A gift from BC sculptor Jeffrey Rubinoff and the Jeffrey Rubinoff Foundation will allow doctoral students at the University of Victoria exceptional opportunities to study the complexities and richness of the history of modern and contemporary art and why it matters to Canadians and the world.
“UVic is internationally recognized as a leader in creative innovation and arts knowledge, and Jeffrey Rubinoff has identified UVic’s extraordinary academic environment as being ideally suited to the goals of the Rubinoff Endowment — to expose students to the leading edge of art history,” says UVic President Jamie Cassels.
Studying world art creates opportunities for intercultural understanding, as people instantly connect with the visual. A greater awareness of the impact of modern and contemporary art can add to the richness of our lives, engage us with the past and present, and inform how we think about our world.
The Jeffrey Rubinoff Scholar in Art as a Source of Knowledge Endowment establishes a recurring four-year PhD fellowship in UVic’s Department of Art History and Visual Studies, in the area of modern and contemporary art history.
“My own sculptural work is completely dedicated to art history,” says Rubinoff. “Original ideas grow out of original work, which led me to see art as a source of knowledge. Since these insights form the context within which the work becomes meaningful, it is imperative that the general public, artists and art educators understand them if the work is to be fully appreciated.”
After receiving his MFA in the USA in 1969, Rubinoff returned to Ontario to pursue his artistic career before moving to a 200-acre farm on Hornby Island in the early 1970s. Living and working on the northern Gulf Island for nearly five decades, he has built the Jeffrey Rubinoff Sculpture Park and the annual Company of Ideas forum held at the park. This remarkable 200-acre site is home to over 100 of his steel sculptures, which he has created unassisted using his one-man steel foundry.
“Jeffrey’s sculptural work is monumental in its scope and his legacy will now create a monument to future scholarship,” says UVic Dean of Fine Arts Susan Lewis. “This extraordinary contribution underscores the crucial cultural work done in the Faculty of Fine Arts and reaffirms once again that UVic is a key player in creative innovation and the exchange of ideas about social change.”
An author of Rubinoff on Art and the subject of scholarly study himself in the book The Art of Jeffrey Rubinoff, his commitment to scholarship includes the establishment in 2014 of a fellowship at Cambridge University in England. The UVic endowment is the second only such donation from the Jeffrey Rubinoff Foundation.
“Together, the Endowment at UVic and the Fellowship at Cambridge are the institutional mainstays of the unfolding, permanent educational program at the Jeffrey Rubinoff Sculpture Park, which will continue to explore the future of art as a source of knowledge,” adds Rubinoff.
The new endowment at UVic will also provide travel and costs for the scholar and two students to attend the annual Company of Ideas, established by Rubinoff in 2008 to engage scholarly collaborators from around the world with the advancement of education in the arts.
AHVS PhD candidate Munazzah Akhtar attended the Company of Ideas forum in 2016, and found the experience invaluable. “Being a student of Islamic art history, it was a novel experience for me to get acquainted with art beyond my area of specialization,” says Akhtar. “Unlike any other conference I had attended before, this forum gave me an opportunity to engage with not only the works of a contemporary artist but the artist himself in getting firsthand knowledge about his contributions to the art world.”
“The forum offered an unparalleled opportunity for the students to learn from and engage with artists, writers, curators and academics from distinguished universities,” she continues. “Moreover, I feel very strongly that these are fantastic occasions for students to network with renowned scholars, which could certainly be beneficial for their future endeavors.”
This contribution is ideally timed to help the department celebrate 50 years of teaching, research and scholarship — ideas all strongly linked to the educational mission of the Jeffrey Rubinoff Foundation.
“In our 50th Anniversary year, as we look forward to the next 50 years and beyond, Jeffrey Rubinoff’s generous gift to the department allows us to envision a brighter future for our vibrant and diverse graduate students, who will use this legacy to deepen the impact of art history both at home and around the world,” notes AHVS department chair Erin Campbell.