Top 10 Fine Arts stories of 2016 – part two

With five departments offering concerts, theatrical productions, readings, exhibits, symposiums and lectures featuring the talents of our teaching faculty plus visiting artists, academics and other professionals, Fine Arts remains one of the most community-engaged faculties on campus. Find out more about what we do in the Faculty of Fine Arts by visiting our brand new website.

Here’s part two of our annual top-10 roundup—be sure to read part one as well!

Award-winning writing 

Yasuko Thanh wins the Writers Trust Award (Photo: Tom Sandler, Quill & Quire)

While the passing of celebrated Department of Writing alumnus WP Kinsella at age 81 was sad news this fall, Writing had many reasons to celebrate this year. Notable achievements among faculty and alumni included Yasuko Thanh winning the $25,000 Writers Trust Fiction Prize for her debut novel, Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains, Eden Robinson winning the $25,000 Engel/Findley Award as part of the Writers Trust awards, and DW Wilson winning the £10,000 Manchester Fiction Prize for his short story, “All This Concrete Beneath Your Feet.”

Hearty congratulations went out to the alumni team behind the locally shot 2015 feature film The Devout, won 7 major awards out of 14 nominations at the annual Leo Awards—including director Connor Gaston and producers Daniel Hogg and Amanda Verhagen. The Devout won Best Motion Picture, Best Screenwriting, Best Lead Performance (Male & Female) and Best Performance by a Female in a Supporting Role, Best Editing and Best Casting.

Connor Gaston

The Devout has been well-received wherever it has played, earning wins for the BC Emerging Filmmaker Award and the Best Canadian Feature Film Award in the Vancouver and Victoria film festivals, respectively, and a nomination for the top international prize at South Korea’s Busan International Film Festival. It also appeared at the prestigious Shanghai International Film Festival in June.

And Connor Gaston was just named winner of Best International Short Film at the Paris Courts Devant International Short Films Festival in December for his film, The Cameraman. Gaston wins 3,000 Euros and was flown to Paris to receive the award and participate in a Q&A.

Bill Gaston

Speaking of Gastons, Connor’s dad—veteran writing professor Bill Gaston—was named the 2016 recipient of UVic’s Craigdarroch Award for Excellence in Artistic Expression. “By honouring Bill with the Craigdarroch Award, UVic recognizes the immense impact he has had on both Canadian literature and on our university’s reputation as the centre for excellence in the literary arts,” says current Writing chair David Leach. “As a creative writer, Bill is prolific, versatile and incredibly accomplished—a model of creative focus and originality for students and fellow faculty members. He publishes nearly a book a year, most of which earn award nominations and major accolades from across Canada.”

Jenny Manzer & David Leach (photo: Corina Fischer)

In more Writing news, David Leach launched his new book Chasing Utopia: The Future of the Kibbutz in a Divided Israel in November, alongside wife and fellow Writing alumni Jenny Manzer, whose new young-adult novel Save Me, Kurt Cobain was nominated for the Bolen Books Children’s Book Prize at the City of Victoria Book Prize in October. Also nominated for the City of Victoria Book Prize were alumni Frances Backhouse and Arleen Pare, and alum Steven Price was longlisted for the Giller Prize for his new novel, By Gaslight.

30 years of string theories

The Lafayette String Quartet

Still reigning as the only all-female string quartet in the world with all of its original members, the Lafayette String Quartet celebrated their 30th anniversary in 2016—which also marked 25 years as UVic’s Artists in Residence. Not only did that earn all four of them—violinists Sharon Stanis and Ann Elliott-Goldschmid, violist Joanna Hood and cellist Pamela Highbaugh Aloni—a quartet of Long Service Awards from the university, but it also gave them the excuse to launches their 30th season with a series of special concerts—starting back in July with a concert featuring Haydn’s “String Quartet in E Flat Major” (the so-called “joke” quartet), Ravel’s “String Quartet in F Major” and Jean Coulthard’s “String Quartet II (Threnody)”.

As Stanis told the Times Colonist in this article, she believes the secret behind the LSQ’s success is their “very blended sound” — the ability to make four instruments come together as one voice. This, she said, reflects the influence of their mentor, Rostislav Dubinsky. A former member of Russia’s famed Borodin Quartet, Dubinsky brought a lifetime of musical wisdom to coaching his disciples; in particular, he stressed the importance of arms bowing in unison at the same speed. “We’ll spend anywhere from five to 25 minutes on a detail that the audience may or may not catch,” says Stanis. “But it’s important to us.”

The LSQ also presented their 11th annual Health Awareness Forum to a sold-out house this past fall, focusing on “Personalized Medicine: Hype, Hope, Genuine Progress,” and are currently preparing for an ambitious performance of all 15 of Shostakovich’s string quartets, to be performed consecutively at UVic on February 3.

Pheeling Phantastic at 50

It was an incredibly busy fall for the Department of Theatre. In addition to mounting their latest mainstage production in November—a well-reviewed Les Liaisons Dangereuses, directed by Theatre professor Fran Gebhard—they also offered an expanded Spotlight on Alumni Festival performance series, featuring solo shows by Charles Ross, TJ Dawe and Shannan Calcutt. Not content with that, they also mounted a gala reunion weekend in November, all to help celebrate their 50th anniversary.

So many Phoenix alumni returned for the reunion they had to split them by decades! (Photo: Corina Fischer)

“Our success begins with a deep passion for theatre shared by faculty, staff, students, alumni and our amazing audiences—present and past,” says theatre chair Allana Lindgren. “The people who started our department were fearless in their vision and commitment. They transformed one of the old military huts on campus into a stage and that ‘can do’ attitude has never left.”

Be sure to visit the Phoenix 50th anniversary site for a nifty interactive 50-year timeline highlighting key points in the department’s history and many of their notable alumni.

A scene from Wild Honey (Photo: David Lowes)

Phoenix also ended 2016 on a high note, with a number of nominations and wins in the annual Victoria Critics Choice Awards. Announced in December on CBC Radio, the Critics Choice Awards select the best of local theatre, and Phoenix is a frequent winner. Theatre professor Peter McGuire was named best director for their production of Wild Honey, which also won best community production. (“It was one of those shows where you had to ask yourself if you were actually watching students or professional theatre,” noted local critic David Lennam.

Theatre professor Brian Richmond earned Best Professional Production for Blue Bridge Repertory’s production of Long Day’s Journey Into Night—starring MFA alumnus David Ferry and former student Jacob Richmond. School of Music alumnus Tobin Stokes won for Sound Design for the Belfry’s Speed the Plow, and there were plenty of Phoenix talent among the nominees, including current MFA student Graham McMonagle, alumni Alan Brodie and Janet Munsi, their productions of The Threepenny Opera and Summer and Smoke.

Indigeneity and the Arts

Fine Arts initiated a new Orion Series on Indigeneity and the Arts in 2016, with   acclaimed filmmaker, author & composer Jeff Barnaby as our first guest back in September. In addition to a public lecture and screening of a selection of his short films starting, the award-winning Barnaby also visited classes and spoke to students.

Jeff Barnaby speaking to Fine Arts students in September

A Mi’gmaq member from Listuguj, Quebec, Barnaby was educated at Concordia University, and is best known for his 2013 feature film, Rhymes for Young Ghouls, which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. Barnaby’s first short film, From Cherry English (2005), won 2 Golden Sheaf awards (Yorkton) and played in dozens of festivals including Sundance, Tribecca, Fantasia, the Vancouver International Film Fest and the Atlantic International Film Fest; he has also created such acclaimed short films as The Colony (2007) and File Under Miscellaneous (2010).

The Orion Indigeneity Series is an important addition to our existing Orion Lecture series, which offers our students the opportunity to engage with numerous visiting professional artists each academic year. Fine Arts has a tradition of collaborating with indigenous artists, communities and scholars, and has been actively engaged in integrating culturally sensitive methodologies in our teaching, research and creative activity.

You can read more about Fine Arts and Indigeneity here.

Culture of giving

Fine Arts officially welcomed new Development Officer Samantha Krzywonos to Fine Arts in September, and much of her first month was spent establishing the largest donor-funded endowed award in UVic’s history: the Jeffrey Rubinoff Scholar in Art as a Source of Knowledge Endowment. But the Rubinoff Endowment is just one of the many projects Krzywonos has underway; no stranger to UVic, she has spent the past three years in Development positions for Education, Social Sciences and CARSA. “It’s all about relationships,” she says, “whether that’s researching with faculty members, meeting with student recipients or managing the stewardship of our donors.”

Samantha Kryzwonos (right) with donor Tommy Mayne and current Theatre students

Those donors can range from alumni and retired faculty to parents of students, corporate partners and arts patrons. And with over 150 active donors and nearly $10 million in planned gift expectancies, Fine Arts offers Krzywonos a diverse and dynamic portfolio.

But an essential part of her position is connecting donors and students. December 12th, for example, marked the 98th birthday of longtime donor Tommy Mayne, and Krzywonos helped him celebrate by organizing a luncheon with three current recipients of the Thomas and Elizabeth Mayne Theatre Scholarship. “Tommy and his wife were patrons long before the current Phoenix building was even built, so it was great for him to be able to meet those students this week.”

When asked about the most rewarding aspect of her job, Krzywonos doesn’t hesitate. “Meeting with donors. It’s all about saying thank-you and sharing the impact of that support. If a student can focus on their studies and not have to take on extra work just to get by, that donor support can make a huge difference in their life.”