Who’s in the news

Wow, it’s been a busy month for Fine Arts in the news. Not only did we already run this media roundup earlier in November, as well as a post about the fantastic reviews the latest Phoenix show has been getting, but there’s also been a flurry of new media activity well worth blogging about.

Visual Arts alumna Erin Shirreff's winning video

Visual Arts alumna Erin Shirreff’s winning video

First up is the big news that Visual Arts alumna Erin Shirreff has won the Art Gallery of Ontario’s prestigious $50,000 Aimia Photography Prize (formerly known as the Grange Prize). According to the AGO, more than 25,000 public votes—a record number―were cast during the contest’s 10-week voting period. In addition to the cash prize, Shirreff will receive a six-to-eight week fully funded residency across Canada, to commence in early 2014.

Shirreff—who graduated from UVic’s Visual Arts program in 1998 where she sculpture with Roland Brener and Robert Youds—now lives and works in New York City, where she has earned widespread praise for her blending of photography, video and sculpture. As the Aimia Prize organizers note, “Her work raises questions about the often-paradoxical relationship between time and space and the image.”

Erin Shirreff (photo: Tony Smith)

Erin Shirreff (photo: Tony Smith)

When she was longlisted for this year’s prize, Shirreff—the only Canadian nominated—told Canadian Art magazine in this article that she was surprised to be included. “I work very much in sculpture as well as video,” she explained. “The videos I make are photo-based, and I suppose you can also have that discussion about my sculptures. So I was happy that they had expanded their definition of the kinds of artists they wanted in the Prize, as opposed to more conventional photography practice.”

Recent solo exhibitions include Vancouver’s Contemporary Art Gallery, London’s White Cube; and Kingston’s Agnes Etherington Art Centre. Shirreff’s work is also in the permanent collections at New York’s Guggenheim Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts, among others. Runners-up in this year’s Aimio Prize included Mexico’s Edgardo Aragón, America’s LaToya Ruby Frazier and Japan’s Chino Otsuka.

From Sandra Meigs's current exhibit (photo: Francis Sullivan)

From Sandra Meigs’s current exhibit (photo: Francis Sullivan)

In other Visual Arts news, the current exhibit by painting professor Sandra Meigs was recently reviewed by Canadian Art magazine’s John Luna. Running through to December 14 at Victoria’s Open Space, Meigs’ The Basement Panoramas earned Luna’s praise, with the respected local art writer noting, “Meigs’s basement is a metacognitive space, a set of generative coordinates in which—as in Matisse’s clock face without hands—the explicit depiction of action (past-present-future) is withheld.”

The Meigs exhibit was also featured in this article in the UVic community newspaper, The Ring.

Enterprising BFA Kelly Dunning

Enterprising BFA Kelly Dunning in New Zealand

Visual Arts graduate Kelly Dunning has earned praise as one of “21 Location-Independent Women” by Worldette.com for her work as a travel writer with her own blog, Global Goose. Dunning, who graduated with a BFA in 2008, focused on visual arts, art history and art education while at UVic, and is typical of many of our graduates who combine their academic training with their own creative passions to carve out a place in life.

Over in the Writing department, the Toronto debut of The Valley—the latest play by Writing professor and noted playwright Joan MacLeod—has been getting good notices. Originally mounted earlier this year at Alberta Theatre ProjectsplayRites Festival of New Canadian Plays, the remount currently running at Tarragon Theatre has Toronto Star critic Robert Crew saying, “few Canadian playwrights are as acutely tuned to contemporary issues as Vancouver’s Joan MacLeod.” (We’ll forgive that little geographic gaffe, even though it’s been over a decade since MacLeod has lived in Terminal City.)

Susan Coyne & Colin Mercer in Joan MacLeod's The Valley (Cylla von Tiedemann photo)

Susan Coyne & Colin Mercer in Joan MacLeod’s The Valley (Cylla von Tiedemann photo)

Saying the show is “not to be missed,” Crew’s four-star review says her script “could not be more topical: mental illness and the challenges that police face in dealing with situations involving those suffering from that illness . . . as always, MacLeod is clear-sighted and even-handed, unsentimental yet huge of heart. It’s a wonderful piece of writing – as good as any you will see all season.” Meanwhile, J. Kelly Nestruck of The Globe & Mail gave The Valley 3 1/2 stars out of 4 and described it as being “relentlessly topical” while noting “MacLeod is equally interested in character here . . . there’s a lot of empathy in the writing and between the characters.”

bradleyTCnov222013It’s been a busy couple of weeks for Writing professor and filmmaker Maureen Bradley. Not only did she speak about cinematic representations of transgender people ahead of the screening of the Israeli film Melting Away for the Transgender Day of Remembrance at UVic’s Cinecenta (presented by UVic’s own Transgender Archives), but she was also profiled in the local Times Colonist about her own upcoming bittersweet romantic-comedy Two 4 One. Describing the rom-com as being “in the tradition of Woody Allen and Billy Wilder, but with a modern twist” in this article, Bradley explained the story focuses on “two oddballs” . . . who both wind up pregnant. “I think audiences are ready to see more transgendered people as three-dimensional people with lives,” she says.

You can also help support Two 4 One, which will be shooting in Victoria in early 2014, by donating to this Indiegogo campaign. Just $75 gets you an on-camera walk-on as an extra, or you can pony up $10,000 for an executive producer credit—but donations start at $5. (Update: Bradley did raise the needed $20,000!)

But Bradley isn’t the only filmmaker in the Writing department to attract some attention. Fine Arts digital media staffer and Writing alum Dan Hogg‘s film Floodplain (produced with support from National Screen Institute and BravoFACT) won Best Cinematography and Best Use of Location at the recent Vancouver Short film Festival. Floodplain was also directed by Writing alum Jeremy Lutter and based on a short story by fellow alum D.W. Wilson—we’ve been following the development and success of the film on this blog for some time now, and you can find out more about it on this post.

'Til Death is another outstanding Writing-created short film project

‘Til Death is another outstanding Writing-created short film project

And the short film ‘Til Death—directed by current Writing graduate student Connor Gaston—won Best Student Film and Best Screenplay for alumni Ryan Bright at the same Vancouver Short film Festival. ‘Til Death will also screen at the Whistler Film Festival from December 4 to 8. The insider word is that the WFF has grown in prominence and is now seen as the key industry festival on the Canadian landscape—which is good for Bright, Gaston and assistant producer and UVic alum Amanda Merritt, will be attending the Whistler screening.

Bradley & Hogg in the Torch

Bradley & Hogg in the Torch

‘Til Death was produced as the 2013 Writing 420 project and was created by over 20 students from Writing, Theatre and Music—that’s the same course that created the award-winning Freshman’s Wharf web series back in 2009, as well as three other films now. (Class mentor Bradley describes it as “a fantastic, chaotic and inspiring experience.”) Be sure to check out this making-of video, created through a directed study with current student Lachlan Ross. Gaston also launched a successful Indiegogo campaign to raise $2,500 to finish the film after the class ended. Finally, Bradley and Hogg were both profiled, alongside Gaston, for their work with Writing 420 in UVic’s alumni Torch magazine. Click here to read the article, and flip ahead to page 32.

Donovan Bailey champions Esi Edugyan

Donovan Bailey champions Esi Edugyan

More Writing news for both current students and alumni: Fourth year student Benjamin Willems was recently named a winner of EVENT magazine‘s annual creative non-fiction contest; big-deal alumna Esi Edugyan‘s Giller Prize-winning novel Half-Blood Blues is one of CBC’s 2014 Canada Reads contenders—championed by no less than stellar runner Donovan Bailey; and alumnus Arno Kopecky recently appeared on CBC Radio’s The Sunday Edition talking about his new book Oil Man and the Sea, which tracks his journey sailing the same routes as the tankers will take if the Northern Gateway pipeline goes ahead. Click here to listen and scan ahead to timecode 01:29:58. And the fall launch of the Writing department spawned Concrete Garden magazine and the annual Writing faculty reading night were both featured in this September 26 segment from the CFUV radio show, U in the Ring.

Patrick Lane at November Convocation

Patrick Lane at November Convocation

Former Writing professor Patrick Lane was given an Honourary Doctor of Letters by UVic at November’s convocation, and his convocation speech “An Open Letter to All the Wild Creatures of the Earth” was such a hit that the Times Colonist printed it here—and it became a viral sensation! You can also listen to it as a iTunes U podcast here.

And the Lorna Crozier Literary Celebration earned some good media attention, with Amanda Farrell-Low of CBC Radio’s All Points West focusing her new column “Creative Class” on the event which you can hear by clicking here, and the Times Colonist running this short piece on it. UVic’s community newspaper The Ring also featured this article on the event as well.

Legacy Galleries art book exhibit 24Nov2013 Page C9UVic’s Legacy Art Galleries earned some attention from the Times Colonist in this article about their current Art of the Book exhibit in the McPherson Library’s Maltwood Gallery. “These artists are kind of challenging what our expectations of a book are,” says Legacy curator of collections Caroline Riedel. (Take that, Kindle!) Organized by the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild, this will be the third time the exhibit will be hosted at UVic. The exhibit runs through to March 14.

EDGE_Sept2013History in Art professor Carolyn Butler-Palmer and her work with the Big Button Blanket project was recently profiled in the Times Colonist in this UVic knowlEDGE piece. Butler-Palmer and her students have been busy creating the world’s biggest button blanket this semester, which will debut in January 2014 as part of a featured exhibit at UVic’s Legacy Galleries  Downtown. The blanket will also receive its inaugural dance by no less than Governor General’s Award winning aboriginal artist Rebecca Belmore, who was a past Audain Professor for the Department of Visual Art.

History in Art alumna Lindsay Anderson is also featured in the most recent issue of the Torch, for her work as both a busy food writer and the official food blogger for the City of Richmond. Click here to read the article, and flip ahead to page 34.

Mares TCSchool of Music professors and instructors Anne Grimm, Alexander Dunn, Michelle Mares and the Lafayette String Quartet were all mentioned in this recent Times Colonist column by classical musical writer Kevin Bazzana about their collective A Britten Celebration concert.

Music instructor Michelle Mares got her own feature article in the Times Colonist for her recent concert performing the complete sets of Chopin Etudes (Op.10 and Op. 25). The TC piece focused on how a broken wrist nearly sidelined Mares’ performance career, and how the Chopin Etudes pushed her to overcome her injury.

Finally, brassy Music prof Eugene Dowling attracted a good deal of attention with the 35th anniversary of Tuba Christmas in Victoria—due in no small part to the declaration of Tube Christmas Day by Victoria’s mayor.  In addition to this Victoria News article (“It’s been a marvellous 35 years . . . They say it’s not Christmas until you’ve had Tuba Christmas”), Dowling also spoke to the Times Colonist in this piece, which noted that he’s the School of Music’s “most senior faculty member,” having been at UVic for 37 years now.

School of Music instructor Scott MacInnes on Shaw TV

School of Music instructor Scott MacInnes on Shaw TV

Dowling was also mentioned, alongside fellow School of Music instructor Scott MacInnes, as part of the Pinnacle Brass Quintet in this separate Times Colonist article. The Pinnacle Brass were also featured in a 10-minute segment on Shaw TV’s Go Island  show, which you can watch here, in advance of their Christmas concerts on December 14 (Sidney’s Charlie White Theatre) and 20 (Victoria’s St. John the Divine). Full concert details can be found on their website.

Visual Arts student Melisendra Daviel’s co-op in the coal mine

Visual Arts student Melisendra Daviel at her Co-op work site

Visual Arts student Melisendra Daviel at her Co-op work site

When someone says they’ve been “working in the coal mines”, it’s generally taken as a euphemism for simply working hard. But Visual Arts student Melisendra Daviel has literally been working in a coal mine—the 110-year-old Bellevue Underground Coal Mine in the Crownest Pass town of Bellevue, Alberta. “My basic plan was to do something to do with art,” says Daviel, who graduates with a BFA this month. “And I’m actually doing way more art at the mine than you’d think.”

After spending two Co-op work terms at the mine, Daviel has now returned as a full-time employee. Primarily, she leads educational tours, informing tourists from around the world about the coal mine’s history, dangers and equipment. But, given her Visual Arts background in drawing, painting and sculpture, it wasn’t long before she found a way to put those skills to use—making “mine mice” to be sold in the gift shop. Constructed from oven-baked modelling clay built over wire and tinfoil armatures, her mice are dressed in period mining gear, making them not only cute and popular but also historically accurate.

Daviel with one of her mice

Daviel with one of her mice

“The miners liked the packrats in the mine, because they could sense danger before the miners could—so if they saw all the packrats headed for the exits, the miners would follow them out.” Daviel’s mine mice come complete with all manner of detailed equipment: picks and drills, explosives, coal cars, safety phones, emergency breathing equipment. “It’s fun to see how much detail I can get in such a small space,” she laughs.

Her favourite design is a mouse eating a sandwich, because it’s representative of a little-known historical fact. “The miners would save the corners of their sandwiches for the packrats so they would stay around. They couldn’t eat the edges of their sandwiches anyway, because their hands were covered in coal dust.” Daviel has also put her artistic skills to work designing and building a float for Bellevue’s annual parade, and her next project is producing a colouring book for the gift shop as well.

While both of her parents work at Vancouver’s TRIUMF physics laboratory, Daviel looks forward to finding new ways to put her BFA to work in the future. “This is probably the closest I’ve come to a job relevant to my degree, because I got paid for making mine mice and doing other art-based things—which is pretty funny, considering it’s not in the job description,” she says with a quick laugh. “There are unexpected opportunities in any job. If you stay true to yourself and bring your own flavour to the workplace, you’ll end up doing things you never expected.”

Rally Song contest deadline extended to November 24

Good news if you’ve got an idea for the University of Victoria Rally Song contest but haven’t gotten around to submitting it yet—the final deadline has now been extended to Sunday, November 24.

Vikes Nation needs a Rally Song! (photo: Armando Tura)

Vikes Nation needs a Rally Song! (photo: Armando Tura)

Sponsored by Vikes Athletics and UVic’s School of Music, the Rally Song contest has seen a number of entries already submitted, but we wanted to give everyone one last chance to get their songs in.

With that in mind, Vikes Nation has organized a Rally Song “submission day” from 5 to 7pm on Thursday, November 21, in the main dining hall in UVic’s Cadboro Commons, where the Vikes Leadership Council and Varsity Council will film your songs and submit them for you. How easy is that?

You can even get a sneak peek at the entries at the Vikes men’s & women’s basketball games on November 22 & 23, where the School of Music’s Jazz Ensemble will be injecting a little brass in the Days of Thunder.

Write the winning Rally Song and win a $500 iPad!

The winning songwriter will receive a $500 iPad courtesy of PepsiCo Canada, who is proud to partner with Vikes Nation and the School of Music on this school spirit initiative. Winners will also receive a prize package of CDs and tickets for School of Music performances and Vikes games, and the winning song will be recorded at the School of Music for use in future Athletics events.

Remember, UVic students, faculty, staff, and the general public alike can submit original material to the Vikes Rally Song Contest. Songs should be no longer than 20 seconds and must include the word “Vikes”. Lyrics and a YouTube link of the song being performed must be submitted online for judging. Any style of music is welcome, from chants and jazz to rock and hip hop—but the winning song should be able to be easily sung and performed by game-day crowds with no accompaniment.

“To maintain our standard of excellence and build tradition at UVic, it’s important that our fans have a rally song to cheer during games,” says Clint Hamilton, Director of Athletics. “We know it will be popular on game days and will help in growing school spirit as part of the Vikes Nation initiative.”

“Music plays a vital role in encouraging community,

Are you the fan with the music plan?

Are you the fan with the music plan?

spirit, and success,” says Susan Lewis Hammond, Director of the School of Music. “The School of Music is excited to support the Rally Song Contest at UVic. Our partnership with Vikes Athletics speaks to a shared commitment to teamwork, collaboration, and excellence in student training and performance.”

For full contest details, as well as who’s on the judging panel, see this earlier post. The top entries will be performed live at the Vikes Days of Thunder men’s basketball game on January 10, 2014, and the crowd at that game will help decide which song ultimately wins.

High praise for new Phoenix play

Judging from the reviews rolling in, the latest production from Phoenix Theatre is proving the adage than an oldie can absolutely be a goodie. First mounted way back in 1942, Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama—as did his better known play Our Town—and clearly still has legs for today’s audiences.

Skin of our Teeth“Look at the state we’re in globally, right?” director and Department of Theatre professor Linda Hardy said in this Times Colonist preview article. “That’s one of the reasons it’s still so fresh.” (You can hear more from Hardy about her vision for bringing The Skin of Our Teeth to the Phoenix stage via this podcast of her live opening weekend talk.)

UVic’s student newspaper The Martlet also made Teeth their cover story for opening week, including a nice preview article with assistant director and puppeteer coach Chari Arespacochaga, which you can read here. And you can listen to this interview from the CFUV campus radio show U in the Ring featuring Arespacochaga and Skin of our Teeth set designer Jonathan Maxwell.

A allegorical satire, Teeth takes us on a wild and raucous tour through the ages, via the suburban New Jersey home of a perfectly middle class family. But can the family survive the ravages of ice ages, global warming, storms, floods, depressions and war? You’ll have to see the show yourself to find out, but this production is certainly surviving the slings and arrows of the local theatre critics.

photo: David Lowes at Arts Studio21 Photography

Don’t panic, they’re just puppets. (photo: David Lowes, Arts Studio21 Photography)

Adrian Chamberlain at the Times Colonist gave the production 4 1/2 stars in this review, calling it a “theatrical extravaganza.” Noting the clarity of Hardy’s direction, he highlighted the “lovely production values [and] strong student acting”—specifically Markus Spodzieja and Julie Forrest—as well as the “terrific” costumes and “expertly-constructed puppets of such animals as crows and wooly mammoths, manipulated with skill.”

David Lennam—one of the theatre critics for local CBC Radio morning show On The Island—noted in his review that, “In keeping with the Phoenix Theatre’s tradtion at the University of Victoria, production value are super high, it looks great! . . . . My favourite moment involved these brilliant puppets—the triceratops, a woolly mammoth—and the students operating them even provide authentic sound effects for them. It’s just beautiful. Really clever.”

Lennam also praised the performance by Tea Siskin, as well as the costumes by Chelsea Graham and Shayna Ward, describing them as “brilliant [and] beautiful . . .  I think at the end of the year this might be the best dressed show in theatre in this town.”

Local arts blogger and Monday Magazine theatre writer Janis La Couvée

photo: David Lowes at Arts Studio21 Photography

Designer Jonathan Maxwell’s set earns high praise (photo: David Lowes, Arts Studio21 Photography)

described Teeth as “a magnificent and mesmerizing spectacle, a veritable aural and visual feast” in this write-up about it. “The magnitude of the undertaking is tremendous,” she continues. “How do you adequately portray an Ice Age with its advancing icebergs, a flood of biblical proportions, war, and a contemporary middle-class home (complete with pet dinosaurs)?”

La Couvée singles out the work of set designer Maxwell and the puppets by Bryn Finer, as well as assistant director Arespacochaga and puppeteers Jenson Kerr, Amanda Millar, Colin Doig, Marisa Nielsen and Tyler Flower.

Meanwhile, this review for the online CVV Magazine sees local theatre critic Erin Anderson praising the student actors, noting there are “no notable weak links” in the large cast. She specifically highlights the work of Siskin (whom she describes as being “quite fantastic”), Kathleen O’Reilly, Ian Simms, and Amy Culliford.

The Skin of Our Teeth may be absurd in premise, but it’s full of substance underneath its sensational trappings,” writes Anderson. “The Phoenix production has much to commend it, and the piece proves to be an excellent choice for them, combining theatrical meat for its actors with an engaging show for its audience.”

Finally, local theatre blog The Marble also praised the show, with reviewer Jocelyn Tennant noting that she was “sucked into the production. The sets, costumes, props

photo: David Lowes at Arts Studio21 Photography

Everyone loves the costumes by Chelsea Graham and Shayna Ward (photo: David Lowes, Arts Studio21 Photography)

(especially the dinosaur puppets) were so intricately designed that I had no trouble committing to the extensive run-time. I was especially impressed with the amount of detail that went into the costume design, in particular in the second act.”

Among Tennant’s highlights were the work of designers Graham and Ward. “I would whole-heartedly recommend this show,” concludes Tennant. “The cast quite simply shines, every element of the production is polished and professional . . . plus, those dinosaur puppets are pretty incredible.”


The Skin of Our Teeth runs through to November 23 at the Phoenix Theatre. Click here for ticket info.

Join Us For A Literary Celebration of Lorna Crozier

For over 20 years, Lorna Crozier helped shape the future of Canadian poets and writers as a professor in the Department of Writing. Now, her legacy will live on in the form of the Lorna Crozier Scholarship for undergraduate writing students—and to help kick off the scholarship, a special fundraiser is being held at UVic on November 28. Featuring a veritable who’s-who of national and local literary luminaries, A Literary Celebration of Lorna Crozier promises to be one of the most memorable events of the fall arts season.

Crozier poster_Oct16Hosted by Shelagh Rogers of CBC Radio’s The Next Chapter, and featuring famed Canadian writers Anne Michaels (Fugitive Pieces), Jane Urquhart (The Stone Carvers) and Brad Cran (former City of Vancouver Poet Laureate), the evening’s lineup also includes UVic writers Patrick Lane (There Is A Season), Esi Edugyan (Half-Blood Blues), Carla Funk (former City of Victoria Poet Laureate), Melanie Siebert (Deepwater Vee), Steven Price (The Year of the Ox) and a special appearance by School of Music professor Alexandra Pohran Dawkins,who will be performing her own improvisational piece on the English Horn titled, “A Musical Offering—For Lorna.”

Each audience member will also receive a special poem, written for the occasion and signed by Lorna, that will be suitable for framing. Even Crozier herself will be on hand for the event!

(Interesting campus side-note: in additional to the many awards and accolades they have garnered over the years, Anne Michaels received an honourary doctorate from UVic in 2012, and Patrick Lane is receiving one in November just two weeks before the event.)

Lorna Crozier (photo: Gary McKintry)

Lorna Crozier (photo: Gary McKintry)

“Lorna’s a brilliant poet—we all know that—but she truly was a brilliant teacher,” says acting Writing chair Joan MacLeod. “Her legacy is already in our department in some of our amazing teachers—like Carla Funk and Steven Price, who were both students of Lorna’s and have gone on to rich writing and teaching lives. When I visit their classes now, I see Lorna through their approach to the classroom.”

During her time teaching at UVic, Crozier received both the Distinguished Professor designation in 2004 and the Craigdarroch Award for Excellence in Artistic Expression in 2010, in addition to being named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2010 and receiving the Order of Canada in 2011—that’s in addition to her many, many other awards.

“I love the idea of the scholarship, just because it’ll be like having a little piece of Lorna still with us,” MacLeod continues. “She was infectious about her love of poetry—we got students into our department because of her name, but she also got students interested in poetry when it wouldn’t have otherwise been on their radar. It’s important to honour not just what she did for our students but what she did for the whole department.”

A Literary Celebration of Lorna Crozier begins at 7pm Thursday, November 28, in UVic’s David Lam Theatre (MacLaurin Building A144). $20 tickets are available now at the UVic Ticket Centre, with all proceeds (and any additional donations) going to the Lorna Crozier Scholarship fund.