Sandra Meigs with the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada (photo: Sgt Ronald Duchesne)
It’s the end of another busy—and rewarding—year here at the Faculty of Fine Arts, where there was never any shortage of things to keep everyone busy. With five departments offering literally hundreds of annual concerts, theatrical productions, readings, exhibits, symposiums and lectures by visiting artists, academics and professionals, Fine Arts remains one of the most community-engaged faculties on campus. Here’s a quick wrap-up featuring some—but certainly not all—of the leading Fine Arts stories of the year.
A very Meigs year
It was quite the year for Department of Visual Arts professor Sandra Meigs. Hot on the heels of being named one of eight recipients of the Governor General’s Awards for Visual and Media Arts in March—an honour that saw her work featured in a special curated exhibit at the National Gallery of Canada this past summer—she presented her most recent solo exhibit of new work, All to All, at Toronto’s acclaimed Susan Hobbs Gallery. Plus, she was announced as the winner of the $50,000 2015 Gershon Iskowitz Prize at the AGO in October, an award that also comes with a solo show at the Art Gallery of Ontario and a further $10,000 towards a publication on her work. Read more about Meigs’ successes here and here.
UVic’s new RSC honorands featuring Hodgins (third from left), Biro and MacLeod (far right). (UVic Photo Services)
A Royal event
More than 400 of Canada’s brightest academic minds converged on Victoria in November when the Royal Society of Canada—Canada’s national academy—honoured three of our own. Celebrated playwright, Writing professor and UVic alumna Joan MacLeod was one of three UVic professors elected as new fellows, while noted composer and Music professor Dániel Péter Biró was elected as one of three new members of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists. Finally, acclaimed author and retired Writing professor Jack Hodgins was presented with the RSC’s 2014 Pierce Medal for outstanding achievement in imaginative literature. Find out more about UVic’s Royal Society connections here.
Really made in BC
Back in September, Fine Arts was proud to host the launch of Made in British
Maria Tippett speaks to a full house
Columbia: Eight Ways of Making Culture—the latest book by noted cultural historian Dr. Maria Tippett. “UVic has always impressed me as being sensitive to art in British Columbia, and is a superb place to launch the book,” noted the Governor General’s Award-winning Tippett. It was a packed event with nary a seat in the house and, despite nearly having to cancel due to ill health, Tippett proved a real trouper and carried on with a fantastic event. Read more about the book here.
Singing his praises
Benjamin Butterfield (UVic Photo Services)
A tenor of international renown with a repertoire ranging from baroque to classical and contemporary, Music professor Benjamin Butterfield was announced in June as the 2015 winner of UVic’s Craigdarroch Award for Excellence in Artistic Expression. “The measure of Professor Butterfield’s impact on the musical world can truly be found in how he applies his talent and expertise to the training of a new generation of singers,” says Dr. Susan Lewis. “He makes the difference for young singers, providing both inspiration and sound teaching to prepare them for the world stage.” Discover more about Butterfield here.
(Re)Acting to a crisis
Back in March, a first-of-its-kind national symposium co-organized by Department of Theatre professor Conrad Alexandrowicz questioned and examined traditional acting methods, as it addressed what has been described as “the crisis of actor training in Canada.” Acting Training in a Shifting Worldsaw 34 instructors from the majority of Canadian post-secondary drama institutions—ranging from universities
and colleges to conservatory programs—converge on the Phoenix. “It’s good for UVic to host a discussion where we’re questioning all the things we’ve taken for granted for decades—that acting always comes out of a printed script,” says Alexandrowicz. “We’re under a lot of pressure to think of theatre training as a greater part of a liberal arts education, so we should be including people from all across campus, people who want to learn about performance but have no interest in professional acting per se.” Read the original Ring article here.
Being the first to gain access to an archive is the kind of research opportunity most academics dream of—and it’s how Art History & Visual Studies professor Allan Antliff
Art History & Visual Studies professor Allan Antliff
spent his summer. Antliff was recently announced as the inaugural Research Fellow in Residence at the Clyfford Still Museum Research Center in Denver, Colorado. Named for the famed American painter—whom Antliff describes as “a leading artist in the abstract expressionist movement”—the position at the CSM represented an exciting opportunity. “No scholars apart from those at the CSM have had access to his archive or library before this—I’m getting first crack at it,” said Antliff, who spent two months on site. Read more about Clyfford Still here.
Welcome to the (faculty) club
Fine Arts was pleased to announce three new hires this academic year: Music’s Joseph Salem, plus Cedric Bomford andMegan Dickiein Visual Arts. “Dr. Salem comes to us from Yale University, where he completed a doctoral degree with a dissertation on Pierre Boulez,” says Dr. Susan Lewis. “A scholar with expertise in music after 1950, he brings a strong analytical focus to his approach to music. He is a passionate teacher who will ignite the classroom and instill a love for music our students.”
Salem, Dickie & BOmford
Joining Visual Arts from the University of Manitoba is sculptor and photographer Cedric Bomford. “[His] career is on a upward trajectory as evidenced by an international exhibition record and his work being recently nominated for the prestigious 2014 Sobey Award,” noted Visual Arts chair Paul Walde.
And stepping up from her longtime position as a sessional instructor is local sculptor Megan Dickie. “Megan has been teaching with Visual Arts for 10 years now,” says Walde. “She is consistently one of our most highly ranked instructors and is extremely popular with our students. In the past four years, Megan’s studio research has developed in new and innovative ways, bringing her more exhibition opportunities both nationally and internationally.”
Director Maureen Bradley on the set of Two 4 One (photo: Arnold Lim)
An impressive 26 nominations in the 2015 Leo Awards for films created by Department of Writing faculty and alumni proves we’re punching above our weight when it comes to film futures—truly, a surprising number for a university that doesn’t even have a film production program. “Film is just a development of the Writing department’s already well-known streams,” says film professor Maureen Bradley, whose groundbreaking feature film Two 4 One (produced by Fine Arts Digital Media Technician Daniel Hogg) was nominated for six awards. “I don’t know anywhere else in the country where this is happening. There are good student films being made, but they’re not being driven by faculty [led-courses].” Read more about our film course here.
Finding art in conflict
Applied Theatre professor Dr. Kirsten Sadeghi-Yekta became the latest Fine Arts TEDx speaker in November, when she enthralled audiences with her talk “Utopia of Unwanted Spaces: Art in Conflict.” From her experiences bringing theatre to some of the most seemingly hopeless places in our world, Sadeghi-Yekta has learned what it takes for art—and culture—to not just live on, but thrive in conflict zones. “Theatre transcends the destructive places where a horrendous physical world exists,” says Sadeghi-Yekta. Some of her most notable work has been with working with the children in the Downtown East Side in Vancouver, young people in Brazilian favelas, disabled women in areas of Cambodia, adolescents in Nicaragua and students with special needs in schools in the Netherlands. You can watch the video here:
Gone but not forgotten
Finally, this past year saw the passing of three important figures in the Faculty’s history: School of Music professor Gene Dowling, Visual Arts professor Don Harvey, and Writing professor Dave Godfrey.
An inspirational teacher and invaluable colleague, Dowling passed away in June. “He showed incredible generosity and thoughtfulness towards his students and helped make the School of Music a great place to be,” says Acting Dean of Fine Arts and former School of Music Director Susan Lewis.
Dowling, Godfrey & Harvey
Also passing in June was former Writing chair Godfrey, a Governor General’s Award winner. Retired Writing professor Lorna Crozier remembers him as being “generous, sharp and excited about ideas and young people. He was a central figure in the Canadian renaissance, in our belief that our own stories have value. We need more of his kind now.”
Professor Emeritus Harvey passed away in August. A founding member of the Visual Arts department, current professor Robert Youds recalls Harvey as having “a formidably quick wit and a razor sharp eye for anything to do with colour, mark-making, and the pictorial in art. He played an enormous role in the early development of the Visual Arts department at UVic—for which we current members owe a real debt of thanks.”
When it comes to the sounds of the holiday season, nothing says Christmas quite like a tuba. And, for 37 years now, Victoria’s Tuba Christmas Ensemble has been playing carols and raising funds for charities, becoming a cherished holiday event in the process.
Once again, the euphonious tones of massed, low-brass instruments will be heard from 1-3pm Saturday, December 12, at downtown’s Market Square (560 Johnson), and again at the annual Tuba Christmas Reprise Recital at 8pm Sunday, December 13, in UVic’s Phillip T. Young Recital Hall. Admission to both is by donation.
“TubaChristmas Victoria has raised thousands of dollars for local charities,” says event coordinator and School of Music instructor Paul Beauchesne. “Once again, this event will bring together tuba and euphonium players from all over the Pacific Northwest to band together to exchange musical ideas and enjoy each other’s company—and help the people most in need in our community.”
UVic’s TubaChristmas float was cheered by thousands
It’s already been a busy year for Beauchesne and the Tuba Christmas ensemble, a handful of whom appeared for the first time in Victoria’s Santa Light Parade on November 28, playing on the UVic float—also a first! Crowds at the parade were estimated around 40,000, and cheers of “Tubas! Tubas!” could be heard along the route. But the larger TubaChristmas ensemble will include local musicians from the School of Music, public schools, community and military bands.
No stranger to local audiences, Beauchesne is a Yamaha Canada Performing Artist, a Distinguished Alumni for the School of Music and has been Principal Tuba of the Victoria Symphony for the past 10 years; last year’s TubaChristmas event saw him stepping in to assist the late Eugene Dowling, who founded the local event in 1983. This year Beauchesne is at the helm for the first time, continuing the tradition that has become such a big part of Christmas in Victoria. The Victoria TubaChristmas ensemble has been featured on CBC radio and television, CTV News and with the Victoria Symphony Christmas Pops program.
’Tis the season for TubaChristmas (photo: Kristy Farkas)
An international event, TubaChristmas was founded by the late Harvey Phillips of Indiana University back in 1974. It now takes place in over 200 cities worldwide, and honours the late William Bell (1902-1971)—Phillips’ teacher and former tubist with the New York Philharmonic—who was born on Christmas Day. From the first TubaChristmas in New York City’s Rockefeller Plaza Ice Rink, the warm, rich, organ-like sound of the tuba and euphonium choir has won the hearts of audiences time and again. It’s no wonder that TubaChristmas has established itself as a Christmas tradition in cities here and throughout the world.
Hot on the heels of accepting the Royal Society of Canada’s Pierce Medal for outstanding achievement in imaginative literature, the work of retired Department of Writing professor Jack Hodgins is taking centre stage once more—literally. Theatre Inconnu, Victoria’s longest-running alternative theatre company, is mounting a new stage adaptation of Hodgins’ short story, Spit Delaney’s Island, running December 3 to 19.
Based on the titular short story in the 1977 collection that earned Hodgins his first Governor General’s nomination, Spit Delaney’s Island focuses on the title character who, after years running a steam locomotive at a Vancouver Island pulp mill, finds himself out of a job when the mill brings in a modern diesel engine. Faced with uncertainty and a profound loss of identity, Spit’s relationship with his family and the world around him is thrown into turmoil.
While originally mounted for the stage over 30 years ago, this new Fine Arts-heavy version has been adapted by veteran local playwright and former Writing instructor Charles Tidler, is directed by noted local actor, writer and Writing MFA alumna Karen Lee Pickett, stars Theatre Inconnu artistic director and Department of Theatre alumnus & instructor Clayton Jevne in the title role and features costumes by recent Theatre grad Shayna Ward. Best of all, however, Spit Delaney’s Island is that rarest of stage productions—a story set on our own island.
“It’s totally Vancouver Island,” says Pickett. “The exact place is never directly stated, but it’s the Parksville-Qualicum area.” While set in the 1970s, Spit’s resulting loss of identity will be familiar to many Islanders, old and young, who have suddenly found themselves made redundant by technological and economic forces. But there’s much more to Spit Delaney’s Island than just the plot, says Pickett. “It’s got a real sense of magical realism. It’s a journey of transformation . . . it doesn’t always unspool in chronological order.”
Spit Delaney’s Island, was only produced once before for the stage in a 1990 Nanaimo production—also adapted by Tidler. A local playwright, novelist, and poet of international renown, Tidler is a Chalmers Outstanding Play Award recipient, as well as a Governor General Award nominee, and he will be in attendance and speaking to the audience after the 8pm December 5 performance. This current production is based on two short stories from Hodgins’ 1997 collection: “Spit Delaney’s Island” and “Separating.”
Pickett first read the “Spit Delaney’s” while she was studying in the Writing department. “I don’t know why it wasn’t mounted again, but it makes a great play,” she says. “For this version, Charles has created a whole new draft—it’s tighter and just better.” And while Hodgins himself isn’t directly involved in this production, she says he has read and commented on the new draft.
Karen Lee Pickett
Best known these days for her role as the artistic director and producer of the Greater Victoria Shakespeare Festival, Pickett is enjoying taking a break from the Bard afforded by this 90-minute, two-act production. “It’s my favourite kind of theatre: just four actors and a stage,” she says, noting additional performers Catriona Black, Perry Burton and Susie Mullen. “We’ll have costumes and a few set pieces, but we’re mostly creating it as a piece of storytelling—there will be sounds, for example, but no corresponding object.”
Pickett describes one scene set in a classic small-town second-hand store, stacked floor-to-ceiling stacked with junk. “There’s no way we could reproduce that on stage, but I’m from a theatre tradition that says if the actors see all that stuff, then the audience will too. The audience is more engaged when they have to create that set for themselves.”
Clayton Jevne in Theatre Inconnu’s Spit Delaney’s Island
“It’s such a great homegrown project,” she says. “I love the way they talk about the landscape and the ocean, but I also like the fact that Charles made the decision to keep the play in 1970s,” she says. “There are a lot of things in the story—like Spit’s relationship with his wife—that are definitely of that era. And most of the creative team have been here on the Island for a long time, so we’ve got their perspective on how things really started to change back then.”
Spit Delaney’s Island runs 8pm December 3 -19, with 2pm matinees on December 5, 12 & 19. Tickets are $10 – $14, with December 9 as pay-what-you-wish admission. Tickets are available online, by email or by phone at 250-590-6291. Theatre Inconnu is wheelchair accessible and is located at 1923 Fernwood Road, across the street from the Belfry Theatre.
More than 400 of Canada’s brightest academic minds will be converging on Victoria this weekend as the Royal Society of Canada—Canada’s national academy—comes to town. The RSC’s annual general meeting runs November 26-28 at the Fairmont Empress and will feature scientists, scholars and artists from across the country. But while such a grand gathering of vibrant minds is notable in itself, it’s triply important for Fine Arts as three of our own are being honoured.
UVic’s new RSC honorands featuring Hodgins (third from left), Biro and MacLeod (far right). (UVic Photo Services)
Celebrated playwright, Department of Writing professor and UVic alumna Joan MacLeod is one of three UVic professors elected as new fellows—the country’s highest academic honour—while noted composer and School of Music professor Dániel Péter Biró has been elected as one of three new members of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists (colloquially known as the RSC’s “rising stars”). Finally, acclaimed author and retired Writing professor Jack Hodgins will be presented with the RSC’s 2014 Pierce Medal for outstanding achievement in imaginative literature, alongside two other UVic medal winners.
“The Faculty of Fine Arts is fortunate to have colleagues of the calibre of professor Joan MacLeod and Dr. Biró, both of whom bring their research and creative practice to bear on their teaching and mentorship of our students,” says Susan Lewis, Acting Dean of Fine Arts. “We congratulate our two colleagues on their appointments to the RSC.”
Lewis is quick to praise MacLeod’s creative output. “One of Canada’s foremost playwrights, MacLeod’s works explore contemporary social justice issues with characters who are often on the margins of Canadian society,” she says. “She has received numerous awards including the Governor General’s Award for Drama, two Chalmers’ Canadian Play Awards, a Dora Award and the Siminovitch Prize.”
For her part, MacLeod seems equally happy and surprised by the honour. “I’m pleased about the Royal nod because my research is my stage plays, of course—my artistic practice,” she says. “I have always had a sense of community in theatre and writing, but academic community is something else. To be included in a group of eminent scholars, scientists . . . it’s astounding.” MacLeod joins existing Faculty of Fine Arts Royal Society Fellows Tim Lilburn, Mary Kerr and Lorna Crozier.
Lewis, also the Director of the School of Music, well knows the work of her colleague Biró, noting his position at the forefront of music composition and research. “In 2011, Dániel was Visiting Professor at Utrecht University and in 2014-2015, Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University. His compositions are performed around the world and he is internationally active as a composer, researcher, performer, lecturer and teacher,” she says.
Dániel Péter Biró (photo: Linda Sheldon)
“I am happy to be elected a member of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists,” Biró says. “Composing music is not only creating something new, but also discovering the past. It’s almost like we’re conservationists of culture.”
Biró notes that the Aventa Ensemble’s Mark McGregor will be performing one of his pieces—Kivrot Hata’avah (Graves of Craving), for solo bass flute—during the RSC Gala. “This composition was selected to represent Canada in the International Society of Contemporary Music 2013 World New Music Days in Vienna,” he says. “McGregor commissioned the piece and will premiere this new version.”
Be sure to check out this new UVic video featuring Biró discussing his work.
For those not familiar with his many books, the Comox Valley-born Jack Hodgins is an influential writer dedicated to chronicling the people and stories of Vancouver Island. Winner of the Governor General’s Award in 1979 for The Resurrection of Joseph Bourne, he was also presented with the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence in 2006, was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 2009, and won the 2011 City of Victoria Book Prize for his recent novel The Master of Happy Endings. He taught with the Department of Writing from 1983 to 2002 and, in the process, became a mentor to a whole new generation of authors.
Jack Hodgins (photo: Don Denton)
Yet Hodgins’ creative efforts are not limited to the page. In 2014, he wrote “Cadillac Cathedral” which he performed live on stage with the Vancouver men’s choir Chor Leoni, composer Christopher Donnison created an opera based on several short stories from Hodgins’ book The Barclay Family Theatre, and his life has been commemorated in the NFB documentary Jack Hodgins’ Island.
The Royal Society AGM kicks off with a public event—a special day-long symposium on Canadian marine biodiversity on Thursday, Nov. 26—followed by the welcoming of new fellows and college members into its fold and awarding medals for outstanding achievement. UVic is undeniably proud to have eight researchers among those being honoured. “This incredible breadth of expertise and impact really speaks to this university’s research strength as a whole,” says David Castle, UVic’s vice-president research.
UVic President Jamie Cassels is equally excited by the event. “We’re very pleased to be the presenting sponsor for this event,” he says. “This gathering is an opportunity for all of us to welcome Canada’s eminent scholars and celebrate their impacts in areas vital to Canada and the world.”
UVic’s other new Fellows include chemist Frank van Veggel and philosopher James Young, while exercise psychologist Ryan Rhodes and astronomer Sara Ellison become members of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists. Ellison also joins Hodgins as a medal winner, receiving the RSC’s Rutherford Medal for outstanding achievement in a branch of physics, as does cosmologist Julio Navarro, who wins the 2015 Tory Medal for outstanding achievement in astronomy.
For those who want to stay up on our honorands’ creative practice, Joan MacLeod’s latest play, The Valley, will appear at the Belfry Theatre from Feb. 2-28, 2016. A stage version of Jack Hodgins’ Spit Delaney’s Island—based on the short story, which earned him his first Governor General’s Award nomination for the book of the same name—is being adapted for the stage by Victoria’s Theatre Inconnu from December 1-19.
Finally, Dániel Péter Biró was recently commissioned by the Klangforum Heidelberg to write a new work for voices and ensemble. The Schola Heidelberg and Ensemble Aisthesison at the University of Heidelberg premiered Biró’s Messiaen, Couleurs de la Cité Celeste in October 2015, with additional performances in Mannheim and Ludwigshafen that same month—but you can hear it right here.
Art History & Visual Studies PhD candidate David Christopher (photo: Suzanne Ahearne)
The force is definitely with Fine Arts PhD candidate David Christopher. One might even say it is his destiny. And when Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens hits theatres next month, you can count on Christopher, a cinema and cultural theory instructor with the Department of Art History & Visual Studies, to be in line for the new movie.
Not only is he developing a course on Star Wars, but he also played the role of Darth Vader at his own Star Wars-themed wedding. And, when he was just seven, Christopher took in the very first movie from the back of his best friend’s family’s wood-paneled station wagon at an Ottawa drive-in in 1977.
Christopher points out that “Star Wars resonates on so many pop culture, individual and theoretical levels. We see it as a historical pivot point where the balance between spectacle and narrative in Hollywood begins to shift. This is the time where the privileging of spectacle really began and narrative took a secondary back seat.”
David Christopher’s Star Wars-themed wedding
“Star Wars gives you a wide berth of highly popular, highly populist films with which to measure the ideological temperature of American popular culture over the 40 years surrounding 9/11,” he continues. “Star Wars is certainly a significant artifact in the evolution from modernism to post-modernism. It hit so many of the right points at the right moment.”
Media interest in Christopher’s Star Wars passion has been high, resulting in interviews with the likes of The Province newspaper, Vancouver’s Metro News, and both CBC Radio and Television (not archived online). He also appeared on CHEK TV, Global TV, Vancouver radio stations Spice and CKNW, and UVic’s own student newspaper, Martlet.
Whether it’s the mythological, sociological, psychological, theoretical or economical impact of the original trilogy, Christopher is well-versed in all things Star Wars. “It not only changed how movies were made but it changed how people talked about movies. People had a field day with this series for decades.”
“I don’t think anyone—certainly not George Lucas—expected it to be what it became,” he adds. “It changed Lucas from an incidentally brilliant filmmaker into a corporation. When he later made the prequel trilogy, a lot of critics recognized he had exhausted his creative energy in 20 years of corporate leadership.”
Christopher has a paper in peer review for publication, on the allegorical function of the prequel trilogy; has spoken about the cultural significance of Star Wars for the UVic Speaker’s Bureau; and his new Star Wars course will “look at the tectonic shift in cinematic practices it instigated and the discursive zeitgeist around its iconic status within popular culture.”
In addition to master degrees in cinema & cultural theory and theatre history from UVic, Christopher holds degrees in English and economics from Carleton University and was recently published in the Canadian cinema journal CineAction, the Online Journal of Arts and Humanities and in the Theatre Notebook (UK).