Faculty Research Symposium looks at digital scholarship

Digital scholarship is one of the big buzzwords on campuses everywhere these days. But how is scholarship being transformed and expanded by digital possibilities? What are the significant challenges in digital scholarship? Those are some of the key questions being explored by the Department of Art History & Visual Studies in the annual Faculty Research Symposium happening on February 27.

Highway Signpost Mentorship“The digital turn is already here,” says department chair and symposium organizer Catherine Harding. “We need to get in there and really claim a presence as Fine Arts—and that’s the hard part. That’s why we need these conversations at the faculty level, to discusses these questions of what digital scholarship looks like for the fine arts.”

Running from 9:15am to 3:45pm in the Haro Room of UVic’s Cadboro Commons building, New Directions in Digital Scholarship offers a range of interdisciplinary presentations from Fine Arts faculty members plus guests from across campus, as well as a keynote address by guest Orion Lecturer Fabrizio Nevola of the University of Exeter.

“The faculty research symposium used to be just for us, but we’ve expanded out in the past few years and it’s been really cool to hear what other people in Fine Arts are doing,” says Harding.

The day is broken into three programs—Digital Initiatives in Fine Arts, Digital Pedagogy and Digital Initiatives in Fine Arts and Humanities—wrapping up with Dr. Nevola’s final presentation, “Seeing and Being in the Renaissance City: Digital Tools for a Context-aware History of Material Culture.”

Among the Fine Arts presenters are Kirk McNally (School of Music) on “Music Archives in Higher Education: A Case Study”, Associate Dean Eva Baboula with student researcher untitledElsie Mountford (Art History & Visual Studies) on “Design and Process in Building an Online Research Tool: the Ottoman architecture of southern Greece”, Dennine Dudley (Art History & Visual Studies) on “Dr. Strangeworld or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying, and Love the Technology”, Department of Writing chair and gamification expert David Leach on “Enter the Labyrinth: The promise and perils of video games in higher education”and School of Music director Susan Lewis Hammond with student researcher Bradley Pickard on “Searching for Claudio Monteverdi in Cyberspace: Digital Bibliography and Early Music.”

Also presenting are Kim McLean-Fiander (English) on “Something Old, Something New: Digital Innovations in Early Modern Scholarship” and Lisa Goddard (Libraries) with “A Second Look: Library Services to Support Digital Scholarship in the Visual Arts.”

AH FRS_2015Harding says she was inspired by attending a digital scholarship for departmental chairs seminar last summer, although she does admit that she’s “slower to embrace the potential” than some of the newer faculty members. She also points out that digital scholarship is particularly tricky in Art History, given the dynamic work being done by UVic’s own Dr. Ray Siemens in the Digital Humanities.

“We are working on digital projects in Art History, but we’re a bit shy about it because we don’t feel we’ve done anything really extraordinary yet,” she says. “No question, Digital Humanities is way ahead of us. But I wanted to create a space with this symposium where we could safely explore these issues without any performance expectations. Digital scholarship isn’t owned by any one area, as we see by the involvement of the English department and Libraries.”

Harding is particularly looking forward to the presentation by Lisa Goddard, recently appointed as an associate university librarian specializing in digital scholarship and strategy. “The question really is, how do we embrace multidisciplinary knowledges? I’ll be interested to see whether she means just art history or if she is indeed able to platform in a way that works for visual arts too.”

App_use_Florence_1_jpg-1024x576Another highlight of the day will be Nevola’s presentation. The creator of Hidden Florence, a website and free smartphone app that takes you on a unique tour of the Renaissance city through the eyes of a “contemporary” guide—a 1490s wool worker called Giovanni—Nevola’s intention is to use digital scholarship to allow visitors the chance to engage imaginatively with Renaissance Florence as a lived experience, while going to places that most tourist guides tend to neglect.

screen5-en-1397248071Department of Writing professor Kevin Kerr tackled a similar project with his Circa 1948 National Film Board collaboration with multimedia artist Stan Douglas, which allows viewers to virtually explore such former districts and Vancouver landmarks in as Hogan’s Alley and the original Hotel Vancouver in 1948.

“There are digital projects already happening in the fine arts, as evidenced by these presentations,” Harding says. She points to What Jane Saw, a reconstructed digital exhibition based on Jane Austen’s 1813 text of an art exhibit she visited, complete with room diagrams and art. The project was created by the University of Texas at Austin’s Department of English. “It’s extraordinary what people are doing with digital pedagogy.”

Department of Art History & Visual Studies Faculty Research Symposium
9:15am – 3:45pm Friday, Feb. 27, Haro Room, Cadboro Commons
All are welcome • Free • Lunch provided

Fine Arts at IdeaFest 2015

IdeaFest 2015_web buttonBack for its fourth year, UVic’s IdeaFest is celebrating ideas that can change everything. Organized by the Office of the Vice President Research, IdeaFest runs March 2 to 7 at various venues across campus and offers over 50 panels, workshops, exhibits, lectures and tours presented by UVic thinkers, innovators and artists. Join us as we explore dozens of world changing ideas!

Fine Arts is heavily involved IdeaFest once again, with five separate presentations as well as participation in two exhibits and the annual Jamie Cassels Undergraduate Research Award fair. (See our full-lineup below.) But with over 50 events at IdeaFest as a whole, the hardest part will be choosing which to attend. Keep in mind, all events are free (unless indicated) and no advance registration is required.

Graphic IdeasGraphic ideas @UVic
12:30-3pm Monday, March 2 • UVic Bookstore

If you love graphic novels, comics, or cartoons, don’t miss this comic book fair with presentations from students, profs and visitors! Writing professor Lee Henderson will be on hand to discuss his new comic strip-focused novel, The Road Narrows As You Go.  Come with your favourite graphic work for a discussion between readers and creators about graphic art. Organized by the departments of French, Curriculum & Instruction, Indigenous Law Research Unit, Hispanic & Italian Studies, Germanic & Slavic Studies, and Pacific & Asian Studies, with support from the Bookstore and Libraries.

new photo_testing 1,2,3Testing 1, 2, 3: New approaches to music courses in the 21st century
6-8pm Monday, March 2 • MacLaurin B037

From Beyoncé and the Beatles to jazz legends and rock divas, our School of Music is always looking for new approaches to its music courses. Through a look at course content, shifting tastes and audience demands in popular music, this illustrated lecture will demonstrate the need for innovative course design. Featuring Music professor Patrick Boyle and instructors Melissa Avdeeff and Colleen Eccleston.

Medieval Minutes
12:30-1:30pm Tuesday, March 3 • McPherson Library A003

Marking an evocative time in history, the medieval period lasted from the 5th to 15th century. Fast-forward to modern day and imagine a large circle of people coming from diverse areas of the campus and the community, some even dressed in medieval attire. All have a medieval story, memory or performance to share. Join the Medieval Studies Program and Art History & Visual Studies professors Jamie Kemp and Catherine Harding for this open-mic event—everyone wishing to step into the circle is welcome and has three minutes to be “medieval”.

The mythology of the mad genius: Five myths about creativity
4-6pm Tuesday, March 3 • MacLaurin D110

Mad GeniusWhere do ideas come from? Do you have to suffer for your art? And are all artists really that eccentric? Find out when moderator and Acting Dean of Fine Arts Lynne Van Luven deconstructs the myths of creativity in this zesty and informative panel discussion featuring one faculty member from each Fine Arts department: Christopher Butterfield (Music), Kevin Kerr (Writing), Brian Richmond (Theatre), Paul Walde (Visual Arts) and Erin Campbell (Art History & Visual Studies).

Jamie Cassels Undergraduate Research Awards symposium
11:30am-3pm Wednesday, March 4 • the SUB’s Michele Pujol room

Join us in celebrating the outstanding research produced by 110 Jamie Cassels Undergraduate Research Awards scholars. Fine Arts will be ably represented by Holly Cecil, Aimee Hawker & Laurie White (Art History & Visual Studies), Jerry Flexer & Cody Gles (Writing), Elizabeth Charters, Hovey Eyres & Olivia Prior (Visual Arts) and Chase Hiebert & Emma Leck (Theatre).

Liar Wins thumbnailThe best liar wins: Hidden information and role-playing
1-3pm Wednesday, March 4 • Phoenix Theatre Lobby

What happens when the audience becomes the performer? Join Theatre professor Anthony Vickery for a fun and dynamic role-playing event where audience members must make a decision with limited information—your figurative life is on the line as you engage in lies, acts of deception and leaps of faith. Members will engage in a battle of wits where they role play a villager in the midst of a crisis and ultimately try to out-perform their peers. This event involves participating in the performance as a villager with guided direction from a leader, followed by a discussion of the performative aspects of role playing.

March 4_Inside JM's DiaryInside JM’s Diary: Researching a WWI “History Mystery”
4:30-6pm Wednesday, March 4 • McPherson Library Special Collections A003

Join Art History & Visual Studies professor Marcus Millwright as he shares clues and tips from around the world that may help him solve a long-standing UVic historical mystery—the search for the true identity of the now-famous “JM,” the author and artist of a World War I diary. The two-volume diary, currently on display at his Legacy-Maltwood exhibit The Arts of World War I, will be on hand so participants can view first-hand over 130 watercolour illustrations and pen and ink drawings detailing the author’s life during the war.

Computers and art_thumbnailCan computers and art produce aesthetic work?
10-11:30am Friday, March 6 • Room 150 of the Visual Arts building

Visual Arts professor Lynda Gammon is joined by colleagues and students from the departments of Computer Science and Visual Arts to discuss projects using computation to produce artwork difficult to make with traditional media. This includes a Flowsnake algorithm that creates detailed single-line drawing with a digital pen, and a composition motivated lighting algorithm that renders animated light patterns from a single sketch. Feel inspired as artists and scientists discuss the symbiosis between the groups and give a demonstration of the creation process.

Light and Colour
Running March 2-7 • Audain Gallery, Visual Arts Building

Visual Arts instructor and exhibit organizer David Gifford invites you to discover a broader understanding of light and colour through a diverse showcase of student-led exhibits. The exhibit includes a presentation by James Tyrwhitt-Drake on particle wavelength duality, a demonstration on synaesthesia by Music student Gowan McQuarrie, and a workshop on LEDs by Olivia Prior. Interactive elements include a camera obscura tent, a rainbow competition and a device that tells the time through colour.

d. bradley muir, The Supernova Scene

d. bradley muir, The Supernova Scene

In Session – ONE
Running 10am – 4pm March 4-7 • Legacy Art Gallery

Step out of digital overload and explore the significance and power of photo-based art. Come explore a showcase of  new works by Visual Arts sessional instructors Megan Dickie, Laura Dutton, d. bradley muir and Tara Nicholson. Note: this event takes place off campus at the Legacy Art Gallery Downtown, 630 Yates St.

Please come out and support our Fine Arts faculty and students. And be sure to check out the rest of the fascinating options on view at IdeaFest 2015.  What’s your idea that will change the world?

IdeaFest 2015_web banner

 

A Day in the Life: Iona Hubner

If proof of a rich life is the cultural treasures by which you surround yourself, then Iona Hubner is wealthy beyond measure. As the Visual Resources Curator for the recently renamed Department of Art History & Visual Studies, Hubner has been immersed in the vast and bountiful cultural riches of the entire world for the past 19 years. Her daily task? Assisting the Art History faculty with the visual resources essential to their research and teaching.

Art History's Iona Hubner (UVic Photo Services)

Art History’s Iona Hubner (UVic Photo Services)

On this particular day, Hubner’s desk is cluttered with art books encompassing 15th century Burgundy, the camera lucida, Renaissance tapestries, world architecture and British artist David Hockney. One of her computer screens is always open to DIDO (the Digital Image Database Online she manages for the Faculty of Fine Arts), and the numerous cabinets in her visual resource collection hold over 150,000 photographic slides—outdated technology, perhaps, but many of which still offer unparalleled images ranging from neolithic cave art to rare Qu’ran pages that cannot be found online.

“I sincerely love what I do,” Hubner croons. “It’s always changing, and I love the history in the art. That’s what our department gives people: that extra added visual literacy of looking at the world and seeing it in different ways.”

changing with the times

That ability to see the world differently is what drew the Victoria born-and-raised Hubner away from an intended Classics degree and into Art History after taking a single undergrad elective back in 1990. “One thing I liked—and still like—about our department is the cultural diversity,” she says. “It’s not just the European canon: we’re one of the only places in Canada that specializes in Islamic art, for example. That’s important for visual literacy, because we’re not always referencing European traditions.”

Visual ResourcesAn initial student workstudy position led to being hired after graduation as the Assistant Curator of the Slide Library in 1996—a title that changed to Visual Resources with the transition to digital in 2004 and the development of DIDO in 2005. But with over three millennia of global art, architecture and material culture at her fingertips, much of Hubner’s time this past decade has been spent converting some 64,000 of those slides to digital images.

Indeed, the former History in Art department’s 2014 name change to Art History & Visual Studies reflects the changes in both society and pedagogy. “It’s essential for people to increase their visual literacy,” Hubner insists. “We need to understand the meaning behind an image—why it was chosen, what it means, what it represents—as well as the past cultures it references.”

Art historians in action

Art historians in action

From video games and album covers to costumes, fabrics, stamps, coins, ceramics, architecture, films—the list is endless, really—she reminds us of the importance of an artist’s choices. “If you just see an image as a pretty picture or an interesting design, you’re missing so much. Looking at contemporary artists like Ai Wei Wei and being able to reference back to the Rennaissance or Russian Construcitivism enriches everything.”

Not surprisingly, if you bump into Hubner off-campus, she’s likely to be doing the same thing she does at work: looking at art. Haunting galleries and museums is still a passion, even after 20 years of art management. But rather than be stymied by the changes and challenges of digitalization (“Talk about lost art forms—I know how to mount a slide behind glass,” she quips), the eminently good-natured Hubner sees shifting technology as a means of making resources more accessible. “Because art history is based so much on the visual, and visual literacy so important, it’s essential to have a functional visual database. It’s what our faculty use in their teaching all the time.”

digital scholarship

Highway Signpost MentorshipShifting digital frontiers in both society and academia is what the Art History & Visual Studies department’s annual Faculty Research Symposium will be focusing on come February 27. “New Directions in Digital Scholarship” offers a look at how scholarship is being challenged, transformed and expanded. Featuring a keynote by the University of Exeter’s Dr. Fabrizio Nevola, all are welcome to hear a range of speakers and guests exploring these questions and more in the Haro Room of Cadboro Commons.

For Hubner, digitalization is primarily about future preservation. “Technology always changes,” she says. “In the past 10 years, we’ve gone from slides to digital; I can’t even imagine what we’ll be using in 10 more. But for people studying at UVic, how else would you be able to see these particular images and sites? You can’t just pop to the museum in Dijon on the weekend—but you can look at their images in DIDO.”

Art History’s Visual Resource Collection remains unique on campus for both its size and scope. “Some of our slides are so valuable they can actually be thought of as primary resources,” she explains. “One of our professors, Dr. Marcus Millwright, does a lot of research in Syria and he has images in our collection are of things that no longer exist, due to the conflict.”

Ironically, for someone who spends her days digitalizing images for online use, Hubner’s final thought is particularly poignant. “A local collection is an essential academic tool—much like a solid campus library—as it specifically reflects the faculty’s research and teaching here,” she says with a sly chuckle. “And, despite what people think, not everything is available on Google.”

This piece was originally published in the February 2015 issue of UVic’s Ring newspaper

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?

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.

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!

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.

New student welcome

Now that classes are back in session, it’s time again for our annual Fine Arts New Student Welcome soiree, where we welcome our first-year students in style.

ice-social_960x540But rather than offer yet another year of pizza, this time around the Fine Arts faculty and staff will be serving something different: ice cream! Yep, we’re throwing an ice cream social—but better still, this Sept 11 event will feature tasty gourmet ice cream sandwiches by Cold Comfort, local purveyor of high-end ice cream yumminess.

ColdComfortRather than just the humdrum likes of vanilla, strawberry and chocolate, Cold Comfort offers ice cream sandwiches with flavours like Vanilla Bean sandwiched between chocolate cookies and Salted Caramel (that’s dairy and gluten-free, no less). We’ll also have a mystery box of random flavours for the more daring ice cream gourmands.

Coastal Giant

Coastal Giant

But there will be more than just ice cream up for grabs. In addition to popcorn and cookies (for those who don’t like chilly treats), we’ll also be featuring the music of local country funk band Coastal Giant.

Come for the food, stay for the fun! The New Student Welcome is always a great chance to connect with Fine Arts faculty and staff in a casual environment. All Fine Arts students, staff and faculty are welcome to join us from 4 to 6pm Thursday, September 11, in the Fine Arts Courtyard.

Last week for Heaven

If you haven’t been to Heaven yet, you’ve still got time. No need to bother St. Peter, however—simply pop into the Legacy Art Gallery Downtown for the final week of the  exhibit Windows Into Heaven: Religious Icons from the Permanent Collection.

Co-curator Regan Shrumm explains the significance of some of the icons

Co-curator Regan Shrumm explains the significance of some of the icons

Running through to Saturday, August 9, Windows Into Heaven is a result of the graduate research of History in Art MFA and exhibit co-curator Regan Shrumm.

Featuring Christian Orthodox icons and crucifixes from the permanent collection of the Legacy Gallery, this exhibition examines religious, historical, and cultural meanings past and present. “A lot of people don’t know what icons are or what they’re used for,” says Shrumm, who originally started exploring the Legacy’s collection for the Jamie Cassels Undergraduate Research Award in 2012.

Frequent readers of this blog may well remember Shrumm’s name as the winner of the 2013 Victoria Medal—awarded annually to the student with the highest GPA in the Faculty of Fine Arts. Describing her as “a remarkable student” with “a lively, vibrant spark,” History in Art chair Dr. Catherine Harding noted Shrumm “made these precious items come alive through her focus on their materiality and their special relationship to other artistic traditions, such as the close visual connections between Greek Byzantine and Russian religious culture.”

Eva Baboula speaks to a packed house at the curator's talk in April

Eva Baboula speaks to a packed house at the curator’s talk in April

Windows Into Heaven is co-curated HIA professor and recently appointed Associate Dean of Fine Arts, Dr. Evanthia Baboula, who also led Shrumm’s directed studies course which led to the creation of this popular exhibit. Over a hundred people turned out for the curator’s talk and tour back in April, showing the continuing interest in this kind of religious iconography.

Just a few of the icons on display

Just a few of the icons on display

The 18th and 19th century icons—created from egg tempera, enamel and silver metalwork—are from the eastern Christian tradition and show how religious imagery maintained a central role in orthodox Christianity. Many of the icons are from the donated collection of Dr. Bruce and Mrs. Dorothy Brown.

Icons were venerated in churches, private homes or during a journey to provide protection to body and spirit. Images of saints, Christ and the Virgin that date back to the Byzantine tradition, the medieval empire of Constantinople, are also a concrete remnant of how the religious communities of imperial Russia built on these traditions to create a recognizable, yet distinctive and lively art.

Viewers at the exhibit

Viewers at the exhibit

“The icons in this exhibition are similar in age and importance to others found in major galleries and museums worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum, the British Museum, and the Ashmolean,” says Baboula.

Windows Into Heaven must close on August 9 at the Legacy Art Gallery Downtown, 630 Yates. Admission is free and the gallery is open 9am to 4pm Wednesday to Saturday.

“History in Art” soon to be history

Change is afoot in the Department of History in Art . . . a name change, to be precise. Starting next year, HIA will become the Department of Art History and Visual Studies.

“[The name] History in Art is unique—there is no other department in the world with that name,” explains department chair Catherine Harding. “[Department founder Alan Gowans] wanted to signal that we were not about the elite practice of art, but it’s honestly been the bane of our existence. People hear the name and they ask, ‘What’s that? Is it some different branch of history or art history?’”

HIA film listShifting to “Art History and Visual Studies” isn’t just about making fewer explanations, however; Harding says it’s also about being more inclusive within the department itself. “We’ve had people teaching with us for years who are film historians, not really art historians, and they’ve always felt like a bit of a sidecar.”

A new name also provides the opportunity for curriculum revision. “Instead of being focused on geographies and chronologies, we’re now going to have three streams: visual literacy, including all the film courses; intercultural/cultural understanding; and our experiential community base. We’re retooling what we offer, and the name change will be huge for that.”

Medieval coursesHarding points to the recent brouhaha when US president Barack Obama took an offhand swipe at art history: “Folks can make a lot more potentially with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree”—a remark for which he later apologized. (“As it so happens, art history was one of my favorite subjects in high school.”)

Ironically, she has been looking south of the border for examples of the increasing importance of visual literacy in society. “They do visual literacy In the American secondary school curriculum, but there’s no visual literacy in BC secondaries,” she says. “We can do an important job here advocating for visual literacy in BC’s schools. “

Now that all the planning and paperwork is completed, Harding is looking forward to their new designation. “It still has to go through Senate, but the signs are that everyone really supports it,” she says. “But it probably won’t show up until next year’s calendar—let’s say September 2015 to do all the administrative changes.”