Finding Fine Arts Success Through Co-op

Your Fine Arts co-op rep, Jen Kyffin

If you think UVic’s Co-operative Education Program isn’t for Fine Arts students, it’s time to take five and think again.

With countless contacts in the publishing industry, the cultural and heritage sectors, and within municipal, provincial and federal governments, Co-op has helped many Fine Arts students find positions as publishing assistants, journalists, technical writers, archivists, assistant curators, musical and theatre event coordinators, research assistants, communication officers, interpretive guides and web designers—to name just a few of the ever-changing range of jobs out there.

Jen Kyffin is the Co-operative Education Program coordinator for the Fine Arts, Humanities and Professional Writing, and she is available to meet with each student to explore a range of possible job options. Better still, you don’t even have to head across campus, as she sets up shop in FIA 124 twice a week—2:00-4:30pm on Mondays, and 9:30am-noon Thursdays. (You can also reach her via or 250-721-7629.)

Get paid, get credit

You’ve probably already heard the statistic that one in four UVic students engage in real-life learning through the Co-op program, and know that you can alternate terms in class with paid work terms in jobs related to your degrees—but it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that Co-op is more for business or computer science students. Not so, says Kyffin.

“A good education combined with relevant ‘hands-on’ experience can help to launch any rewarding career,” she says. “I think this is particularly true for Fine Arts because, unlike engineering or business students, Fine Arts students—and their families—often wonder how they will make a living with their degree. Co-op gives Fine Arts students a chance to try a range of meaningful jobs. One job might be something a student has always wanted to do, while the next one might be something the student never dreamed of doing. Either way, students begin to apply their academic knowledge to potential career settings—they build marketable skills, make important contacts in their field and get a paycheck.”

Speaking of paychecks, how much can a Fine Arts co-op student expect to make? “Usually from $14 to $18 an hour,” says Kyffin. “Students on work terms also receive 4.5 units of credit from UVic—so they maintain their full-time student status while on the job.”

This is real life

Writing co-op student Tyler Laing

Cash benefits aside, can Co-op really make a difference to the life and prospective career of a Fine Arts student? “Many students who participate in Co-op remark on the program’s positive impact on their personal and professional development,” says Kyffin. “I’m always struck by the level of competence among our Co-op students, especially those who complete multiple work terms.”

Just ask third-year Fine Arts student Tyler Laing. Currently a creative writing major pursuing a minor in professional writing, Laing knows what to expect from a cop-op position. “What I’m really going to gain is some solid, legitimate experience, something I can turn to and actually lean on when I’m trying to get a job in the ‘real’ world,” he says. Laing accepts that the odds are slim for “a mostly unpublished creative writing student to make money at writing directly after graduation,” and realizes that a co-op position isn’t going to give him a publishable manuscript. “But,” he points out, “co-op can help me land a gig in the field.”

During his first co-op placement in the summer of 2011, Laing worked as a communications intern for Citius Performance Corp. “This kind of position isn’t necessarily where I see myself in five years,” he admits, “but that experience directly translated to my getting a section editor job at the Martlet and a magazine editor position for Renegade Radio at CFUV. Who knows what gigs these jobs will help me get? But my experience from co-op has already made me a more attractive employee for when I do graduate.”

It’s a no-brainer

And, when it comes to staying ahead of the pack, Kyffin feels applying for a Co-op position is just a no-brainer. “Let’s face it,” she says, “it’s super-competitive after graduation—do you want to be the student with a degree and ‘server’ on your resume, or the one with the degree plus up to 20 months of experience and contacts in your field?”

Jen helps a Fine Arts student find a suitable position

What are the realities of the positions—should students expect to have to leave Victoria? “We post over 250 jobs for Fine Arts students for the summer term alone—and many of those are local jobs,” Kyffin explains. “But Co-op positions are available throughout BC, across Canada and internationally. You can take a work term in an urban centre or a rural community, but it’s always up to the student to decide where they want to go and which jobs they accept.  But I do encourage everyone to stretch—try something new, do something creative or out of your comfort zone. It’s a safe way to push your professional development when there’s support from the Co-op office and our employers.”

But let’s say, as a student, that my area of specialty doesn’t exactly lend itself to an obvious position—acting, say, or music performance. Should I still consider Co-op? “Absolutely!” says an enthusiastic Kyffin. “It’s important to develop a wide range of competencies related to your specialty area. For example, artists need to know how to write grant proposals, and actors and musicians always benefit from knowing about fundraising and marketing.”

Ultimately, says Kyffin, Fine Arts students will always benefit from Co-op beyond their bank balance. “Co-op students gain a sense of what they want to do with their degree—and the skills and contacts to make those goals a reality.”


Voting Time

Nope, this isn’t an advance call for the upcoming fall elections, nor is it a roundup of the Super Tuesday results from south of the border. It’s simply time once again for Monday Magazine‘s annual M Awards—where a healthy crop of UVic talent can again be found among the nominees.

While there is space for write-in nominations in ever category—meaning groups like Philomela Women’s Choir could be nominated as Favourite Vocal Ensemble, busy graduate student filmmaker Scott Amos could be tagged as Favourite Local Filmmaker, or Visual Arts graduate student Dong-Kyoon Nam could be highlighted as Favourite Emerging Visual Artist—listed below are the categories and nominees who have a UVic affiliation.

Deadline for voting is 5 pm Friday, March 23, and you can vote either by picking up a copy of the paper, filling out the ballot and then returning it, or by using the infinitely quicker online ballot. Winners will be announced in April 26 issue of Monday Magazine.

Here are the relevant nominees and their categories, with some UVic-affiliated alternative choices:

• Favourite New Production
Inside — Phoenix Theatre
(Alternate: SNAFU Dance Theatre’s Little Orange Man, created by and starring Phoenix alum Ingrid Hansen)

Cobi Dayan, Genevieve Dale& Mik Byskov in Twelfth Night (photo: David Lowes)

• Favourite Overall Production
Twelfth Night — Phoenix Theatre
(Alternates: Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? directed by Theatre prof Brian Richmond; Theatre Inconnu’s A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, directed by sessional Theatre instructor Clayton Jevne; Atomic Vaudeville’s Ride the Cyclone—which is also up for Favourite Musical—co-directed by Theatre alum Britt Small and starring a whole whack o’ Phoenix alum)

• Favourite Director
Linda Hardy — Twelfth Night
(Alternate: Brian Richmond, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; Jacob Richmond and Britt Small, Ride the Cyclone)

He said, she said: Price vs. Edugyan—the literary battle that had to happen!

• Favourite Fiction Book
Half Blood Blues Esi Edugyan
Into That Darkness Steven Price
(Oooh, a husband-and-wife race! How exciting!)

• Favourite Non-Fiction Book
Come From the Shadows — Terry Glavin
(Alternate: Campie by Writing alum Barbara Stewart)

• Favourite Book of Poetry
ApologeticCarla Funk
Small Mechanics — Lorna Crozier
(Oooh, a departmental showdown! How nervewracking!)

Just a reminder that any nominated individuals must live in Greater Victoria—or have lived here for part of 2011—and performances/shows/events must have taken place in Greater Victoria in 2011. For publications and recordings, publisher/label can be outside Victoria, but writer/artist must be from Greater Victoria and the work issued in 2011.


Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas calls Audain position “a rare and timely opportunity”

An earlier work by Michael Nicol Yahgulanaas

An earlier work by Michael Nicol Yahgulanaas

It’s been a busy year for Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, UVic’s second Audain Professor in Contemporary Art Practice of the Pacific Northwest. In addition to his academic work here in the Visual Arts department, he recently completed and unveiled “Abundance Fenced”, a 43-metre-long steel sculpture commissioned by the City of Vancouver, and published Old Growth, a collection of his art from 1970 to the early 2000s.

Following the teaching period of inaugural Audain Professor, Rebecca Belmore, Yahgulanaas is in a good position to see the potential in this mix of the professional and the academic—which he describes as “a rare, needed and timely opportunity for Canadian society to reconsider its relationship to Indigeneity.”

At the welcoming reception held for him in November 2011, Yahgulanaas spoke eloquently of Michael Audain and UVic being on the “leading edge” of the relationship between “our people.” Noting that “history is unfolding on a day-to-day basis,” Yahgulanaas feels it’s positions like this one which will help us move forward together. “I want to acknowledge the institution, the faculty and Michael Audain for supporting this effort,” he said.

Visiting professor Michael Nicol Yahgulannas critiques student art

Visiting professor Michael Nicol Yahgulannas critiques student art

Nearing completion of his academic year, Yahgulanaas has some insightful questions about how the Audain Professorship could develop, as well as its position within the Faculty of Fine Arts and UVic itself. “I am aware that this a new program, and wonder what the mid- and long-term aspirations are?,” he asks. “How does UVic intend to measure success or failure? Does UVic see this as a growth opportunity within a larger academic community? What conversations are occurring—or not—amongst educational professionals in other similar-sized institutions?”

“These questions are relevant given the appalling statistics that are evidence of a wide-spread systematic failure to recognize the humanity and dignity of Indigenous People’s in the Canadian experience,” he continues. “I imagine there are numerous efforts across Canada to engage in this area, and some will be known by their commitment and success in this much-neglected field. Where does UVic wish to be seen?”

Accepting that the Audain Professorship is still a relatively new position in what he describes as a “much-neglected but profoundly important social, political, Constitutional and economically pregnant sphere,” Yahgulanaas feels these essential questions still need to be addressed. “Plainly said, a program operating without a clear strategic anchor is less desirable in that it creates a false notion of accomplishment, occupies the available space and prevents more rigorous strategies from developing.”

Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas' Audain exhibit, "Craft"

Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas’ Audain exhibit, “Craft”

With his class of third-year students, Yahgulanaas provided personalized mentoring by encouraging students to answer the key question, “Why should anyone care about your artistic practice?” He personally critiqued, engaged in one-on-one sessions and challenged students to stretch themselves in accordance with their artistic passions. “I have attempted to inform the students that successful artistic practice—i.e., where there is audience, market and career—is one in which the artist is fully engaged in a community and must anticipate the needs of others,” he explains.

With that in mind, Yahgulanaas had his classes develop portfolios, which were then objectively reviewed by a professional in the field, meaning students now know how to create and maintain their own professional-image CV. He also developed a cross-discipline relationship by having his class interviewed by Department of Writing students, with an aim of creating an artist’s statement. “This provided practical skills for both writer as journalist and artist as object.”

As a practicing contemporary artist, Yahgulanaas clearly understands the issue of financial limitations, but he still believes there is room for growth with the position. “If UVic views this program as part of a calculated move to develop excellence in the field, strategies to increase financial contributions—combined with thoughtful curriculum objectives over the mid- and long-term—would appear to be needed.”

Writing Grads Makes Some (More) Noise

Two bits of Writing grad news to kick off the week: rising literary star D.W. Wilson has made the top-10 English-language shortlist in the 2012 Canada Writes CBC Short Story Contest for his story, “One More Thing Coming Undone.”
The recipient of the University of East Anglia’s inaugural Man Booker Prize Scholarship (an honour picked up in 2011 by Writing grad Eliza Robertson), Wilson made headlines last year when it was announced that his story, “The Dead Roads” had won the BBC National Short Story Award—which, at £15,000 (about $24,000), is the second richest short-story prize in the world. Wilson’s debut collection of short stories, Once You Break a Knuckle, was also voted one of the Best Books of 2011 by the National Post.


Wilson’s “One More Thing Coming Undone” will be posted—along with all the other shortlisted stories—on the CBC Short Story Contest website, where you can read and then vote for it starting March 19. Winners announced March 26, and the first prize winner will receive $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts, publication in Air Canada’s enRoute magazine, a two-week writing residency at of The Banff Centre in Alberta, and be interviewed on CBC Radio One’s The Next Chapter with Shelagh Rogers. Go Dave!


Meanwhile, fellow Writing grad Yasuko Thanh—who won the 2009 $10,000 Journey Prize for the short story “Floating like the Dead“, a fictional account of the D’Arcy Island leper colony—is now the subject of a song.
Her husband has written the jaunty little rockabilly ditty, “Suko Wrote A Book”, to celebrate the forthcoming April 3 launch of new book, Floating Like the Dead (published by McClelland & Stewart). You can give it a listen here.