Top 10 Fine Arts stories of 2016 – part one

With over 150 public events a year here in the Faculty of Fine Arts—not to mention classes, research, guest lectures and the kind of creative activity that defines who we are and what we do—the year always just seems to fly by. As always, there was no shortage of things to keep everyone busy in 2016. Here’s part one of our annual wrap-up featuring some—but certainly not all—of the leading Fine Arts stories of the year.

A whole new Dean

Dean Susan Lewis

Back in July, we were proud to announce that Dr. Susan Lewis had been selected as the new Dean of Fine Arts—the ninth Dean since Fine Arts became a faculty in 1969. Her five-year term will continue the momentum already begun by her term as Acting Dean for the 2015/16 academic year. “With Fine Arts being one of only a few freestanding faculties in the country whose focus is entirely devoted to performance, arts scholarship, and creative expression, this gives us an edge as we look to enhance synergies across the faculty, campus and into the community,” she said at the time.

Lewis originally joined the School of Music as an Assistant Professor in 2001, and has since served as the School’s Acting Director (both in 2010 and 2012) and Director. She holds a PhD in Musicology from Princeton University, a Master of Fine Arts (Princeton), Master of Music (University of Arizona), and Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Music degrees from Queen’s University. Her international experience includes a year of study at the University of Glasgow and University of Edinburgh, and active research networks that span North America and Europe. Her extensive experience serving on a number of regional, national, and international organizations — including the American Musicological Society, Canadian University Music Society, Society for Seventeenth-Century Music, the Canadian Association of Fine Arts Deans, and Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences — is sure to benefit the Faculty in the years to come.

“A core mandate of my first year as Dean is leading the collaborative development of a strategic plan for Fine Arts,” she says. “It has been an exciting few months as we work together to develop a vision for the future of the Faculty that builds on our strengths and brings us to new levels of achievement, opportunity, and possibility.”

A monumental donation

Jeffrey Rubinoff (right) with UVic President Jamie Cassels

When BC sculptor Jeffrey Rubinoff and the Jeffrey Rubinoff Foundation presented the Department of Art History and Visual Studies with the largest donor-funded endowed award in UVic’s history in September, he created exceptional opportunities for future doctoral students to study the complexities and richness of the history of modern and contemporary art. The Jeffrey Rubinoff Scholar in Art as a Source of Knowledge Endowment establishes a recurring four-year PhD fellowship 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,” Dean Susan Lewis said at the time. “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.”

AHVS department chair Erin Campbell was equally excited by Rubinoff’s donation. “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.”

Read more about the Rubinoff Endowment here.

50 years of Art History

It was a full house for the Bob Wittman lecture

As Campbell noted, the 2017/18 academic year is the 50th anniversary of the Art History and Visual Studies department. And while the Rubinoff Endowment may well be the most significant event of their anniversary year, it’s certainly not the only one. AHVS began its celebrations with a sold-out guest lecture by former FBI art crime special agent Robert K. Wittman in October, which saw well over 300 people packed the Bob Wright Centre to hear his true-life tales of art adventure, as well as supporting comments from Kilshaw’s Auctions owner and alumna Alison Ross.

“Bob Wittman is the ideal choice for our 50th anniversary event,” said Campbell in October. “He demonstrates the impact art history can have on the world, and his participation in two of our classes during his visit is typical of the kind of exciting, expert-based, hands-on learning that happens in AHVS.”

Wittman signing copies of his books in October

Dubbed “the most famous art detective in the world” by The London Times, Wittman recovered millions of dollars worth of stolen art and cultural property during his 20-year career — including paintings by Rembrandt, Goya, Norman Rockwell, and one of the original 14 copies of the U.S. Bill of Rights. He was instrumental in the creation of the FBI’s rapid deployment Art Crime Team, and has since instructed international police and museums in investigation, recovery and security techniques. Now the New York Times bestselling author of Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures, Wittman also signed copies of both Priceless and his latest book, The Devil’s Diary: Alfred Rosenberg and the Stolen Secrets of the Third Reich.

AHVS was also involved in the special naming dedication of UVic’s Williams Building (formerly the Administrative Services Building) in November, and will continue their 50th anniversary celebrations throughout the first few months of 2017, with an anniversary exhibit at the Legacy Maltwood Gallery in the Mearns Centre/McPherson Library, and a special event during IdeaFest in March.

Read more about Wittman’s visit here.

Feeling distinguished

Leyshon delivering her popular speech at the Distinguished Alumni Awards

The history of AHVS was also in the spotlight back in February, when celebrated director Glynis Leyshon was honoured as a Distinguished Alumni. One of Canada’s most respected opera and theatre directors, with an enviable career working with the most prestigious performance companies in Canada, Leyshon has also been the artistic director of two theatre companies of national repute, was the head of the Opera as Theatre Programme at the Banff Centre and has conducted courses at such diverse locations as UVic, UBC, the Victoria Conservatory of Music and William Head Penitentiary—not to mention the recipient of Canada’s Commonwealth Medal for her contributions to the arts.

But surprisingly for someone so closely associated with Canadian theatre, her academic career culminated in 1973 with a BFA from History in Art. “Who knew that having an art history degree would be so incredibly useful for a theatre director?” Leyshon said with a good-natured chuckle. “In many ways, I can think of no better background—the eye training alone was incredibly useful, but also having the insight and vocabulary to work with designers on sets and costumes.”

It was doubly rewarding having her present at the special Alumni Week event at the Royal BC Museum, considering she had survived a harrowing stabbing in Toronto less than eight weeks prior. Leyshon now joins the likes of previous Fine Arts Distinguished Alumni Esi Edugyan (BA ’99), Michael J. Whitfield (BA ’67), Mercedes Bátiz-Benét (BFA ’02), Carla Funk (BFA ’97), Paul Beauchesne (BMus ’88), Deborah Willis (BA ’06), Valerie Murray (BA ’78) and Andrea Walsh (BA ’91).

Read more about Glynis Leyshon here.

Art on view

Cedric Bomford

It’s been an especially good year for exhibits by Visual Arts professors—notably Cedric Bomford, who exhibited at both Calgary’s Esker Foundation and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, and is working on a major public art project in Seattle. Bomford, who joined the Visual Arts department in September 2015, also received the Canada Council’s $15,000 Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton Award in July, honouring outstanding artistic achievement by Canadian mid-career artists in the disciplines of dance, inter-arts, media arts, music, theatre, visual arts, and writing and publishing.

“I’m extremely pleased on behalf of the Visual Arts department to congratulate our colleague Cedric Bomford on having his research recognized with this national award,” said Visual Arts chair Paul Walde at the time. “Over the past year, Cedric has proven to be a tremendous asset to both the department and the UVic community and we are delighted to have him with us. He has a number of high profile research creation projects underway which will no doubt bring further accolades and recognition in the months and years to come.”

Exhibits were also mounted by sessional instructors Laura Dutton (at Victoria’s Open Space), Jeroen Witvliet (at Victoria’s Slide Room Gallery) and Tara Nicholson (at Kingston’s Modern Fuel artist-run centre), as well as professors Jennifer Stillwell and Paul Walde. Stillwell’s New Work: Smokestacks, Spills and Figures appeared at Toronto’s Pari Nadimi Gallery, while Walde participated in a pair of high-profile group exhibits this year: The View From Up Here at Alaska’s Anchorage Museum—which made USA Today’s “12 must-see summer museum exhibits” list—and The Edge of the Earth: Climate Change in Photography & Video at Toronto’s Ryerson Image Centre. Walde’s work from the Alaska exhibit will also be heading off to Denmark in early 2017.

Visitors at the Audain Exhibition in October

And in his second year in the Audain Professorship of Contemporary Art Practice of the Pacific NorthwestRande Cook presented his exhibit Accumulation in October at the Audain Gallery in the Visual Arts building. Timed to coincide with Intersections, the national conference of the Canadian Society for Education through Art, Visual Arts hosted conference delegates who were able to experience Cook’s exhibit, as well as hear him as a presenter. Also presenting was keynote speaker Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, a former Audain Professor himself.

In other Visual Arts news, four of the eight nominees for the inaugural Philip B. Lind Emerging Artist Prize in March had connections with the department: graduate student Kerri Flannigan, undergraduates Brandon Poole and Anna Shkuratoff, and alumna Emily Geen. Flannigan was named runner-up, winning a $1,000 prize.

Stay tuned for part two of our best of coming up next!

 

Long Service Awards mark 335 years at UVic

When UVic’s annual Long Service Awards were presented at the University Club back in October, a surprising number of Fine Arts faculty and staff were among the recipients—and, if you add up all their years of service, it totals a remarkable 335 years at UVic.

Music professor Pamela Highbaugh Aloni with UVic president Jamie Cassels

In the 25-year category were Linda Sheldon (Music), Astri Wright (Art History & Visual Studies) and the members of the Lafayette String Quartet—Ann Elliott-Goldschmid, Pamela Highbaugh Aloni, Joanna Hood and Sharon Stanis (all Music).

Clocking in at 30 years were Sandra Guerreiro (Theatre), Harald Krebs (Music), and Alexandra Pohran-Dawkins (Music), while  two people had achieved the impressive 35-year mark: Eva Kinderman (Music) and Laura Nuttall (Visual Arts).

During her 35 years on campus, Nuttall has worked in food services and the library, but most of her time was spent in the registrar’s office before transferring over to Visual Arts six years ago. “I could smell sawdust the first time I walked into the building, so I knew it was going to be completely different,” she recalls.

Visual Arts staffer Laura Nuttall with fellow 35-year recipient, Jamie Cassels

“I love helping people in Visual Arts,” says Nuttall. “It’s not about volume, like the registrar’s office—it’s about being there for that individual person, from enrollment to graduation. It offers a real sense of satisfaction and completion.”

And while she just earned a Long Service Award for her 25 years in Fine Arts, December also marked the end of an era with the retirement of Advising Officer Anne Heinl—not only did she help create the position 23 years ago, but she’s also the only person ever to have held it. Anne’s dedication and good humour will be sorely missed by faculty, staff and students alike.

It’s beginning to look a lot like a Phoenix alumni holiday season

Phoenix alumna Erin Macklem (right) working with co-creator Brad L’Écuye on This Little Light

Phoenix alumna Erin Macklem (right) working with co-creator Brad L’Écuye on This Little Light

Looking for some seasonal theatre over the holidays? Our always busy Department of Theatre alumni have you covered with a wide range of holiday offerings! Here’s what’s coming up in Victoria over the next few weeks:

  • This Little Light – Dec 10-23 • Belfry Theatre, 1291 Gladstone • Tickets $25-$53

Phoenix alumna Erin Macklem — currently Artistic Associate and Outreach Coordinator at the Belfry Theatre — presents the world premiere of her new musical, for which she wrote the book and lyrics, in association with musical director Brad L’Ecuyer. This Little Light is a one-hour outdoor, musical adaptation of The Little Match Girl, written specifically for Victoria and Fernwood, and starring members of the Canadian College of Performing Arts’ Company C Studio Ensemble, local school choirs and other special guests.

It's beginning to look a lot like Peter (left) and Chris (right)

It’s beginning to look a lot like Peter (left) and Chris (right)

Join busy — and always funny — Phoenix alumni Peter Carlone and Chris Wilson for this one-night-only hilarious send-up of the classic Charles Dickens’ Christmas story. When a grumpy Chris is visited on the night before Christmas (or maybe like a week before Christmas, honestly it’s a busy time for these ghosts), he wastes most of his time with the first ghost. Now he must decide which of the ghosts he wants to meet before sunrise in order to change his ways. Peter n’ Chris are masters of parody and theatrical comedy, sending everyday life up to absurd heights.  A Peter n’ Chris-tmas Carol promises to be all the things you love about A Christmas Carol, performed the way only Peter n’ Chris can: a fast, smart, hilarious new take on an old classic.

Brian Richmond

Brian Richmond

Theatre professor Brian Richmond’s Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre continues its holiday tradition of offering audiences an entertaining and nostalgic look at how plays were produced in the golden age of radio with its hit live productions of the classic films Miracle on 34th Street and It’s A Wonderful Life. Both shows are performed in front of microphones and live audiences, in exactly the same manner as they would have been in the 1940’s when radio was king. Directed by Richmond with a fantastic local talent pool—including Amanda Lisman, Wes Tritter, Christopher Mackie, Shauna Baird, Griffin Lea, Tara Britt, Michael Armstrong, Jacob Richmond, L.J. Wallace, Jeffrey Renn and more.

Bindon Kinghorn with Clayton Jevne (right) in Shockheaded Peter. (photo: Times Colonist)

Bindon Kinghorn with Clayton Jevne (right) in Shockheaded Peter. (photo: Times Colonist)

The reviews have been strong for this quirky holiday offering, directed by Phoenix alumnus and Theatre instructor Clayton Jevne. “If you find traditional Christmas entertainments saccharine and wholesome, Shockheaded Peter may be just the palate cleanser you’re looking for,” says the Times Colonist in this review. Described as a “Junk Opera” — a term used to describe the work of The Tiger Lillies, an English trio of cabaret-style musicians — the show is based upon Heinrich Hoffmann’s Struwwelpeter, the 1845 German cautionary-tales book for children.

The music is an intoxicating blend of Eastern European gypsy with French-style cabaret, and a sprinkling of melodic heart-rending ballad. The lyrics – in a very darkly comic manner – demonstrate what happens to little children who misbehave. The presentation style is one of puppetry, pantomime, story telling, and orchestrated mayhem. Local band Party On High Street – who have accompanied past Inconnu musicals  – will be back to provide eclectic musicianship for a host of local voices —including busy Theatre alum Cam Culham and retired Theatre staffer Bindon Kinghorn. Plus, the costumes are by Theatre alum Ian Case, former GM of Intrepid Theatre and UVic’s current director of Ceremonies and Events.

Composition legend honoured with 85th birthday concert

The sound world of Czech-Canadian composer and former School of Music director Rudolf Komorous is elusive: it is strange yet familiar, unexpected but deliberate, his peculiar orchestrations skew the senses yet land—even if for a brief moment—in a place the ear recognizes. This influence came from his native Czechoslovakia where, during the ’50s and ’60s Komorous, was associated with a circle of visual artists known as the “Smidra Group.” Their motto was the “aesthetics of the wonderful” through which everyday materials could be transformed into something mysterious or even magical.

Rudolf Komorous

Rudolf Komorous

Komorous’ music and legacy is being celebrated with a special concert at 8pm Thursday, December 8— Komorous’s 85th birthday, in fact—in the UVic’s Phillip T. Young Recital Hall. Tickets ($10-$20) are available from the UVic Ticket Centre and at the door.

If you can’t make the concert, you can still hear it streamed online as part of UVic’s Listen! Live series. The concert is co-sponsored by the Canadian Music Centre, which opened a branch at the Victoria Conservatory of Music in August that includes a library named for Komorous.

The Times Colonist previewed the concert in two separate articles, one a preview of the program and the other an interview with former Komorous student and now Music professor Christopher Butterfield and alumna Cathy Fern Lewis. Once a leading figure in the avant-garde music scene of the Czech Republic, the Victoria composer is largely forgotten in his eastern European homeland. In Canada, Komorous is far from a household name — although he is known within the rarefied confines of the new-music community. “Here [in Canada] they know about him by rumour,” Butterfield told the TC. “They know about him by rumour, they know about him by reputation.”

While his music may seem ambiguous, one thing is for certain: Rudolf Komorous has made a major imprint on new music in Canada and beyond through his teachings and his body of work, which comprises electroacoustic, orchestral, solo, chamber and vocal music, including two operas. Some of the School of Music’s most distinguished alumni will come from near and far to perform music by the legendary composer, bassoonist and teacher, in salute to his contribution to Canadian music and to advanced music education.

Christopher Butterfield and Cathy Fern Lewis (photo: Darren Stone, Times Colonist)

Christopher Butterfield and Cathy Fern Lewis (photo: Darren Stone, Times Colonist)

Komorous took a position at UVic shortly after arriving in Canada in 1969. From 1971–1989 he taught composition and theory and later served as the School of Music’s Director. So many of his students went on to become successful composers that Eastern Canadian composers began to refer to their country’s avant-garde scene as “The Victoria Mafia.”

Composition professor Christopher Butterfield was one those students. He says that what he learnt from Komorous in those early years set the tone for his way of thinking, both in terms of his approach to composition and teaching. “When you start studying composition, what your instructor has to say is pretty influential,” says Butterfield. Komorous’s knowledge of visual arts, the American avant-garde, and his Central European tendencies were an enormous influence. “There was no comparable teacher anywhere in the country. There wasn’t anyone like him,” recalls Butterfield.

Soprano and sound artist Cathy Fern Lewis studied with Komorous from 1977–78 and describes her time with him as a revelation. “His whole person and way of being and teaching was influential and inspiring,” says Lewis. Komorous was “like a fountain or an oasis, not only in giving permission but in encouraging and inspiring me to pursue my own individual voice,” she explains.

komorous_luridbride“Rudolf was endlessly supportive,” adds Butterfield. “The more you used your imagination, the more interested he became in what you were doing.”

“Stone House,” composed by Komorous for Cathy and Christopher especially for this celebration, will be premiered on December 8. It is set to a poem of the same name by Fiona Sampson from her latest book The Catch, released February 2016. Whilst contacting Sampson for permission to use the poem, Sampson replied saying that “every poem in The Catch is a one-breath poem . . . . I will be fascinated to hear what you make of this!”

“Lurid Bride,” also on the Dec. 8 program, was composed for the Vancouver New Music Ensemble and commissioned by Owen Underhill—another UVic alumnus, who will be conducting the concert—and Vancouver New Music for the 2000 Vancouver International New Music Festival in which Komorous was a featured composer. Each of the 11 individually titled movements is dedicated to former students of Komorous’s and is based on research into actual historical incidents or situations. Underhill explains that each sharply distinct movement is a musical representation having its own distillation of emotional qualities.

cmc-komorous-libraryOther works to be performed include “Morning Glory” by Linda Catlin Smith (another of Komorous’s former UVic pupils) and “Olympia” (1964). One of the first truly minimalist works of music, “Olympia” premiered in Warsaw for the exhibition opening of Komorous’s friend, painter and Smidra Group member Jaroslav Vozniak. The piece was met with such unusual success that they had to repeat the performance right then and there.

As the primary organization for supporting, preserving and promoting the work of Canadian composers, the Canadian Music Centre has taken a special interest in Komorous’s music. They hold an invaluable archive of not just Komorous’s scores, but also sketches, letters and assorted papers. In addition, the new CMC Creative Hub in Victoria recently honoured the composer by naming their lending library after him at their opening in August. For Komorous’s full biography, an audio stream of his music and to request scores, visit the CMC website.

—Kristy Farkas