Fine Arts Dean Sarah Blackstone shake hands with GAFA Vice President Wang Yuesheng following the official signing of the Memorandum of Understanding

Six representatives of China’s Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts (GAFA) visited UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts on October 5. In addition to a faculty tour, a luncheon with representatives from UVic’s Centre for Asia-Pacific Initiatives and Office of International Affairs, a lecture by GAFA scholar Wu Yangbo on “Chinese Feng Shui and the study of the Dragon Mother Temple” and a public reception, there was also an exchange of gifts and the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding to pursue future student and faculty exchanges.

The GAFA delegation with Dean Sarah Blackstone, outside the Fine Arts building

“I am very hopeful that we can forge a strong relationship with GAFA that will provide our students with the opportunity to study in China, and our Faculty the chance to learn about Chinese art practices from visiting students and faculty,” said Dr. Sarah Blackstone, Dean of Fine Arts.

Founded in 1953, GAFA has developed into one of the finest art institutions in South China. Specializing in two disciplines—Fine Arts and Design—GAFA focusses on traditional Chinese painting as well as oil and watercolour painting, sculpture and art history, while the College of Design ranges from architecture and environmental design to fashion, digital, textiles and more.

David Wang (second left) of UVic’s Office of International Affairs takes the GAFA delegation around the campus

GAFA currently has over 6,000 undergraduate and graduate students, has welcomed more than 300 students from 18 countries over the past 20 years, and was one of the first institutions in China authorized to award MFA degrees. It is one of the top eight fine arts schools in Mainland China, and also has an attached Fine Arts High School and Fine Arts Research Institute. (On an interesting historical note, the largest number of immigrants to Victoria came from China’s Guangzhou province, making UVic the natural choice for establishing an exchange program.)

Members of the GAFA delegation tour the Fine Arts buildings

In addition to GAFA Vice President Wang Yuesheng, visiting delegates included professor Huang Yong (Director of Foundation Program for Fine Art), professor Long Youzhong (Dean of Art Education), professor Wang Dapeng (Dean of Traditional Chinese Painting), Xia Tian (Department of Sculpture) and Wu Yangbo (School of Art and Humanities).

The visit was organized with the assistance of Ms. Eunice Lowe, widow of noted artist Stephen Lowe and a donor to History in Art. Ms. Lowe also kindly organized a special evening reception at the Union Club, where invited guests included the likes of Barry Till, curator of Asian Art for the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, noted local art writer Robert Amos and former Victoria mayor Alan Lowe. Also present at the luncheon was Writing professor and poet Tim Lilburn, who was instrumental in bringing acclaimed Chinese poet Xi Chuan to UVic in 2009.

Robert Amos with GAFA Vice President Wang Yuesheng at the Union Club

Following their visit to UVic, the GAFA delegation was continuing on to Montreal and the USA.