2014 sees the end of another busy year here at the Faculty of Fine Arts, where there was always something afoot. Five departments and hundreds of annual concerts, theatrical productions, readings, exhibits and lectures by visiting artists, academics and professionals means Fine Arts is always one of the busiest faculties on campus when it comes to community engagement. Here’s a quick wrap-up featuring some—but certainly not all—of the leading Fine Arts stories of the year.
“Hear us roar!”
UVic President Jamie Cassels and Vikes mascot Thunder present Rally Song winner Colleen Eccleston with her iPad (photo: Armando Turo)
To the cheers of a tight game and the applause of a packed house, the winner of the School of Music / Vikes Nation Rally Song Contest was decided at the Vikes men’s basketball game way back on January 10—and first prize went to the School of Music’s own songwriting instructor Colleen Eccleston. With 18 submissions from across campus—including entries by students, faculty and administration alike—the top three finalists were performed live at half-time by fourth-year Music student Josh Lovell. Eccleston picked up a brand new iPad for her winning song, “Vikes Nation” (“We are Vikes Nation, hear us roar!”) as chosen by judges UVic President Jamie Cassels, Director of Athletics and Recreation Clint Hamilton, Director of School of Music Dr. Susan Lewis Hammond and varsity athlete Kyle Irvine. Attendees now hear a recorded version of Lovell’s rendition before the starting lineups of each Vikes home game.
On the button blanket
The button blanket receiving its inaugural dance at UVic’s First Peoples House (Photo Services)
It may have been nicknamed “the big button blanket project” by Art History & Visual Studies, but the creation and subsequent exhibit of Adasla: The Movement of Hands at the Legacy Galley garnered a great deal of attention in the community and the media. Both the blanket’s inaugural dance at the opening ceremonies of UVic’s annual Diversity Research Forum in February at First People’s House and the accompanying exhibit—featuring a special contemporary performance collaboration between Governor General’s Award-winning performance artist Rebecca Belmore, former Audain professor for the Department of Visual Arts, and blanket co-creator, Tahtan Nation artist Peter Morin—represented one of the strongest examples of community engagement of the year.
A name you can trust
Chancellor-designate Shelagh Rogers meets the media. Credit: UVic Photo Services
It was the kind of news that would warm the heart of any arts supporter when famed CBC Radio host Shelagh Rogers was named the University of Victoria’s 11th Chancellor in May. “To speak in a very non-chancellorian way, I’m thrilled out of my bean,” Rogers said at the time. “I feel like over the last little while I’ve been dating UVic—I’m glad now to be in a relationship with you.” Nominated by Fine Arts Dean Dr. Sarah Blackstone and Associate Dean Dr. Lynne Van Luven, Rogers’ term begins in January 2015. “As UVic’s chancellor, Shelagh Rogers will enhance the excellence of our university,” said Blackstone. “She will bring tremendous energy and great insight to her new role. Her national reputation as an advocate for Canadian arts and culture will serve the university well. UVic could not ask for a better ambassador as we build on our reputation for excellence in teaching, research, and community engagement.”
Getting an A in Queen B
There’s nothing like a little controversy to spark interest in a course, as School of Music instructor Melissa Avdeeff discovered when word broke in July that she’d be teaching a course on the music of Beyoncé at UVic, resulting in some less than positive comments (“I think I just gave up on Western culture!” “Truly a waste of education and money!”). It didn’t take long for media outlets ranging from the CBC, CTV and Macleans to the Globe and Mail and the Huffington Post to jump on the Beyoncé bandwagon. “I don’t see studying popular culture as any less academically or socially relevant than studying other forms of musicology like historical musicology or music theory,” Avdeef told the Globe. “It’s important to have these courses. They get people thinking more critically about how they are engaging with media.”
Art on view
“Hit for the sculpture!” Stillwell’s piece as it appears from the baseball diamond
It was a busy year for professors in the Department of Visual Arts, with a number of exhibits and new sculptures being unveiled. Both Jennifer Stillwell and Robert Youds debuted new pieces of public art—Stillwell’s High Five began reaching for the sky in Winnipeg back in August and Youds’ For Everyone a Sunset was unveiled at the Vancouver Art Gallery’s Offsite in October—while departmental chair Paul Walde‘s Requiem For A Glacier installation appeared in Nelson in January, was written up in a Times Colonist UVic Research feature in July, ran from September to November at the Evergreen Cultural Centre in Coquitlam, then ran at Laval University Art Gallery in Quebec City until the end of December. Meanwhile, photographer Vikky Alexander opened two photography exhibitions this fall—a show of new work Theatergarden Bestiarium in Los Angeles and the retrospective The Temptation of St Anthony in Vancouver—and will have two more shows opening in early 2015 in both Calgary and Montreal.
All for Two 4 One
Bradley considering a shot on set (photo: Arnold Lim)
Department of Writing professor Maureen Bradley‘s locally lensed debut feature film, Two 4 One, had its world premiere at the 2014 Calgary International Film Festival in September, before moving on to its BC premiere at the Vancouver International Film Festival in October, and the Eastern Canada premiere at Montréal’s Image + Nation Film Festival in November.
Coming up in February 2015, it will be the opening gala film at the Available Light Film Festival in the Yukon and local audiences will be able to see the film—described as Canada’s first transgendered romantic comedy—as part of the Victoria Film Festival, also in February. Two 4 One is written and directed by Bradley and produced by digital media staffer Daniel Hogg.
The best exotic intergenerational theatre company
Theatre PhD Matthew Gusul (centre) at the field school in India
Department of Theatre PhD candidate Matthew Gusul attracted attention with his field school to India in October. Gusul and 13 undergraduates spent two months in the Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry regions to create the country’s first intergenerational theatre company. By positively highlighting the life experiences of residents at the Tamaraikulam Elders’ Village and the students of the Isha Vidhya Matriculation School, Gusul and his students worked with a team of Indian directors to encourage these seniors and rural youth to perform their own stories, develop strong community relations and create new lines of dialogue across generations. Stay tuned for an update on their efforts, coming the first week of January.
World War I history mystery
Marcus Milwright with JM’s diaries
When Art History and Visual Studies professor Marcus Milwright began planning his November exhibit The Arts of World War I, he had no idea that his use of a two-volume leather diary set featuring illustrations of life during the Great War—signed only by the initials “JM”—would generate so much publicity. But Milwright’s search for JM’s identity sparked a flurry of international media attention, which you can read about here. His hunt for JM’s identity also earned Milwright a spot on UVic’s own Top 10 News Stories for 2014. The Arts of World War I continues to March 2, 2015, in the McPherson Library’s Legacy Maltwood Gallery, and will be a featured part of UVic’s IdeaFest in March.
Arleen Paré accepts her award from the Governor General
The Faculty of Fine Arts was remarkably well-represented in national awards this year, thanks to the nomination of five Fine Arts faculty and alumni in the 2014 Governor General’s Literary Awards—Writing professor Bill Gaston, Writing alumni Garth Martens & Arno Kopecky, and Department of Theatre aluma & playwright Janet Munsil, as well as eventual Poetry winner and Writing alumna Arleen Paré. But there was also Writing professor Tim Lilburn‘s induction as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, retired Writing professor Patrick Lane receiving the Order of Canada and Department of Visual Arts student Kim Adams winning the 2014 Governor-General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts. “Having so many areas of the Faculty of Fine Arts recognized illustrates the strength and vibrancy of fine arts at the University of Victoria in particular and in British Columbia generally,” says Dr. Lynne Van Luven, Acting Dean of Fine Arts. “Such achievements are all the more impressive given budget cuts for fine arts programs overall.” Add to that new books by Writing professors Lee Henderson (The Road Narrows As You Go), Bill Gaston (Juliet Was a Surprise) and Kevin Kerr (Tear The Curtain).
Fine Arts can be a picnic
Evocative 1940s costumes made Picnic a winner in the Spotlight Awards (photo: David Lowes)
Finally, Phoenix Theatre rounded out another busy year of productions in the Department of Theatre with their 1970s revamp of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by professor Fran Gebhard, which followed their latest Spotlight on Alumni production The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe—which was so popular that it had to be held over! Both their spring productions—Picnic (directed by professor Peter McGuire) and Unity (1918) (written and directed by Writing professor Kevin Kerr)—were well-received and recently earned nominations and a win for Best Costumes in Victoria’s annual Critic’s Choice Spotlight Awards.
Here’s looking forward to an equally busy 2015!
Fourth year Department of Writing student Grace Annear was recently announced as the only Faculty of Fine Arts student named to the 2014 University of Victoria Vikes Honour Roll. Annear specializes in cross-country running and track, and was one of 69 student-athletes honoured at the November 19 event at the University Club.
4th year Writing student Grace Annear has been named to the Vikes Honour Roll
“I was recruited out of high school, but I came to UVic because of the Writing program and the varsity athletics,” says Annear.
Student-athletes can only earn a place on the Vikes Honour Roll by achieving a minimum of a 6.6 GPA (80%) during the school year, while training and competing at the highest level of sport. This is Annear’s third year being named to the Honour Roll—and, since she is also a Canadian Interuniversity Sport athlete, she was awarded a CIS Academic All-Canadian Certificate signed by His Excellency, the Right Honorable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada.
“It’s a lot of work,” she admits. “I have to be really focused with my time management—and my time management skills have increased dramatically, especially as the word counts increase in my upper-level courses. As an athlete, you’re used to doing a lot of homework on Friday and Saturday nights, so I don’t have as much of a social life as most university students might have. I guess my training is my social life.”
But while running may be the athletic passion of this Hampton, New Brunswick native—her athletic achievements include Canada West First Team All-Star, CIS First Team All-Canadian and a trio of gold-medal wins for both 400- and 800-meter races—Annear’s writing focus is clearly set on fiction. “Ian McEwan’s Atonement was the book that made me want to be a writer,” she says. “I read it when I was 13 and it was my first real ‘adult’ book. Before that I was reading things like Twilight, but Atonement was my immediate launching point into the world of real literature.”
Annear with Acting Dean of Fine Arts, Dr Lynne Van Luven at the Honour Roll luncheon (photo: Armando Tura, APShutter.com)
Annear sees a lot of parallels between her athletic and creative pursuits. “Being a distance runner is like being a writer—you have to be completely self-motivated,” she explains. “With running, it’s all about what you can do within yourself and then bring to the table on race day; with writing, it’s about how much you can pound out a good story. You don’t rely on anyone else, it’s just what you can do. If you’re motivated, and you want it bad enough, you can achieve in both areas.”
And has her running crossed over onto the page yet? “Every time I have a new professor, they ask, ‘Oh, have you written about running?’” she says with a laugh. “And I have—for every single prof—so now I’m trying to write other stuff.”
Annear says there is definitely a running/writing niche, but it’s not one to which she’s particularly drawn. “A lot of time it’s about marathoners and the self-reflection and peace and flow that comes with running—which is kind of true, but it’s very different than being a track athlete,” she says. “That’s a lot more intense, a lot more about launching yourself into the mind-numbingness of pain, to postpone that eternal struggle while you’re slogging through it.”
She can only point to one book that parallels her own experiences. “There is an iconic book called Once A Runner by John L. Parker Jr., which is basically about an American university miler during the 1960s, so it has a lot of historical context—but it’s more about what every college runner wants, this journey we all undergo. It’s the only book I’ve ever read that has captured what it actually feels like to be in a race, to undergo months and months of long training.”
This year marks the 10th annual Vikes Honour Roll Luncheon, but only the second time an associated $500 Vikes Honour Roll Award has been associated to each award, thanks to the generous support of UVic and the on-campus partnership between Nike, T. Litzen Sports and the UVic Bookstore.
In 2013-14, a record 2,863 CIS student-athletes across Canada achieved the prestigious Academic All-Canadian status, eclipsing the previous mark of 2,695 set a year ago.
Department of Writing alumna Arleen Paré has been announced as the winner of the 2014 Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry for her newest book, Lake of Two Mountains (Brick Books). On top of national recognition and a trip to Ottawa’s Rideau Hall to receive the award on November 26 from His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, Paré also receives a cash prize of $25,000.
Arleen Paré accepts her award from the Governor General
“We are all thrilled with this national recognition for Arleen’s unique poetic vision and her commitment to the craft of writing,” says Writing chair David Leach. “The fact that the Writing department had four nominees this year for Governor General’s Awards—three alumni and a faculty member—emphasizes how UVic is an incubator of literary excellence in Canada.”
The other Faculty of Fine Arts representatives nominated include Department of Writing professor Bill Gaston, Writing alumni Garth Martens (BFA and MFA) and Arno Kopecky (Harvey Southam diploma grad), plus Department of Theatre aluma and playwright Janet Munsil—each of whom will receive $1,000. In all, Fine Arts had five out of 18 nominees in the Fiction/Poetry/Non-fiction/Drama categories of this year’s awards.
“Having so many areas of the Faculty of Fine Arts—poetry, with Arleen’s win; poetry again with Garth’s nomination; fiction with Bill Gaston’s and drama with Janet Munsil’s— illustrates the strength and vibrancy of fine arts at the University of Victoria in particular and in British Columbia generally,” says Dr. Lynne Van Luven, Acting Dean of Fine Arts. “Such achievements are all the more impressive given budget cuts for fine arts programs overall. Wonderful news all around!”
“A poem of sustained beauty”—jury comment
The jury praised Lake of Two Mountains as being “a poem of sustained beauty, an almost monastic meditation on the overlapping centres of human and natural reality. Whether she is describing the Oka Crisis, bullfrogs, sunbeams or religion, ‘anything that passes through [this shape-shifting landscape] is transformed,’ including the reader.”
Paré’s first book, Paper Trail, won the City of Victoria Butler Book Prize and was shortlisted for BC Books Dorothy Livesay Prize in Poetry. She has also written the novel, Leaving Now (Caitlin Press, 2012). Her fourth book, a collection of poetry titled Face in the Funeral Car,, is forthcoming from Caitlin Press in fall 2015. Her writing has also appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies in Canada.
Department of Writing poetry professor—and fellow Governor General’s Literary Award winner—Tim Lilburn fondly recalls Paré’s time as both an undergrad and graduate student, working on early drafts of what would become her now award-winning poetry collection. “I remember working on some of those poems with her in workshop, and I think that’s where the idea for this book started,” says Lilburn. “Lake of Two Mountains is essentially her thesis that she’s added onto.”
Fellow GG nominated poets Kevin Paul (left), Melanie Siebert & Garth Martens
Lilburn is also quick to point out the success of the Department of Writing’s MFA program. “We’ve had uncanny success in terms of the Governor General’s Awards since we started the MFA program in 2008,” he says. “We’ve had four GG nominations—Melanie Siebert, Kevin Paul, Garth Martens and Arleen Paré—and now one winner. All have been poets, and all four of them were undergrads, too.”
Lake of Two Mountains is a praise poem in 45 parts that contemplates landscape and memory, officially described as “a portrait of a lake, of a relationship to a lake, of a network of relationships around a lake. It maps, probes and applauds the riparian region of central Canadian geography that lies between the Ottawa and the St. Lawrence Rivers. The poems portray this territory, its contested human presences and natural history: the 1990 Oka Crisis, Pleistocene shifts and dislocations, the feather-shaped Ile Cadieux, a Trappist monastery on the lake’s northern shore. As we are drawn into experience of the lake and its environs, we also enter an intricate interleaving of landscape and memory, a reflection on how a place comes to inhabit us even as we inhabit it.”
Retired Writing professor Patrick Lane lauded Paré’s poems as being “monastic prayers of forgiveness, intense simplicities that praise all we have lost, all we have left. She is a gift the world has given us. Read her and then in deep quiet read her again.”
Originally from Montreal, the 68-year-old Paré lived for many years in Vancouver, where she worked as a social worker. She is currently the director of Victoria’s Cool Aid Society, which works to end homelessness in the Capital Region.
She told the local Times Colonist newspaper in this interview that she was “amazed” to learn of her win. “It was actually shocking in that way you find yourself at the end of a parachute or something,” she said. “I felt weightless.” When asked what she’ll do with the prize money, Paré said she’ll use it to buy a heat pump for her cottage on Mayne Island.
“I love using language and trying to make it sparkle off the page,” Paré says in this Victoria News interview
. “I love trying to use the right word in the right place. This is the puzzle that I work with all the time, and I enjoy that challenge very much.”
Paré will also join in a public reading with the other English-language winners at the Canada Council in Ottawa on November 26.
Patricia Kostek with Chancellor Murray Farmer at the Long Service Awards (Photo Services)
The annual Long Service Awards were once again held in October, and Fine Arts was well-represented among the faculty and employees being honoured for 25 years or more at UVic.
This year, congratulations go out to five Long Service Recognition recipients in Fine Arts. From faculty, recognitions went out to Visual Arts professor and alumnus Robert Youds, School of Music professor Patricia Kostek and Art History & Visual Studies professor Victoria Wyatt, each clocking in at 25 years—and seen here with outgoing Chancellor Murray Farmer.
For staff, Visual Arts building caretaker Cheryl Crooks—previous winner of the President’s Distinguished Award for Excellence in Service—celebrates 25 years, and the School of Music’s Anthony Booker clocks in with an impressive 30 years under his belt as the accompanist for the UVic Chorus.
Victoria Wyatt (Photo Services)
“You are the backbone of this university,” said Chancellor Farmer at the event. “It is your talent, hard work and dedication that make UVic’s accomplishments possible . . . that is what sets UVic apart: great people, people like you. On behalf of President Cassels and myself, I extend our deep gratitude for your years of service. We are all fortunate to be part of a university that has such caring, committed and enthusiastic faculty and staff. You have made UVic what it is today.”
“‘All the changes they must have seen,’ I was thinking as I attended the recent long-service awards,” noted Acting Dean Dr. Lynne Van Luven. “Twenty-five years, 30 years, all dedicated to one employer. The University of Victoria is a good place to work, and we attract good people. I’d like to say congratulations on your perseverance and dedication to all the Fine Arts staff and faculty who have served us all these years. Our campus is a better place because of you.”
Cheryl Crooks (Photo Services)
First held in 1988 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the university, the awards have been presented each year since then, with the university president presenting each recipient with a special gift or silver pin crafted for the occasion. The event was expanded in 1999 to recognize long service beyond 25 years, in increments of five years.
“Dream” director Fran Gebhard on CTV
Media coverage of Phoenix’s new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream has been brisk, with both previews and reviews praising director and Department of Theatre professor Fran Gebhard‘s 1970s revamp of Shakespeare’s much-loved romantic comedy fantasy.
Gebhard talks about her New York experiences that influenced her revisioning of the play in this Times Colonist preview article. She also spoke with the Oak Bay News, explaining that, “We’ve all seen traditional productions of it. I just started listening to the music of the ’70s [and] the idea that rather than being fairies, I would think of those gals as sisters in a white which coven.”
Gebhard also has a conversation with Fine Arts alumnus and CTV Vancouver Island A&E mainstay Adam Sawatsky in this video, talking about the various music themes for each group of characters in the play. (Starts at the 3:00 mark.)
And, based on the reviews so far, it looks like Gebhard has mounted another strong production to follow up her award-winning 2013 staging of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.
“Shakespeare in NY rocks!” exclaims this Times Colonist review, which goes on to describe the play as “an energetic, music-stuffed romp . . . smartly directed by Fran Gebhard . . . in this show, music—mostly rock, jazz and pop—is almost a character unto itself . . . used cleverly to accentuate characters and themes rather than serving as aural wallpaper.”
Monica Prendergast of CBC Radio’s On The Island also offered this enthusiastic review, noting that it would make a great introduction to Shakespeare for young audiences. And in this review local arts blogger Janis Lacouvee said, “Once again the University of Victoria theatre department spares no effort in bringing an extraordinary spectacle to the stage . . . you won’t go wrong with this production.”
Cheers to good reviews of Phoenix’s Dream (photo David Lowes)
The Marble Theatre Review declares Gebard’s Dream to be “the best play I’ve seen come out of the Phoenix in a decade . . . the choice to set the play in 1978 New York City amidst the contrasting bands of Oberon’s punks and Titania’s hippies was a conceit so beautiful that I refused to believe it could work. Until it did, over and over, until the applause was done.”
Camosun College’s Nexus newspaper came out saying, “The Bard would be proud” and declaring Dream a “big win . . . [which] should appeal to Shakespeare novices and stalwarts alike. Strong performances, excellent costumes, and a few surprising and delightful musical numbers make for terrific theatre.”
A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs to November 22 at Phoenix Theatre. Evening performances run 8pm Tuesday to Saturday, with a 2pm matinee on Saturday, November 22. The Phoenix Box Office is currently open for single ticket sales, and three-play subscription packages are still available for just $36!