McCall (at the 48:00 mark).

Two 4 One has a Valentine’s Day screening at 6:30pm Saturday, Feb 14, at the Odeon  and noon Sunday, Feb 15, at the Vic Theatre. Bradley and Hogg will be attendance at both screenings for a post-show Q&A.

Connor Gaston's Godhead

Connor Gaston’s Godhead

Speaking of alumni filmmakers, Connor Gaston recently wrapped his own locally lensed debut feature, The Devout, and his intriguing short film Godhead will be seen at the VFF. Gaston has been making a name for himself of late thanks to the popularity of short films like the award-winning (and UVic created) ’Til Death.

Godhead will screen as part of the “Grander Schemes” short film program at 8:45pm Saturday, Feb. 15, at the Vic Theatre.

The triple-alumni creared Gord's Brother

The triple-alumni creared Gord’s Brother

The busy alumni filmmaking team of Jeremy Lutter, Ben Rollo and Daniel Hogg are back again with their latest short film, Gord’s Brother. This same team of Writing grads earned film fest kudos back in 2011 with their robot charmer Joanna Makes A Friend and will now debut Gord’s Brother—created with funding they won through Harold Greenberg Fund’s Shorts-to-Features program. Lutter directs, Rollo writes and Hogg produces what’s described as is described as a “10-minute fantasy” in which “the protagonist discovers his baby brother is a monster, forcing him to visit the City of Monsters, where lessons are learned.”

Gord’s Brother screens as part of the short film program “Tense Times” at noon Saturday, Feb. 14, at the Vic Theatre.

Congratulations to all UVic filmmakers for their continuing outstanding work!

 

Following her bliss: Distinguished Alumni Mercedes Bátiz-Benét

She’s the artistic director of Puente Theatre, the cinematographer for Look At What the Light Did Now—the Juno Award-winning documentary about Canadian singing sensation Feist—and recently won the Canadian Stage Award for Direction at the SummerWorks Festival with her acclaimed play El Jinete: A Mariachi Opera. By day, she’s the poetry, fiction and non-fiction editor at the publishing house Bayeux Arts, and her first children’s book Lunar is forthcoming later this year. Now, Department of Writing graduate Mercedes Bátiz-Benét can add UVic’s Distinguished Alumni Award to her impressive list of credits.

Mercedes Bátiz-Benét, 2015 Fine Arts Distinguished Alumni, (photo: Peter Pokorny)

Mercedes Bátiz-Benét, 2015 Fine Arts Distinguished Alumni, (photo: Peter Pokorny)

“Personally and professionally, it means the world to be named one of this year’s Distinguished Alumni. I am deeply honoured,” says Bátiz-Benét from her family home in Mexico. “There were so many people who told me I wouldn’t last a semester at UVic and in Canada, that I would never be able to do a writing degree in another language, that I had no business doing so and that I wouldn’t have the courage, discipline, and tenacity to endure a life in the arts.”

“And when I think of the girl I was on my first day of university—frightened, overwhelmed, alone, and completely out of place—I don’t know why I didn’t believe all of that myself. But receiving this award has given me the opportunity to look back and realize how much and how hard I’ve worked to be where I am today, of how privileged I am to have an academic background in the arts and in philosophy, and to have a life, a fulfilling career and job in the arts.”

the sum of her achievements

10553522_815192998504382_4015896536161607713_nTruly a renaissance woman, Bátiz-Benét—who speaks several languages—is an ideal choice as this year’s Distinguished Alumni for the Faculty of Fine Arts. Beyond her role with Puente Theatre, productions of her own plays include Faust: Ignis Fatuus (part of 2005’s international Faustfest), Cruel Tears/Lágrimas Crueles for Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre, the roundly lauded El Jinete: A Mariachi Opera, which she wrote and directed, and, as co-writer, The Secret Sorrow of Hatchet Jack MacPhee for Caravan Farm Theatre, The Erotic Anguish of Don Juan for the Old Trout Puppet Workshop, as well as both The Umbrella and Gruff for the Kaleidoscope Family Theatre Festival.

Alumni Week 2015—the eighth annual spotlight on the positive impact of more than 100,000 UVic grads—runs from February 1-7. In addition to the Distinguished Alumni Awards, there are over a dozen other events including lectures, workshops, reunions and a featured evening with Chancellor Shelagh Rogers. “Some of our most meaningful connections happen through education—and this is true for both students and professors,” says Dr. Lynne Van Luven, Acting Dean of Fine Arts. “To be alumnus is to be part of something vital:  memories, friendships, awakenings, ideas. Alumni Week captures all such excitement.”

“It’s an immense honour to be recognized by my faculty in my professional life, and in my life after university; I am truly humbled,” says Bátiz-Benét. “The 10 years I spent at UVic were some of the most fruitful, fulfilling and difficult years of my life, and the most important years of my formation as a woman, an artist, and a human being. I absolutely loved every second of my life at UVic, and to be now named one of the Distinguished Alumni is like putting a giant bow on the immense gift of my academic and professional lives. I love what I do, and I wouldn’t be able to do it had I not attended every class, read every book I read and engaged in every discussion I did.  It fills me with pleasure and joy to know that my faculty and my alma mater feel proud about who I’ve become through their help.”

Mercedes speaking at the Distinguished Alumni Awards  (UVic Photo Services)

Mercedes speaking at the Distinguished Alumni Awards (UVic Photo Services)

Joining Bátiz-Benét at the 2015 Distinguished Alumni Awards Night on Wednesday, February 4, at the Hotel Grand Pacific will be the other noted thinkers, changers and difference-makers being honoured: Victoria Wells (Continuing Studies), Anne Tenning (Education), Josh Blair (Engineering), Kim Henderson (Human & Social Development), Lucas Aykroyd (Humanities), Douglas S. White (Law), David Day (Libraries), Dr. Tom Rimmer (Medical Sciences), Robert Beecroft (Science) and Susan Cartwright (Social Sciences).

a Mexicanadian perspective

Born and raised in Mexico, Bátiz-Benét moved to Canada in 1997 to attend UVic, where she earned a BFA in Writing (both poetry and drama), as well as a BA (with honours) in Philosophy. She also completed a Diploma in Film Production from the Pacific Film & New Media Academy. Approaching expression from as many angles as possible, she has worked as writer, dramaturge, theatre director, translator, adapter, actor, puppeteer, multi-media artist, screenwriter, film and video editor, cinematographer and director. Not that any of that was the plan, of course.

A scene from her mariachi opera, El Jinete

A scene from her mariachi opera, El Jinete

“I never intended to live in Canada,” she says. “But I chose UVic because of its writing program and because it was on an island in the Pacific. The prospect of studying and reading the great masters and thinkers, while being able to develop my own writing amidst a forest of pines by the ocean, was a dream come true.”

“Moving to an entirely different culture, language, way of thinking, and country, did wonders for my growth as a person and as an artist,” she continues. “I was able to find out who I was and what I was capable of doing away from the comfort and security of home, family, my culture, and my language.  I feel very grateful and lucky I was able to study as many things as I did, and to learn and experiment with as many things as I did.“

As one of the many international students who contribute to UVic’s rich tapestry of success, Bátiz-Benét never regrets choosing to come here to learn. “I think it’s paramount for local audiences to learn from other cultures, especially in the multicultural experiment that is Canada. “We need to learn from each other so we have a greater and better understanding of what it means to be human,” she says. “Every culture experiences life from a different angle, from a different point of view and, in my experience, the more points of view you have, the more your understanding expands and deepens.  I have a Mexican way of understanding and viewing the world, as well as a Canadian one, which enables me to develop a third point of view—a ‘Mexicanadian’ one, if you like.”

Bátiz-Benét and Brian Richmond (photo: Times Colonist)

Bátiz-Benét and Brian Richmond (photo: Times Colonist)

Blue Bridge Artist Director and Department of Theatre professor Brian Richmond worked with Bátiz-Benét in 2014 on Cruel Tears/Lágrimas Crueles. “Mercedes is scary smart,” he says. “I have not only had the great privilege of working with her in Mexico and Canada on two very different productions of the musical Cruel Tears/ Lágrimas Crueles, but have watched her remarkable work with Puente Theatre with admiration and respect. She is an amazing asset for the Victoria, British Columbian and Canadian theatre community.”

exploring many paths

But how did she go from her original plans to specialize in poetry and journalism, to a career in theatre and film? “I actually found theatre and film during my time at UVic,” she explains. “Writing 100 changed my life—not only did I have to write poems, but also a play for the very first time, and a short story. It opened my eyes to new worlds of possibility, learning and expression, and when the time came to choose my major, I couldn’t let theatre go.”

Bátiz-Benét's cinematographic work helped this Feist film win a Juno Award in 2012

Bátiz-Benét’s cinematographic work helped this Feist film win a Juno Award in 2012

Deciding on a double-major (poetry and drama), Bátiz-Benét was able to direct a staged reading of one of her plays at the Phoenix. “I knew then and there that I wanted to write and, one day, direct plays. I was hooked; I wanted to do anything and everything that had to do with theatre. Similarly, it was in a writing for film class that I made my first ‘film’ and, for the very first time, had hands-on experience in that field.”

Switching her minor from journalism to film studies, she then took as many literature and film classes as she could in other departments—including Germanic and Slavonic Studies, Latin-American Studies and French Studies. And, she says, her Philosophy degree provided her with the necessary tools and foundation needed to expand her own thinking, and creativity, as well as developing the capacity to doubt, question and find her way through her own thoughts, art and life.

“I am deeply grateful to UVic for allowing me to discover who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do,” she says. “I developed as an artist beyond anything I could’ve imagined on my first day of university, and have grown to be the person that I am, with the life that I have, thanks to everything I learned and experienced in my 10 years of full-time studies at UVic.  Without my BFA, I never would’ve come to know these worlds, and I would’ve become a very different person.”

following her bliss

CRUELTEARS_001While Bátiz-Benét says it would be “impossible to list all the invaluable advice” she received from fellow students, staff and professors, when asked for one notable piece of advice she received while a student, she singles out two of her “greatest professors, mentors and friends:” Derk Wynand and the late Brian Hendricks, both of the Department of Writing. “Derk always told me to write about what I knew, and to always keep learning, so that I could in turn expand my writing,” she recalls. “And Brian told me to follow my bliss—words to live by.  I try to follow their advice every day and with everything that I do.”

On the flip side of that, what’s one piece of advice she’d offer current Fine Arts students? “Never close yourself to learning, work hard every day and, in the words of Brian Hendricks, follow your bliss.”

When asked what the key is to succeeding in the arts, Bátiz-Benét admits her own life continues to be a work in progress.

“I don’t really know what the key to succeeding is . . . but I think the key to creating in the arts is to work hard and persevere, to always be open to new ideas, possibilities, and learning, and to follow an idea through to its logical conclusion,” she says. “Our curiosity, our willingness to dive into the unknown, our love and our need to create, understand and express an idea—those are the things that make us artists. The blank page is a frightening thing, but if one pushes through with the aid of passion, and perseverance, one can discover infinite marvels and possibilities beyond our wildest dreams.”

She advises current Fine Arts students to not be nervous about their chosen paths, but to instead follow their passion, work hard and persevere—and trust the rest will fall into place.

Mercedes with Acting Dean of Fine Arts Lynne Van Luven (UVic Photo Services)

Mercedes with Acting Dean of Fine Arts Lynne Van Luven (UVic Photo Services)

“There’s no doubt about the ‘risky’ nature of a career in the arts—not only due to budgetary constraints and funding cutbacks, but also because of the saturation of the field, scarce job opportunities, and the huge importance of being in the right place at the right time,” she cautions. “Money and security are not what artists should be after, but experimentation, creativity and the creation of meaning . . . . We should be worried about ideas, stories, images, feelings, concepts, thoughts and dreams, about the intangible. Money and stability are not what stories are made of. Don’t be afraid; instead, invent, experiment, learn, be willing to fail and push through to the other side.”

Looking back, Bátiz-Benét concludes with a simple but evocative thought befitting her latest honour as a Distinguished Alumni. “I graduated with a BFA because I fell in love with more than one field in the arts, and I wanted to begin a journey into the unknown,” she says. “And what better way is there to create, than to thrust yourself into the unknown?

Fine Arts Wellness Day

Even though much of academic life is focused on classes, assignments and performances, it’s also important to maintain a sense of wellness. Physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing will keep you in top form to meet the demands of life as a busy university student. It’s especially tough here in the Fine Arts, where we also have the added pressures that come with a creative life—rehearsing for and giving performances, for example, or presenting our creative work to general audiences.

Wellness Day 2015Fortunately, UVic has a full range of wellness resources to assist students and help them maintain a healthy balance in life. From recreation and fitness opportunities to counselling and spiritual services, we are committed to your health and success.

As such, Fine Arts is proud to be hosting our own Wellness Day from 10:30am-1:30pm on Wednesday, February 4. Organized and hosted by the School of Music, there will be a full range of information, drop-in sessions and services for you to discover in the MacLaurin B-Wing lobby & various rooms. Here’s what’s lined up:

• You can speak to friendly and helpful representatives from Health Services, Counselling Services, the Resource Centre for Students with a Disability, Multifaith Services and Peer Helping during our Resource Fair. They’ll all be happy to provide information about their various on-campus wellness options. That runs throughout the event, from 10:30am-1:30pm in the B-Wing lower lobby (downstairs)

puppy• Henri Lock from Multifaith Services will be leading a meditation session from 11am-noon in Mac B115—the upstairs lounge just outside the Phillip T Young Recital Hall.

• What’s the best way to de-stress? Cuddle with a puppy! Yep, you can get some therapy dog lovin’ from 10:30am-12:30pm in B037 (downstairs)

• Take in some free yoga! Two separate sessions will be happening at the same time, 12:30-1:30pm: one with an instructor from Athletics & Recreation in the Phillip T Young Recital Hall, and one with Theatre alumna & sessional instructor Shona Athey in the Phoenix Theatre movement studio. Be sure to bring your own mat!

Of course, all Fine Arts students, faculty and staff are welcome to attend all of these sessions.

wellness_wheel_1As Dr. Lara Lauzon of UVic’s School of Exercise Science, Physical and Health Education told the well-attended January 21 lunchtime wellness session, For the WELLth of It, “Wellness is something you shape for yourself, wellness helps you reach your potential. And healthy individuals help to make a healthy community.”

Please join us for this beneficial day for all—a great run-up to Reading Break!

 

 

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.

Hope & joy created by Applied Theatre field school

People who have mostly known only poverty and suffering have now found new hope, a sense of joy and a stronger community thanks to a recent University of Victoria Applied Theatre field school in India.

In a scene written by Vadevil, Jayamma and he speak with the Isha students while trying to find food and water (photo: Laura Buchan)

In a scene written by Vadevil, Jayamma and he speak with the Isha students
while trying to find food and water (photo: Laura Buchan)

Led by PhD candidate Matthew Gusul, 13 Department of Theatre undergraduate students traveled to India’s Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry regions to participate in the field school throughout October and November 2014. Gusul, an Applied Theatre practitioner who has done similar fieldwork in Mexico and Guatemala, has been working with the 80 people in Tamil Nadu’s Tamaraikulam Elders’ Village (TEV) for the past two years. By positively highlighting the life experiences of TEV residents and the 750 young students of the Isha Vidhya Matriculation School—both of which were created after the 2006 tsunami to address issues of displacement and vulnerability—Gusul, his students and a team of Indian directors encouraged these seniors and rural youth to perform their own stories, develop strong community relations and create new lines of dialogue across generations.

We first wrote about Gusul’s Intergenerational Theatre for Development plans back in October 2014 while he was planning the field school. “I really want to look at how the community is affected by this process—the performance and process leading up to it should be absolutely wonderful, filled with fun and joy and laughter,” Gusul said at the time. And it sounds like that’s exactly how it came together.

Culture from the inside out

UVic Student Kathleen O'Reilly reads to Isha School Children (photo: Nikki Bell)

UVic Student Kathleen O’Reilly reads to Isha School Children (photo: Nikki Bell)

“Everyone had a wonderfully dynamic and very emotional experience,” says Gusul. Upon arriving, the undergraduates started familiarizing themselves with India and teaching English and basic theatrical exercises at the Isha school, while Gusul himself instructed the UVic students on neo-colonialism and its legacy in India. “The school is filled with first-generation learners—which, in India, means they are the first member of their family to ever attend any school—and of the 15 students who became part of the theatre company, only two of them had parents who could read or write,” he says. “One of our students used the phrase, ‘Getting to know culture from the inside out,’ which is precisely what we did.”

With participants ranging in age from nine to 90, Gusul and his students worked to develop a sense of intergenerational playfulness, as well as train three Indian directors in their unique facilitation style. “We didn’t want to overload anyone with a lot of information,” Gusul explains. “Playfulness and storytelling is how this style of theatre should work. When you introduce the young & the old, natural playfulness will happen; that’s the beginning point of rehearsal, then you transfer that over to story-sharing, and use those stories to create performance.”

Something old, something new

The final performance at TEV (photo: Aisling Kennedy)

The final performance at TEV (photo: Aisling Kennedy)

The field school culminated on November 27 with intergenerational theatrical performances at both TEV and the Isha school—a totally new kind of theatre in India, which Gusul makes clear would never have happened without the presence of the field school. “The first time they even started thinking about this was back in 2013 when I first went to this community,” he says. Yet despite the vast cultural distances between the instructors and participants, and the age difference between the performers themselves, the final performances—rooted in the personal experiences of the children and elders—was, as Gusul put it, “a triumph.”

“To create a piece of theatre from something that was spontaneously told to something put on for an audience in just three weeks was truly remarkable,” he says. “They really stepped up to the plate. When it came time to shine, they shone.”

Gus and his newly adopted Indian Grandmother Jayamma (photo: Blair Moro)

Gus and his newly adopted Indian Grandmother Jayamma (photo: Blair Moro)

Gusul was particularly moved by one participating elder named Jayama, who shared her own story: traded for a piece of farmland as a dowry, Jayama and her husband worked the land for years until he died, then all three of her sons turned to alcohol and abuse, which is how she ended up in abandoned in the elders’ village. Even worse, the last of her sons died from alcoholism only days before the final performance, with Gusul himself driving her to the funeral.

Yet despite all that, Jayama insisted on performing. “She told me that she was really sad to have lost her son, but felt fortunate to be in the elders’ village as she had gained so many adopted sons—including the village manger and myself—and would never want to do anything to disappoint us. She said she still wanted do the performance, because it was so important to her,” he recounts. “This speaks directly to the power of what theatre can offer someone: how important it was for her to tell her story, and how important it was for us as a global community to listen. When you want to talk about the absolutely most under-privileged person in the world, it would be from someone in her position: she’s 80 years old, can’t read or write, and had been abused and abandoned by her sons. ”

Making a better world

Dr Warwick Dobson addresses participants at the Isha School  (photo: Blair Moro)

Dr Warwick Dobson addresses participants at the Isha School (photo: Blair Moro)

Gusul’s PhD advisor, Theatre professor Dr. Warwick Dobson, joined the field school towards the end of the process, and praised his efforts of all the participants. “The relationships they formed with the elders and students from the different locations were exceptionally strong, and this speaks volumes for their commitment and dedication to the whole Intergenerational Theatre project,” he says. “The final performances were truly magical events. What has been particularly impressive about the whole initiative is that Matthew took great care to involve two Indian directors from Pondicherry University in the devising process.”

Even though the UVic students have now returned, the success of Gusul’s project has ensured it will continue. One of the Pondicherry directors will continue working with the company from January to June 2015, with three more intergenerational theatre companies to be formed in other parts of India over the next 12 months thanks to the support of the HelpAge India NGO, who have supported this initiative from the beginning. “It has been a truly transformative experience for all of us who were fortunate enough to be a part of it,” says Dobson.

UVic students, Nikki Bell, Aisling Kennedy, &  Katelyn Clark, create a 'Happy Machine' with Jayamma & boys from the AIM for SEVA Cuddalore Boys home (photo: Laura Buchan)

UVic students, Nikki Bell, Aisling Kennedy, & Katelyn Clark, create a ‘Happy Machine’ with Jayamma & boys from the AIM for SEVA Cuddalore Boys home (photo: Laura Buchan)

Gusul himself will return to India in June, but sees success as more than just the field school’s imapct. “The Tamaraikulam Elders’ Village is a beacon of hope for elders everywhere in the world,” he says. “It’s filled with people who were poverty-stricken beggars, dayworkers and farmers their entire lives . . . but they aren’t given money, just food, clothes, a roof over their heads and a place to pray and do recreational activities. If you’re an abused elder in Peru, in Africa or here in Canada, it’s inspiring that such a place does exist and is actually making a difference in people’s lives. If it can happen there, it can happen anywhere. It’s more than just a pie-in-the-sky ideal, it’s proof that a better world is possible.”

Gusul praises both UVic and the Department of Theatre’s Applied Theatre specialization—for allowing him to further develop his research into intergenerational theatre. “This is a highly unique project,” he says. “Intergenerational theatre only exists in a few pockets in the Western Theatre world, and this has been the first attempt to spread this methodology to another culture in another country. It is often assumed that people who are in poverty or are very undereducated would struggle to articulate their thoughts, feelings and stories if they were given a platform to have a voice. But this project—and specifically the methodology of intergenerational theatre with the connection to intergenerational playfulness—has shown it is possible for impoverished, undereducated elders and youth to have a voice.”

UVic student Chelsea Graham & TEV elder Srinavisan enjoy their time at the Isha School (photo: Aisling Kennedy)

UVic student Chelsea Graham & TEV elder Srinavisan enjoy their time at the Isha School (photo: Aisling Kennedy)

Ultimately, it’s Jayama’s story that Gusul holds closest to his heart, knowing the difference Applied Theatre has made in her life. “I’m really happy that for one single night, we could take one of these elders and help her become a storyteller for her community, he says. “She can tell her story of going through poverty and oppression her whole life, and can now proudly stand up in this village and declare her story. It’s wonderful.”

—This piece originally ran in the January 2105 issue of UVic’s Ring newspaper. Matthew Gusul will also be the keynote speaker at the 18th annual Visual Impetus Graduate Student Research Symposium in the Department of Art History & Visual Studies, running January 23 & 24 in Fine Arts 103.

 

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!