While much of the high-profile research and creative activity on campus tends to happen at both the faculty and graduate student level, let’s not discount the foundational work being done by our undergrads. As such, the Faculty of Fine Arts is once again proud to feature the work of 10 students from four separate departments in the annual Jamie Cassels Undergraduate Research Awards.
First instituted in 2009-10 as the Undergraduate Research Scholarship program by then Vice-President Academic and Provost—and now UVic President—Jamie Cassels, the JCURAs are designed to provide support for exceptional undergraduate students who might otherwise not be able to obtain a direct research experience as a part of what we anticipate should be a truly formative learning experience. With the award nomination process administered by the Learning and Teaching Centre, on behalf of the Provost’s Office, the annual JCURA symposium is one of the highlights of IdeaFest.
You can read full abstracts on all 110 entries here, from almost every department on campus, but we’re just going to note the Fine Arts contributions—which you can find out more about in person at the JCURA symposium running 11:30am-3pm Wednesday, March 4.
The Department of Art History & Visual Studies is in the lead with three JCURA students this year. Aimee Hawker (supervised by department chair Catherine Harding) is focusing on the Basilica of San Francesco in Assisi for her JCURA project. “An essential site of veneration and pilgrimage, it is visited by thousands of pilgrims each year,” she writes. “It also houses the most expansive narrative program that survives in Italy from the 13th and 14th centuries, with masters such as Giotto, Cimabue, Simone Martini and Giunta Pisano taking part in the Basilica’s decoration.” Her project examines the current research on the degradation of the frescos of the Upper Basilica and the restoration and conservation efforts carried out by the Istituto Centrale per il Restauro (I.C.R.).
A clip from Holly Cecil’s William Morris film project
Fellow AHVS student Holly Cecil (supervised by professor Erin Campbell) presentation is “A Joy to the Maker and the User”: The Arts & Crafts Movement in Canadian Collections, which traces the origins of the British Arts and Crafts design movement to its reception in Canada, by analyzing several representative objects in our Legacy Art Galleries collections. “Uniting beauty and function, these works of art allow us to trace the movement and its appeal to Canadian collectors,” writes Cecil. Her project will culminate in website-friendly short films, like this foundational William Morris film project she created.
When planning the summer 2015 Legacy Art Gallery exhibit on Katharine Maltwood and the Arts and Crafts movement, curator Caroline Riedel notes, “The inclusion of Holly Cecil’s work . . . also underlines the mandate of the Legacy Art Galleries to foster research and learning through art and, where possible, to showcase the work of faculty and students who work with our collection.”
At work on VISA’s Peoples Apothocary
And AHVS’s Laurie White (supervised by professor Allan Antliff) is considering the aesthetic and ideological role community gardens play in our contemporary visual culture. “Through the aesthetic medium of the garden, these shared outdoor spaces promote social interaction and connection to nature and are in this sense works of ‘social sculpture’, a term coined by German artist Joseph Beuys,” she writes. “Whether they grow food or flowers, community gardens are an outlet for creative and political self expression and form an important part of counter-cultural struggles in the West today.” She will be looking at gardens as works of art in themselves, both on an aesthetic and socially transformative level, and will consider local community gardens with artistic connections, such as Vancouver Island School of Art‘s People’s Apothecary.
Meanwhile, Department of Writing student Cody Gies (supervised by professor Lee Henderson) proposes to write and illustrate a weekly/bi-weekly alternative webcomic that will explore and make use of various structures and techniques of the medium. “Inspired by ‘rubber hose’ animation and the highly imaginative works of Jean Giraud (Moebius) and Brandon Graham (an influential Vancouver cartoonist with Victoria connections), I hope to write a surreal fantasy focused on the journey and relationship of two protagonists,” says Gies. “I plan to research and incorporate an interactive narrative experience through use of links, gifs, games, etcetera, embedded in the sequential art.” You can check out both a digital and limited-run print version of the comic at the JCURA fair.
Watch out, Writing profs—Flexer has diagrams
Also in Writing, Jerry Flexer (supervised by Writing chair David Leach) will be examining the very thing he spends days listening to: creative writing pedagogy, with an emphasis on creative nonfiction. “My research will consider two dominant approaches,” he writes. “The product-focused approach invites students to read published works and emulate, while the process-focused approach relies on a step-by-step process to gradually develop learners’ creative writing skills. One area of debate is whether a method based on a process of any kind can be effective. Some creative writing instructors, as well as some published writers, attribute artistic writing to talent and hard work, something instruction does not provide. I will argue for the importance of including a process focus in creative writing instruction because research suggests it better meets the expectations and needs of learners.”
Over in the Department of Visual Arts, Elizabeth Charters (supervised by professor Robert Youds) is examining sculptural practice is space. “I’m interested in how we interact with the space of the constructed environments we find ourselves in,” she says. “Inspired by everything from street lamps and neon signs to the objects displayed on a living room mantle, I am curious about the physical and psychological impacts that various artificial environments have on our way of living. How we move through and interact with the space that is immediately found around us, whether it is in the private or public realm, can be reflected in our body’s relationship to the space and the objects within it.” Charters’ eventual goal is to challenge the viewer’s ideas about lived spaces, providing a platform for both a bodily and psychological understanding of the self within the space of an urban setting.
Another Visual Arts student, Hovey Eyres (supervised by professor Lynda Gammon), is looking at the impact of Instagram. A social media application that produces 60 million photographs per day from 200 million users around the world, Eyres notes that “love” and “me” are two of the most popular tags used to describe these photos, with “selfie” not far behind. “These photos reflect my generation’s desperate search for identity and acceptance in today’s society,” she says. “By reproducing these images with pencil and paper, I redefine their context and provoke questions about Instagram, identity, and society. The images’ content is recognizable and familiar, yet the materials make them surprising and stimulating.” Her drawings ultimately reflect issues including publicity versus privacy, appearance versus reality, and the individual versus society.
One last Visual Arts student is Olivia Prior (supervised by Jennifer Stillwell) whose work in the realm of art and technology focuses on “the cohesion of technology, space, and light, by creating interactive installations that generate results unique to each engaging participant.” Her JCURA presentation will use light to examine the control that the physical presence of each participant has in a space, by using various methods to measure values of proximity, sound, or touch. “The light and methods of physical measurement will aim to remove the notion of control, and use technology as a way to reflect the ongoing activity in the space.”
Finally, we have two Department of Theatre students presenting their research. Emma Leck (supervised by Theatre professors Allan Lindgren and Conrad Alexandrowicz) will be examining the theories of two international theatre artists: Polish experimental director Jerzy Grotowski and Soviet director Vsevolod Meyerhold to determine how external actions can inform emotional states. “This research promises to augment the actor’s process and illuminate issues involving the relationship between body and self,” she says.
And Chase Hiebert (supervised by professor Jan Wood) is engaged in a project that will “explore a technique of acting that engages and involves the audience in a cathartic experience. This research promises to reframe the actor/audience relationship in ways that emphasize the need for empathy.” You’ll have to visit the JCURA symposium to find out more on that.
What compels someone to study art history? It could be a passion for the life and work of a certain artist, like Frida Kahlo, or a fascination with a specific period of visual history, like the Renaissance. But for Josie Greenhill, graduating this month with a BA Honours in Art History & Visual Studies (AHVS), her inspiration came from a movie about Jack and Rose.
Josie Greenhill at UVic’s Library
“I’ve always liked museums, but when it comes to liking history, that was from watching way too many period dramas when I was growing up—specifically Titanic. I was next-level obsessed with James Cameron’s movie, which I used to watch every single day,” laughs Greenhill. “Can this interview just be about Titanic?”
Alas, no, but the legacy of that great ship is a good metaphor for what drives an emerging art historian like Greenhill. “I’ve always liked art, history and culture, and this is an area that mixes them all together,” she says. “I like what objects and material culture can communicate to you; it’s a different approach than just looking at historical texts.”
Born and raised in Nanaimo, Greenhill admits she started out as a “mediocre student” at UVic, but that clearly didn’t last long. Beyond completing an AHVS honours thesis, she’s also taken on leadership roles in student governance, was awarded a JCURA for undergraduate research, had a work-study position, held a co-op placement as a curatorial assistant at Legacy Art Galleries—where she also curated an exhibit about local architects—was hired as an archival assistant in Special Collections, launched her own digital exhibition for UVic’s Electronic Textual Cultures Lab, earned numerous awards and scholarships, presented and published numerous academic papers, and is one of the “faces of art history” in new AHVS recruitment material.
She has also been accepted into the University of Toronto’s highly-competitive art history master’s program, for which she also won a CGS Master’s SSHRC grant—a rare feat for a first-year MA student.
“Josie represents everything UVic stands for,” notes AHVS chair Dr. Erin Campbell. “She is a well-rounded, high-achieving, brilliant, civic-minded, thoughtful and compassionate student who has been shaped by her UVic experience.”
Not that the self-effacing Greenhill would describe herself in such glowing terms. “People think I’m really busy all the time, but I spend a lot of time listening to podcasts and watching Netflix,” she admits. “It’s partially about time management—I wake up early every day—but it’s also about taking risks. Sometimes you just have to take the leap and apply for things you may not have all the qualifications for; it’s surprising how many opportunities will come your way.”
Greenhill in Special Collections
One of Greenhill’s favourite aspects of studying art history has been the sense of discovery that comes through working with archival material. “An object can be your only insight into a time period—if you can hold history or really see it, it has more impact than just reading a document.”
For example, she was thrilled to be able to access a pair of books by Christina and Dante Gabrielle Rossetti through UVic’s Special Collections. “She did the poetry and he did the binding and illustrations,” she explains. “My honours thesis is about Pre-Raphaelite book art—the binding designs, illustrations—which directly ties into why I’m interested in art history. The Pre-Raphaelites were so multi-faceted; they were poets, designers, painters, illustrators . . . there are so many aspects they bring together, and I like studying all those different parts.”
One of her favourite projects was curating a Pride Month exhibit in the lobby display case in UVic Library (seen above)—which she feels doesn’t get the attention it deserves. “People don’t necessarily connect with the lobby case. I often see people just leaning on it with their coffee and I want to say, ‘There’s such cool stuff in here!’”
With her time at UVic coming to an end, how does it feel knowing her face and voice will continue to have a presence on the department’s recruitment material? “It’s kind of intimidating,” she admits. “I’m pretty shy, but I do think it’s cool that I can reach people who I won’t ever meet in person and help motivate them to study art history. I’m grateful that people trust me enough to be a face for the department.”
And is there any wisdom she’d like to share with those future students? “You get out of your degree what you put in to it,” she concludes. “If you get involved, you’ll feel so much better.”
Whether you’re a regular part of the UVic community or simply a visitor to campus, Ideafest 2018 offers an ideal chance to explore the vast and diverse range of research and creative activity happening all around the Ring Road. Fine Arts is offering five distinct events this year, and participating in some others as well.
Rightfully described as being about “ideas that can change everything,” UVic’s week-long festival of research, art and innovation runs March 5-10 and features over 40 events on topics ranging from climate change and chamber music to Indigenous law, optimistic art, antibiotic resistance and so much more.
All events are free and open to the public — please join us at any or all of our signature Fine Arts events, and be sure to take time to explore the full schedule as well. You never know what your new favourite topic might be!
First up on the Fine Arts schedule is the annual reading night featuring Department of Writing MFA candidates. Hosted by award-winning playwright and Writing professor Kevin Kerr, All Lit Up: Creative Writing’s Bright Lights offers live readings and performances by the next generation of Canadian literati, including Levi Binnema (poetry), Sarah Hamill (nonfiction), Daniel Hogg (screenwriting), Elliott James (playwriting) and Kari Teicher (fiction).
Enjoy this lively (and licensed) literary cabaret from 7 to 8:30pm Monday, March 5, at the popular Copper Owl — one of downtown’s most unique and charming arts venues, (upstairs at Paul’s Motor Inn, 1900 Douglas). Doors open at 6:30, and this event always packs out so do arrive early. Note: no minors.
For over 50 years, UVic’s School of Music has had a long history of producing outstanding string students — helped along in no small measure by the Lafayette String Quartet, who have been artists-in-residence here since 1991. Now, you can discover the next generation of outstanding string talent with Cuarteto Chroma — Canada’s first graduate student string quartet. The event String Quartets at UVic: A Musical Continuum offers an interactive performance where Cuarteto Chroma will invite the audience to suggest how they should perform a particular piece — deciding things like tempo, vibrato and the balance between each instrument — which will allow the audience to hear the effects their choices have on the musical outcome.
Afterwards, Chroma will join the Lafayette String Quartet for an informal Q&A session, followed by a Lafayette-taught masterclass for UVic string students — that’s three opportunities to catch a glimpse of the intimate world of chamber music and explore the hidden facets of life in a string quartet. A Musical Continuum runs 11am-2:30pm Tuesday, March 6, in room B037 and the Phillip T. Young Recital Hall, both in the School of Music’s MacLaurin Building B-Wing.
Performers will include the Lafayette String Quartet (Pamela Highbaugh Aloni, Ann Elliott-Goldschmid, Joanna Hood and Sharon Stanis) and Cuarteto Chroma (Felix Alanis, Manuel Cruz, Ilya Gotchev and Carlos Quijano), as well as undergraduate string students. Interactive performance runs 11am–12:15pm in the Phillip T. Young Recital Hall, while the Q&A session runs 12:30–1:20pm in B037, and the chamber music masterclass runs 1:30-2:20pm back in the Phillip T. Young Recital Hall, just next door to the classroom.
If Bobby McFerrin’s classic singalong ditty “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” isn’t quite cutting it for you these days, art may be the answer: in troubling times, optimism can feel like a scarce commodity, but for centuries people have found hope and joy in visual art. Art and Optimism in an Age of Worry offers a lively series of short presentations as Art History & Visual Studies faculty members and graduate students will explore how artists and their works have long offered new messages of hope, healing and empowerment. While showcasing a wide range of styles and movements, they will also collectively demonstrate how art can ignite optimism and agency in your own life.
Join host and AHVS professor Catherine Harding from 5-7pm on Tuesday, March 6, in room 116 of UVic’s Engineering & Computer Science building (ECS), where she’ll be joined by fellow AHVS professors Erin Campbell and Carolyn Butler Palmer, plus grad students Holly Cecil, Gonzalo Gutierrez, Alexa Heenan, Ambreen Hussaini, and Katayoun Youssefi.
If you think Fine Arts is just about paintbrushes, sheet music and words on the page, get ready to enter the digital realm and discover a whole new world of creativity when you go Beyond the Digital Frontier: Exploring Digital and Interactive Media in the Arts. From virtual-reality filmmaking and innovations in digital art to interactive gaming, artifact handling, new theatre technology and into the recording studio with Vancouver rockers Bend Sinister, find out how UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts is a leader in 21st century creativity at this interactive, drop-in, self-guided exploration event.
Professors Kelly Richardson (Visual Arts), Kirk McNally (Music) and Victoria Wyatt (AHVS), plus technician Simon Farrow (Theatre) and both graduate and undergrad students will showcase recent innovations in the world of digital media from 5-6:30pm on Wednesday, March 7, throughout UVic’s Fine Arts Building.
And you’ve got the entire week of Ideafest to explore the Visual Arts exhibit Math Garden. Conceived of as an outdoor concept exhibition by Visual Arts instructor David Gifford, Math Garden explores some of the visual aspects concerned with popular mathematics. Topics such as amounts, shapes and change will be imagined by the undergraduate drawing class of ART 300, whose motive is to celebrate a handful of patterns that are present in this abstract discipline.
Math Garden is inspired by Mathematica, an exhibition of mathematical concepts by Charles and Ray Eames that debuted at the California Museum of Science and Industry in 1961. The self-guided exhibit in the Fine Arts Building courtyard will also include didactic panels for the purpose of intellectual entertainment, including the explanation of potentially difficult concepts through pictures and interactive sculptures and installations.
While those are our signature events, Fine Arts students will also be participating in the likes of the annual Jamie Cassels Undergraduate Research Awards (JCURA) Fair from 11:30am-3pm on Wednesday, March 7, in UVic’s Student Union Building, as well as the new creative writing contest On the Verge: Student Voices, co-hosted by UVic’s Libraries and Equity & Human Rights, from 4:30-6pm on Thursday, March 8 in Libraries room 129. And will any of our short films about creative practice in Fine Arts make the final cut of the second annual Research Reels contest? To find out, you’ll have to drop by the screening event running from 5-6:30pm Tuesday, March 6, in the David Lam Auditorium, room A144 of the MacLaurin Building.
Ideafest — UVic’s week-long free festival of world-changing ideas — is once again ready to welcome thinkers, innovators, artists and audiences to a fascinating range of events across campus. This year’s festival features hundreds of speakers, presenting on topics ranging from the creative economy and ocean sustainability to cybernetic innovations and Indigenous resurgence. Fine Arts is once again a major participant in Ideafest, with our faculty or students participating in eight different events.
For the Faculty of Fine Arts, Ideafest starts off with the student exhibit Sensitive chaos: The Creation of Flowing Forms in Water and Air. Organized by instructor David Gifford, the exhibit showcases the work of his Drawing 300 class and expands the concept of what it means to illustrate an idea. The exhibit is inspired by Theodor Schwenk’s 1965 book of the same title, an exploration of fluid dynamics in relation to our ability to read patterns revealed in nature and art. As Jacques Cousteau says in the book’s forward, “All that life around us was really water, modeled according to its own laws, vitalized by each fresh venture, striving to rise into consciousness.” 9am – 5pm daily March 6-11 in the Visual Arts courtyard and Audain Gallery.
Our signature Fine Arts panel discussion this year is focused on Rethinking the Creative Economy, an important and timely discussion about the economic impact of creativity and creative production. Indeed, when it comes to the creative economy, myths often trump facts: while some believe the arts have no significant financial impact, the cultural sector boasts 700,000-plus jobs and contributes more than $60 billion annually to the Canadian economy—10 times more than sports, and that’s not even factoring in the value of art. This lively panel discussion will blow the lid off outdated arts myths, consider culture’s lasting impact and explore our key investment: our students. Moderator and Dean of Fine Arts Susan Lewis will be joined by panelists including Kirk McNally (School of Music), Maureen Bradley (Writing), Tony Vickery (Theatre), Cedric Bomford (Visual Arts) and Melissa Berry (Art History & Visual Studies), plus special guest David Dunne from the Gustavson School of Business. 4 – 6pm Tuesday, March 7, in Turpin A110.
That same night, Rande Cook — the current Audain Chair in Contemporary Art Practice of the Pacific Northwest for the Visual Arts department — will join university chancellor and celebrated broadcast journalist Shelagh Rogers for Reconciliation and Resurgence: How Indigenous Artists are Re-imagining the Story of Canada. Rogers, an honorary witness to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, offers an intimate conversation with Indigenous visual artists Cook, Carey Newman and visual anthropologist and Art History and Visual Studies alumna Andrea Walsh. Across Canada, contemporary Indigenous artists are using images to explore place, truth and identity and challenging us to transform our perspectives, conversations and ideas. Collectively, this great imagining is playing a unique and pivotal role in understanding our past and determining our shared future. This event will be hosted by UVic’s Vice-President Research, David Castle. 7 – 9pm Tuesday, March 7 at Alix Goolden Hall, 907 Pandora. Note: registration is required for this free event.
Interested in what Fine Arts students are creating and researching? Don’t miss the always-fascinating Jamie Cassels Undergraduate Research Awards (JCURA) Fair, which offers exceptional undergraduate students the opportunity to carry out research in their field of study. The annual JCURA Fair will feature over 100 of these inspiring projects, with Fine Arts student projects ranging from Saskatchewan folklore and 19th century social behaviour here in Victoria to the use of brass instruments in Chinese music and intergenerational theatre for educational sexual health projects. Click on the links to read about JCURA projects by Writing students Leone Brander and Holly Lam, Visual Arts students Artemis Feldman and Brandon Poole, Music students Ian VanGils, Alex Klassen and Jordan Shier, Art History & Visual Studies students McKaila Ferguson, Lorinda Fraser and Baylee Woodley, and Theatre students Mary Barbara Clerihue and Leah Tidey. 11:30am – 3pm Wednesday, March 8, in the Student Union Building (SUB) Michele Pujol room and Upper Lounge.
Goya’s The Third of May 1808
From the Russian Revolution to the Arab Spring uprising, from Palestine’s West Bank to the gates of the White House — wherever there is political unrest, there is art. And at a time when (sadly) xenophobia, ethnocentrism, political tensions and censorship are on the rise, art and the visual — from the meme to the masterpiece — have more to offer society than ever before in human history. Don’t miss the lively panel Why Art Matters in Dangerous Times featuring Art History & Visual Studies professors Victoria Wyatt, Astri Wright, Melia Belli, Evanthia Baboula and Lianne McLarty. This panel event accompanies the exhibition Learning through looking: Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Department of Art History & Visual Studies. 5 – 7pm Wednesday, March 8, in room 025 of the McPherson Library.
Meet the next generation of Canadian literature at The Write Stuff, where MFA students from UVic’s legendary Department of Writing read (and perform) ground-breaking graduating manuscripts in fiction, poetry, screenwriting and playwriting and creative nonfiction at this lively (and licensed) literary cabaret. Presenters include Claire Mulligan (screenwriting), Alexa Eldred (fiction), Melissa Taylor (playwriting), Kelsey Lauder (fiction) and Nicola MacWilliam (poetry). 6:30pm Thursday, March 9, at the Copper Owl, 1900 Douglas. While admission is free, please note there are no minors allowed in this licensed venue.
How do artists of colour experience race and identity? That’s the question behind Re-imagining Race, Art and Landscape. Hooked to the current Legacy Gallery exhibit The Mystery of Grafton Tyler Brown, three contemporary Victoria artists of colour — Victoria’s 2016 youth poet laureate Ann-Bernice Thomas, also a Writing/Theatre undergrad — plus painter and performance artist Charles Campbell and filmmaker Kemi Craig — will perform new work relating to racial identity. Grafton Tyler Brown was one of the first professional landscape artists in BC, and the story of his racial identity shifted throughout his career to where he eventually passed for white. 7 – 9pm Friday, March 10, at the Legacy Gallery Downtown, 630 Yates.
Borrow a book, discover a person: that’s the whole focus of the Phoenix Theatre Human Library, a fascinating project that pairs Phoenix pioneers, current educators and local industry professionals with visitors. At the “circulation desk,” you’ll get your own Human Library card and the chance to check out one of a dozen possible human books ranging from titles like “Actor”, “Playwright” or “Producer.” A one-on-one informal conversation will begin and the rest is up to you. Following a theme of “Theatre then and in the future,” participants include the likes of former faculty member John Krich, alumnus playwright/author Mark Leiren-Young, Intrepid Theatre director Heather Lindsay, theatre historian James Hoffman, and local actor Kirsten Van Ritzen, with more to be announced.
“Books” are available on a rotating schedule and are subject to availability, so please be aware that not every book will be available during all hours the Human Library is open. If you’ve never participated in a Human Library before, don’t miss this chance to participate in this culture phenomenon that began in Denmark in 2000; since then, over 65 countries have connected tens of thousands of “readers” with “books” from all walks of life at thousands of these events! Please arrive earlier than before you expect to “read” your book — books are checked out on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 9:30am, 30 minutes before the Phoenix Theatre Human Library opens. This is another signature event in the Department of Theatre’s ongoing 50th anniversary celebrations. 10am – 4pm Saturday, March 11, in the Phoenix Theatre lobby.
While these are what we’ll have on view for Fine Arts, be sure to see the complete schedule of all Ideafest events. Let your curiosity guide you and be inspired by ideas that really can change everything!
Regan Shrumm, circa 2013
While much of the convocation spotlight naturally falls on our undergraduates, we’re pleased to see recent Art History & Visual Studies alumna Regan Shrumm step back into the spotlight on June 15 as the recipient of UVic’s 2015 Lieutenant Governor’s Silver Medal—presented annually to a student with a particularly outstanding project or extended essay, other than thesis.
“Receiving this award will definitely help in perusing a career in writing and curatorship,” says Shrumm. “But I’m once again shocked and honoured to receive such a major award.”
Already the recipient of a 2011 Jamie Cassels Undergraduate Research Award and the 2013 Victoria Medal (for the highest GPA of any graduating Fine Arts student), Shrumm also co-curated the 2014 Legacy Galleries exhibit Windows Into Heaven: Religious Icons from the Permanent Collection. She received the highly competitive SSHRC Joseph Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship to pursue her MA in Art History & Visual Studies, and her resulting research project—“‘Knitting for our Lives’: The Appropriation of the Cowichan Sweaters by the Hudson’s Bay Company during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics”—used the Olympic Games as a case study to raise critical questions relating to similar issues in diverse contemporary contexts, and explore complex issues of cultural appropriation.
Shrumm’s MA work focused on faux Cowichan sweaters
“Regan is an outstanding scholar who demonstrates the relevance of art historical research to complex contemporary issues,” notes Art History & Visual Studies professor Victoria Wyatt, Shrumm’s MA supervisor. “When Regan embraced her research, she held very strong opinions, yet skillfully negotiated the difference between conscientious academic research and editorializing . . . . She demonstrated poignantly that we need not be distanced from controversial topics to study them rigorously.”
Despite the praise, Shrumm doesn’t think of herself as a conventional art historian. “I like to explore more ephemeral or commonplace material culture, not necessary fine arts,” she explains. “I also look at material culture through a cultural history that continues to be perceivable today, rather than a visually analytical context. If I can make a topic relevant for contemporary times, I feel like the research will be pertinent to a larger part of society, not just other academics in the field . . . . both art historians and curators should be blurring the lines between academic research, political activism, and community organization to make art more relevant to all.”
Regan Shrumm at the Smithsonian’s Ray Charles display, which she worked on as an intern
After graduating, Shrumm held an internship at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of American History in Washington DC, working on the exhibition Ray Charles: “The Genius” and related websites.
“Interning for the Smithsonian was very different from my past experiences—I had previously only worked for small institutions with no more than five full-time employees, so to work for an organization whose budget and visitors were in the millions was overwhelming, to say the least,” she says. “I learned that no matter how large a non-profit is there is always a lack of time and resources. After my experience at the Smithsonian, I then realized how amazing it is that small institutions like the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria has such a diversity of programming with an even more limited budget.”
Shrumm also notes how the Smithsonian internship benefited her on a practical level. “I discovered how important it is to know programs such as Adobe Creative Suites and HTML. My original project at the Smithsonian never developed due to a lack of funding, but I was easily assigned to a larger task of website manager for a new Smithsonian-wide program called Smithsonian Music when my supervisor realized I had prior website skills.”
Currently working as the senior curatorial assistant for downtown’s Open Space artist-run centre, Shrumm is in the process of applying for a grant to become their Curator-in-Residence. She notes that her studies “really helped with my researching and writing skills,” and that her MA work emphasized different writing styles, from short blog posts to long form essays to SSHRC grants. “Knowledge of how to write in these various modes of writing helped me produce exhibition labels, mission statements, and newsletter blogs for a wide range of audiences.”
These skills particularly came in hand while she was at the Smithsonian, she says. “The Smithsonian is actually very similar to a university system, with each museum being a different department, and every museum having several libraries in order to have the best researching resources. I would often sit in the American History library reading for hours to become knowledgeable in a subject, just as I had done in university.”
An outstanding student now ready to become an outstanding professional, Regan Shrumm is a fantastic example of how pursuing Art History & Visual Studies can prepare you for an exciting career. As her supervising professor Dr. Wyatt says, “Regan stands poised for a brilliant career in gallery and museum contexts.”