Curtain rises on new Theatre exchange

Bangkok and Victoria may not seem to have a lot in common, but they’re both about to start sharing a spotlight thanks to a new exchange agreement between the theatre departments at UVic and Bangkok University.

Allan Stichbury with Dr. Mathana Santiwat, President of Bangkok University

Allan Stichbury with Dr. Mathana Santiwat, President of Bangkok University

“There’s actually a lot of synchronicity between us,” says UVic Theatre professor Allan Stichbury. “Both departments are similar in size and have similar goals and objectives, balancing a sophisticated academic program alongside a very active production program—and both departments have very active Applied Theatre programs. The three prongs we have are the same as what they’ve got, which is actually remarkably rare.”

Initiated by former UVic Department of Theatre graduate student and current Bangkok U faculty member Paphavee (Poe) Linkul, the exchange is intended to be a step towards internationalizing their university. “This is the first actual exchange agreement with their Theatre department,” explains Stichbury. “They’re right at the beginning of a whole new curriculum.”

The spectacular Bangkok University

The spectacular Bangkok University

Stichbury formalized the agreement while attending the World Symposium on Global Encounters in Southeast Asian Performing Arts in February, co-hosted by UVic and Bangkok U. “I first went to Thailand as an Orion visitor about seven years ago, and have continued to grow a relationship with the people over there since,” he says. “I spent a good three weeks in Thailand on two separate trips to make sure this has legs. It’s not a one-sided effort; both universities see the benefit of this.”

Silke Klenk, director of UVic’s Office of International Affairs, agrees. “The nice thing about exchange agreements is that they’re a two-way partnership,” she says. “From a student perspective, it enhances their degree, exposes them to a different language, and makes them much more independent. It opens the world to them.”

Paphavee (Poe) Linkul, former UVic student and Bangkok University professor, with Allan Stichbury

Paphavee (Poe) Linkul, former UVic student and Bangkok University professor, with Allan Stichbury

But it also benefits the institutions involved, says Klenk. “Because exchange students are typically only with us for one term, they want to make the most of that opportunity; they tend to be very active on campus and get involved in a lot of extracurricular activities. They also become ambassadors for us—for UVic, for Victoria, for BC and for Canada. You build up these networks along the way and often form friendships for life.”

While this is the only active exchange agreement with the Department of Theatre at the moment, Stichbury sees great potential in it. “This is not intended to remain simply an agreement between our Theatre department and their Performing Arts department; it’s intended to grow into a real relationship with Bangkok University.”

The exchange is set to begin in September 2013 and, while it will eventually encompass faculty and graduate students, Stichbury says the initial plan is to focus on undergrads. “We want to start this right, working from the bottom up, not the top down,” he says. “Going to another country, studying with people from another culture is a life-changing experience. It will open our students up to something new, take them out of their comfortable box.”

Anne Heinl now officially excellent

With her ready smile, sympathetic ear and vast storehouse of campus knowledge, Anne Heinl may be the most important person a Fine Arts student ever meets. Now, the veteran undergraduate advising officer has been honoured with the Award for Excellence in Service, presented by UVic president David Turpin at 2013’s Distinguished Service Awards.

Award for Excellence in Service winner Anne Heinl

Award for Excellence in Service winner Anne Heinl (UVic Photo Services)

“I’m very honoured that I received this award,” says Heinl. “I’d like to thank the people who put my name forward and wrote the reference letters: the Dean’s Office, especially Samantha Knudson and Lynne Van Luven, the faculty and staff who wrote letters of support—they did a lot of work and that’s the only reason my application was looked at and approved.”

“But it’s not just me—there’s also all the people I work with,” she continues. “I’m doing a good job because I have a great team: Maureen and Beth in Records, the people in Admissions, Norm Thom, each of the Fine Arts department secretaries . . . I kind of feel embarrassed about the award being just for me. Everybody works hard; I don’t see myself as special.”

Heinl, who has worked at UVic for 22 years, had been in Earth and Ocean Sciences for two years when she was hired as secretary to then-Dean of Fine Arts Tony Welch. “Advising students just started as a side thing off my desk back then,” she recalls, noting that each department had their own undergrad advisor. It was a later Dean, Giles Hogya, who created her position.

Heinl started out working with 750 students; she now deals with about 1,500 and sees everyone  “at least once . . . but some I see every month. It’s important for students to know that they can come and talk to me anytime; the door is always open for what they want to do, what they want to change.” And given her role, it seems inevitable that she would form lasting connections. “I have a whole batch of letters and cards from parents and students,” she chuckles. “Because you’re not just helping them with their academic life, you’re also helping them find what they need on campus: counseling, a letter for a job . . . I’m even starting to see the kids of parents who were students. A mother just emailed me the other day saying that her son is coming to UVic—and I was her advisor!”

Sometimes Anne takes the idea of serving students literally!

Sometimes Anne takes the idea of serving students literally!

In addition to her advising duties, Heinl also works with policy and curriculum committees, recruiters, transfer credits, appeals and the Senate Committee on Re-registration and Transfer—all of which is what makes her so valuable, says Acting Dean Lynne Van Luven. “She is truly a repository of knowledge about process, history and especially curriculum. One is never afraid to ask her a question—nor to seek her advice in a complicated matter involving student grades or academic concessions. Her support is immediate and unstinting.”

Heinl’s biggest reward? Helping out with the robing ceremony for graduating students each year. “It gives me great pride to see that—they’ve done it, they’ve accomplished it, they’re off to bigger and better things,” she says. “I love having them leave satisfied, with smiles, feeling they can conquer anything. Or having students come back and say ‘You really helped me through my degree, I couldn’t have done it without you’—which they could have, of course, but it’s great to feel you’ve made a difference in someone’s path.”

Heinl says she learned this commitment to students from her days working with Tony Welch and the late Jean Shannon. “Tony was the one who expected the Dean’s secretary to be compassionate and be there for students, to advocate for students. Tony was really in tune with student needs, and knew that’s why we’re here. And Jean’s influence was where that attitude really started for me—that told me why we were here, why we’re doing it. She was the one who really encouraged me. Without them, there is no university.”

Heinl Heinl still sees this “students first” mandate as being the key to the overall university experience. “We should all be open and receptive and helpful,” she says. “As soon as a student comes in with a problem, we have to stick with it until it’s solved; it’s really important to not say, ‘Sorry, that’s not my job’ or ‘I’m busy’. We should be here for the students all the time. We need to make sure they have a good experience and their education is what they expect, and what they should have.”

All of which explains why she feels more like a team captain than the star quarterback. “It’s never just one person who makes things so good,” Heinl insists.

But it can be one person who makes all the difference in a student’s life.

Summer art courses

Looking to broaden your visual horizon? Check out these summer courses offered by the departments of Visual Arts and History in Art.

Detail of Sara Graham's "StreetFinder: Halifax" (2012, Photograph mounted on dibond)

Detail of Sara Graham’s “StreetFinder: Halifax” (2012, Photograph mounted on dibond)

Reconfiguring the City (Art 351) — Tired of seeing the city in the same old way? This course will reposition the city as a place, as a space and as an idea for artistic experimentation, intervention and critique. In addition to introducing current dialogues about urban space and the interrelationships between art and the city and between public and private realms, students will conceive assignments focusing on interdisciplinary artistic approaches to social mapping, site specificity and the creation of real or imagined strategies for artistic interventions. This project-based class is open for students to explore in any medium and it should be regarded as a means for extending independent research and studio practices into considerations of the urban context of contemporary art.

If that sounds daunting, however, keep in mind that the groundbreaking and super-cool Arcade Fire video The Wildness Downtown influenced the development of the first assignment and is required viewing for this course.

Reconfiguring the City runs daily 9:30am – 2:50pm June 12 – July 5

Art 351 is taught by Sara Graham, who has been primarily concerned with the issues and ideas of the contemporary city. Mapping has long been a central tenet of her artistic practice, and over the past several years she has created a series of diagramatic drawings and sculptural models that describe and represent urban networks, traversing that liminal space between the real and the imagined. “I’m really excited to experience Victoria through the eyes of my students,” she says.

King Tut's burial mask

King Tut’s burial mask

Meanwhile, over in History in Art, check out the Art and Architecture of Ancient Egypt: New Kingdom and Late Period (HA 355B). This course provides an introduction to the material culture of Egypt, focusing on the late 18th dynasty—which includes, but is not limited to, the reigns of Amehotep III, Akhenaten and Tutankhamun. Monuments and art objects will be considered in their historical and social contexts, and some emphasis will be placed upon archaeological procedures in terms of the rediscovery and conservation of specific sites/artifacts.

Art and Architecture of Ancient Egypt runs daily 10:30am – 12:20pm June 12 – July 5.

HA 355B is taught by Dennine Dudley, who believes in tracing threads through time. She is also interested in history from the big bang through to tomorrow, and her current focus is mainly on early modern visual culture. She’s also a textile arts and technology aficionado.

England's Stonehenge

England’s Stonehenge

But if architecture is more your thing, check out Architecture: The Sacred and the Mythical (HA 392 A03). From the beginning, certain natural formations—mountains, caves, springs, and so on—were thought to be the earthly dwelling-places of the Divine. Typically, temples were built on these sites at an early date, and in many cases those first temples have been replaced by buildings that are still standing (some in a ruinous state). From these, in turn, most modern sacred architecture—and much that we think of as secular— has developed.

Vienna's Church of the Most Holy Trinity

Vienna’s Church of the Most Holy Trinity

This course will reflect on the anthropological and theological phenomenon of sacred space and sacred architecture, and on case studies drawn mainly (but not solely) from the history of Euro-American architecture. In the “secular” modern age, from which the sacred has supposedly vanished, this is a highly complicated question, with, instead, temples to national heroes and warrior-martyrs; gallery and museum “shrines” to house talismans of history, art, and culture; and even the veneration of hero-architects—Frank Lloyd Wright comes to mind. These phenomena, too, will be acknowledged.

Architecture: The Sacred and the Mythical runs daily 12:30 – 2:30 pm, June 12 – July 5.

HA 392 is taught by Christopher Thomas, whose area of specialty is Modern architectural history, 1750 to the present, with an emphasis on Western architectural history, Canadian art and architectural history, art and architecture of the United States, and sacred architecture and its meaning.

Annual BFA Visual Arts exhibit

Ania Zientara's "Every Action has a Reaction"

Ania Zientara’s “Every Action has a Reaction”

Hoping to catch a glimpse of tomorrow’s visual artists today? Look no further than the annual Bachelor of Fine Arts graduating exhibit in UVic’s Department of Visual Arts!

This year’s exhibit—aptly titled Work—will fill the Visual Arts building with work by more than 30 student artists.

Work features a wide variety of mediums, including painting, sculpture, photography, drawing, installation and extended media works.

Willie Seo with his paper man (photo: Adrian Lam, Times Colonist)

Willie Seo with his paper man (photo: Adrian Lam, Times Colonist)

“It is a true celebration of this moment in contemporary art and shows great promise for the future of visual art,” says faculty curator Sandra Meigs.

There was a good deal of media interest in the show. The local Newsgroup papers sent a photographer up to capture the installation, and the Times Colonist ran a photo and story about graduating BFA artist Willie Seo and his life-size human sculpture made out of layers of newspaper.

“It was a really time-consuming project,” Seo told TC writer Katherine Dedyna, who noted that “the enormity of the undertaking stressed him [Seo] out.” (Interesting side-note: Seo’s sculpture has a new home in the office of the Dean of Fine Arts, where it now looms over Dean’s Assistant Ami Cheli.)

Emma Palm on Shaw TV

Emma Palm on Shaw TV

Shaw TV also came up to film a segment for their Go! Island South show. Shaw host Nikki Ewanishan spoke with graduating BFA student Emma Palm about her pieces in the show, which were inspired by her brother’s recent suicide. You can watch that segment here.

And finally, the Victoria News ran this online photo and brief blurb, highlighting BFA student Marty McRae in the process of hanging his sculpture, “Primary V.”

Annah van Eeghen's "The Red String of Fate"

Annah van Eeghen’s “The Red String of Fate”

Seen here are just a few of the pieces you’ll see in this show. Be sure to check it out—it’s one of the most-anticipated campus art exhibits of the year!

Work opens at 7 pm Friday, April 19 in UVic’s Visual Arts building. Visitors are welcome noon to 8pm Monday to Friday, and 10am to 6pm Saturday, April 27. Please click here for parking information and campus maps.


Bronwyn McMillin's "Go back, come back"

Bronwyn McMillin’s “Go back, come back”

"Untitled", by Mia Watkins

“Untitled”, by Mia Watkins

MFA Visual Arts show: 4 exhibits in 1

The Department Of Visual Arts is pleased to present four solo exhibitions under the banner of 2013’s MFA Graduate Exhibition. This year’s exhibitions feature the works of four Masters of Fine Arts graduates: Hilary Knutson, Chris Lindsay, Yang Liu, and Paola Savasta.

Hilary Knutson's current installation (photo: Adrian Lam, Times Colonist)

Hilary Knutson’s current installation (photo: Adrian Lam, Times Colonist)

Hilary Knutson’s Au Secours is an installation work that uses elements of domesticity and its comforts as a foil to explore aspects of her own struggles with chronic pain. Often displaying a keen sense of humour, Knutson’s work invites us into her living room/ studio where artworks, set dressing and props conflate into an unsettling environment where the couch is central, offering the viewer a forced sense of comfort.  As the artist herself states, “My world revolves around the couch; the couch at home, the couch in the studio, and various couches in various waiting rooms. One must be comfy when one is in pain.”

Knutson’s work also caught the eye of local Times Colonist writer Amy Smart, who featured her in the article “An Art Installation with the Comforts of Home.” “I think pain is incredibly hard to talk about,” Knutson told Smart in the May 3 article. “It’s something as a society that we tend to sweep under the rug.”

Chris_Lindsay_pressA former microbiologist, Chris Lindsay’s research has now turned to what he describes as exploring “the nature of experience and imagination. Through my work, fundamental questions become reified and I propose a challenge wherein the viewer may consider his or her own perception of what it is to be human.” Inside the Outside, is an iteration of Lindsay’s tireless sculptural experimentation in the studio.  For Lindsay perception and imagination are two sides of the same proposition, stimulate one and you ignite the other.  As Lindsay suggests, “What we know and understand of our physical world is gained through our senses; this is how we have come to define who and what we believe we are in the universe.”

Yang_Liu_pressThe photo works in Yang Liu’s All the Things You Left Behind are based on his observations and experience as a recent immigrant to Canada from China. “My artworks explore the relationship of identity, memory, personality and a materialized social structure while representing loneliness, fear, and the inherent uncertainty of life.”

Lui’s work is often based on constructions designed by the artist which in turn are made of photographic images by the artist. Through a process of deconstruction and reconstruction Yang produces works that effectively conveys the psychological content of his experiences in a way that is accessible to audiences here.

Paola_Savasta_pressPaola Savasta’s exhibition The Heir, is actually two shows in one. In two separate rooms Savasta presents two distinct bodies of work. The work in both rooms explore ideas of depiction and display through modes of painting, sculpture and installation. Illusionistic effects including patterning, camouflage, and false shadows confound our immediate perception of Savasta’s unique objects  and their place in space. These effects activate the spectator’s experience, as the artist confounds our ability to decode the true shape and nature of the objects she has presented. As Savasta states, “I’m proposing a state of intermediacy, where the two-dimensional and three-dimensional borrow each other’s qualities.”

The University of Victoria Masters of Fine Arts Program is an intensive studio-based research degree, predicated on immersive experiential learning combined with critical discussions and one of Canada’s leading visiting artist programs.

The MFA Graduate Exhibit opens at 7pm Friday May 3 and runs to May 11. The exhibit is open 10am to 5pm weekedays, and 1-5pm weekends.