MFA Lindsay Delaronde named Victoria’s Indigenous Artist in Residence

The city’s visual arts scene became even more inclusive with the March 8 news that Lindsay Delaronde has been named Victoria’s inaugural Indigenous Artist in Residence.

Visual Arts alumna Lindsay Delaronde (photo: PRZ)

Delaronde, an Iroquois Mohawk woman born and raised on the Kahnawake reservation outside of Montreal, is also a multi‐disciplinary Visual Arts MFA alumna (2010) and has been a professional practicing artist for the past five years. In 2015, she was one of three artists-in-residence at the Royal BC Museum (along with fellow Visual Arts alumnus Gareth Gaudin); her work was in the spotlight with her 2016-17 exhibit In Defiance at UVic’s Legacy Gallery, and she was also a featured speaker at UVic’s Diversity Research Forum in January 2017.

“I hope to create artworks that reflect the values of this land, which are cultivated and nurtured by the Indigenous peoples of this territory,” she says. “I see my role as a way to bring awareness to and acknowledge that reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples is a process, one in which I can facilitate a collaborative approach for creating strong relationships to produce co-created art projects in Victoria.”

Delaronde began making art at a young age, practicing traditional forms of art making such as beadwork and cultural crafts. She began her journey to become a professional artist by travelling to the West Coast and obtaining her BFA at the Emily Carr Institute of Art & Design.

She creates work directly related to being an Indigenous woman in contemporary mainstream society, and has worked in mediums ranging from printmaking (including silkscreen printing and photos transfers) to painting, drawing and video — all with the motivation to expand the evolution of Indigenous peoples and their histories. Her intention is to construct Indigenous perspectives within Western society to bring forth truth and reconciliation through the act of creation and visual understanding.

For her one-year term as Indigenous Artist in Residence, Delaronde will work with the community and City staff to produce a range of artistic works; she will also have an opportunity to create collaborative artwork with the City’s Artist in Residence, Luke Ramsey, who was appointed in fall 2016. She will work 20 hours per week as an independent contractor (March 2017 to March 2018) for a total fee of $42,000, funded by the City’s Art in Public Places Reserve Fund. Artwork materials, fabrication and installation may be funded by a capital project’s budget, with up to $30,000 from the Art in Public Places Reserve Fund.

Lindsay Delaronde running a corn doll workshop at Legacy Gallery in 2016 (photo: Corina Fischer)

“My goal and my purpose for the residency is really to pave the way for young emerging indigenous artists and youth, and help them understand that anything is possible,” Delaronde said in this Victoria News interview.  “Everyone can stop and take a look at how art has helped them in their lives or how creativity has help someone through something or see something differently or be inspired by art . . . We all have these experiences so one thing that’s important is really helping people to personalize their own relationship to artwork and artwork in the city and what that means.”

One of six artists who applied for the position — which was open to First Nations, Inuit and Métis artists and artist teams working in any artistic discipline who reside in the Capital Region, including the Gulf Islands — submissions were evaluated based on artistic excellence, written interest, and knowledge and understanding of the cultural heritage and legacy of the area. Experience with community engagement and a desire to create artwork for and in the public realm were required.

’Namgis nation chief Rande Cook — a member of the City’s Art in Public Places Committee, and the current Audain Professor of Contemporary Art Practice of the Pacific Northwest for the department of Visual Arts — feels Delaronde is a good fit for what the City of Victoria has declared the Year of Reconciliation. “At a time where love, respect, unity and art come together, let’s all follow in the path as Lindsay paints and creates towards a brighter future,” he says. “Reconciliation is an act we as people must feel from within before we can dance unified to the heart of Mother Earth.”

Delaronde speaking at the 2017 Diversity Research Forum

Delaronde also recently completed her second Master’s degree at UVic, in Indigenous Communities Counselling Psychology. As she recounted in this Focus magazine interview, having experienced domestic violence and trauma in her youth, Delaronde has always turned to art-making for solace; realizing how an art practice helped her in her own healing, she has been finding points of cohesion. “As time went on, I was really interested in narrative therapy, person-centred therapy . . .  We don’t heal in isolation. Our worldview is about coming together and doing ceremonies so we could be visible; we could be seen. We could be part of community. The individual healing is the group healing—one is the other.”

She is already planning a multidisciplinary performative piece, titled A CHoRD, to take place at Victoria’s Legislature on June 25, 2017. Co-created with local choreographer Monique Salez  to enact a new accord reflecting the potential for a rallying point between cultures, politics, ages, and herstories, A CHoRD will “appropriate the colonial legislative system to dismantle existing hypocrisies and injustices while proposing new partnerships with an eye toward the potential for a contemporary and inclusive recreation where women’s voices, bodies and politics are reclaimed.”

Street art performance by Lindsay Delaronde (photo: Michael Tessel)

Want to get involved? Performers and activated audience members are needed, and you can find out more at an informational meet & greet, 3 to 5pm Sunday, March 19, at Raino Dance, 715 Yates (3rd floor).

You can also see footage of Delaronde’s 2015 Unceded Voices interactive street art performance piece here. “I dressed Iroquois regalia approaching local Montrealers and asking if they knew what First Nations territory they were on?” she said at the time. “What do they know of Kahnawake and Mohawk people? Interesting and upsetting responses in relation the lack of knowledge people have. So I did an acknowledgment of territory and educated them on who we are as Onkwehonwe people.”

We’ll  be excited to see the impact — both immediate and long-term — this extraordinary Fine Arts graduate has on Victoria during her year of residency.

“Our women have always carved”

Carolyn Butler Palmer with one of Ellen Neel’s masks in the Legacy Gallery exhibit

The newest exhibit at UVic’s Legacy Gallery Downtown seeks to correct gendered colonial myths with works by Ellen Neel, a woman carver of the Northwest Coast.

Ellen Newman Neel (Kwagiulth, Kwickwasutaineuk and ‘Namgis) is often described as the first Northwest Coast woman carver. A prolific artist, she was only 49 years old when she passed away in the 1960s. But her defiance of gender barriers and federal law carries deep resonance for all Canadians to this day—and now within the context of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s calls to action—and her legendary impact and artistic legacies live on in the work of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

The first exhibition of Neel’s work in more than 50 years is showing at UVic’s Legacy Art Gallery Downtown until April 1.

Exhibit co-curator and Art History and Visual Studies professor Carolyn Butler Palmer was assisted throughout the process by two advising curators, David A. Neel (Neel’s grandson and the son of David Lyle Neel) and Lou-ann Ika’wega Neel (her granddaughter and the daughter of Neel’s son Ted). The exhibit includes artwork from six generations of the Neel family, including David’s two children.

The Globe and Mail recently featured a story on Neel and the exhibit in its national arts section. Lou-ann was interviewed by The Globe. She said that it’s “‘really a colonial idea that our women didn’t carve. Our women have always carved. I’ve already heard a few people say, “Well, you know, our grandmother was also a carver.” Good, I want to hear about her. Let’s talk about her, too. Because all of our communities need these role models to come from the last couple of generations and encourage our young girls and women to pursue the arts, too.’”

The exhibit was also covered in these articles by both the Times Colonist and Oak Bay News.

Mary Jo Hughes (left) and Butler Palmer at the exhibit opening (Photo: Corina Fischer)

Born in Alert Bay in 1916, Neel learned during the 1920s to carve from her grandfather—the eminent master carver Yakuglas/Charlie James—at a time when the Indigenous art of carving was banned in Canada under the Indian Act. She then launched her artistic career in the 1940s during the potlatch prohibition when carving was rare and the idea of a woman carver was even rarer still.

Butler Palmer, also UVic’s Williams Legacy Chair, worked for 15 years on research in support of the exhibit at UVic’s downtown public art gallery and a book project. “Ellen Neel was a remarkable woman,” she says. “Seven decades before the TRC published its findings, Neel graciously and very publically supported the rights of Indigenous people, to fish, to fair wages, to an education and to make art. Neel was also an important role model and mentor for young artists such as Bill Reid, Art Thompson and Robert Davidson. It is hard to imagine the Northwest Coast art world today without the foundation laid by Neel in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s.”

Director of UVic Legacy Art Galleries Mary Jo Hughes adds, “We are honoured to be able to facilitate this exhibition and be able to mobilize the important research by Dr. Butler Palmer and the Neel family. This project brings to public notice Ellen Neel who, perhaps unbeknownst to many of our gallery visitors, played such a pivotal role in the art of the northwest.”

Ellen Neel’s family attending the exhibit’s opening (Photo: Corina Fischer)

In 1947, with the ban still in place, Neel established her own carving business. She opened a retail outlet in Stanley Park, The Totem Arts Shop, in 1951 where she taught her children to make art. They carved hundreds of items destined for the tourist market. She also produced monumental and miniature memorial poles, including The Wonderbird Pole of 1953 for White Spot Restaurants, as well as an extensive collection including masks, hand puppets, textiles, jewelry and totemware ceramics.

Neel designed the famous Totemland Pole too, which was a commission from a tourism organization with hundreds of the miniature poles gifted to visiting dignitaries, as well as other people beyond BC including Bob Hope and Katharine Hepburn.

As she told a UBC audience during a keynote address in 1948: “Were it not for the interest created by the tourist trade, the universities and the museums, we would no longer have any of our people capable of producing this art. I have strived in all my work, to retain the authentic, but I find it difficult to obtain a portion of the price necessary to do a really fine piece of work. Only when there is an adequate response to efforts to retain the best of our art will it be possible to train the younger generation to appreciate their own cultural achievements.”

—Written by Tara Sharpe. This piece originally ran in UVic’s Ring newspaper

Phoenix play proves that politics never really changes

Politics is a difficult game: there’s pressure to appease voters and deal with multitudes of issues and complaints, all while being sandwiched between different levels of government regulations. But while this all may sound terribly current, the latest Phoenix Theatre’s production shows little has chanced since the 1800s

With The Inspector — running March 9 –18 at UVic — Theatre professor Linda Hardy brings Russian playwright Nikolay Gogol’s political farce The Government Inspector into the 21th century. Her new adaptation leaves the plot of the 1836 original intact, but The Inspector places her characters in the fictional west coast town of Paradise.

Gogol’s original Russian play, Revizor, was allegedly inspired by a letter from the Russian poet and novelist, Alexander Pushkin; he suggested the basic plot that later appeared in Gogol’s final play: a tale about a town whose officials hear a government inspector is coming incognito. When they mistake a cunning civil servant for “the inspector,” their schemes to cover up their “little failings” are turned against them. His play was such a success that it has been adapted and interpreted many times, including the famous 1949 Danny Kaye film, The Inspector General.

Hardy’s inspiration also came from letters, but this time in the form of letters to the editor in the local newspapers. “Every day brought new gifts in the Times Colonist,” says Hardy about the process of adapting the play. “I was especially grateful to the passion of [our] citizens.”

Over five months, local ideas were woven into the new play: the fictional Paradise has to deal with a sewage treatment debacle, concerns about homelessness and a tent city, controversies over new bike lanes . . . audiences should watch for such familiar sights as bike cops, real estate developers, yoga instructors, and plenty of protestors.

Protesters in “The Inspector” (Photo: David Lowes)

Gogol’s town had a garbage problem; Paradise has a problem with untreated sewage. Where characters in Gogol’s play complained of the smell of alcohol, Hardy’s West Coast version pokes fun at the plethora of marijuana dispensaries; the officials in the original play are trying to keep “transient characters” from giving the town a bad reputation and appearance, while Hardy’s version raises important questions about the impact of the high costs of living in Paradise.

“Why do comedy?” asks Hardy. “It provides release in these uncertain times . . . it has always been the responsibility of the artist to function as a catalyst, a provocateur—and, yes, a ‘shit disturber.’ Gogol understood this in spades and was applauded as a realist in the Russia of his day.”

And while there are a lot of serious issues being addressed in The Inspector, Hardy addresses them with the same hilarious manner of Gogol’s farcical satire. While things spin out of control in the play, the cast of 19 theatre students ride bicycles, skateboards, shopping carts and other modes of transportation across iconic Victoria landscapes, dotted with flower-basketed lamp posts, ivy-walled buildings, upscale hotels, and bamboo-fenced gardens — all set in front of a sunset mountain background. Additionally Hardy helps all 35 characters to stand out by incorporating the use of masks, created especially for the play.

Theatre professor Linda Hardy

A long-time professor at the Department of Theatre, Linda Hardy is a master teacher of acting and voice who has trained professional actors and singers for stage and film, nationally and internationally. She sees The Inspector as an inspired finale to the department’s 50th season, as well as a gift to the current students. It is only fitting that as we look back over these past 50 years of Phoenix history, The Inspector is inspired by both the past and presents current politics.

“For me, the greatest joy is the chance to write roles for my actors, knowing their needs as young artists and the needs of the play,” says Hardy. “To tailor-make something that we all bring together makes for a rare collaboration.”

—Written by Theatre student Georgia Duff

The Inspector runs March 9 –18 at UVic’s Phoenix Theatre. Tickets range from $15-$26 and are available by phone at 250-721-8000 or in person at the Phoenix box office. There is a 2pm matinee on March 18, which will also feature sign-language interpretation.

50th anniversary Art History & Visual Studies exhibit encourages learning through looking

From Borneo textiles to the world’s largest button blanket, from a 15th century alabaster religious carving to a 19th-century lady’s pocket revolver, from anarchist manifestos to a Jim Carrey movie, the objects studied by art historians continue to change with the times. So too does the study of art history itself, as evidenced by the current Legacy Maltwood exhibit Learning Through Looking, celebrating the 50th anniversary of UVic’s Department of Art History and Visual Studies (AHVS).

Atri Hatef

“Introducing people to the importance of art is only part of our job,” explains exhibit co-curator Atri Hatef. “Art history is not just about studying specific examples of art, objects and architecture, it’s also about how and why they were created, and what the similarities are across regions and centuries . . . the product of creation is sometimes less important than the process or intention of creation. It’s not just about the past and history, but also about the present and future.”

Hatef, a PhD candidate with a focus on Islamic medieval urban architecture, is acutely aware of what can happen when past and present collide; she came to UVic from Iran specifically to study with AHVS professor Marcus Milwright.“I’m looking at transcultural exchanges during 13th and 14th century Iran . . . it’s interesting how people from places like China, Cairo and Damascus talk to each other through the language of art and architecture,” she says. But, as recent events have shown, academic pursuits can easily be threatened by politics — both at home and abroad.

“We’re usually looking at people who lived 700 or 800 years ago, but consider what’s happening in Syria, in Jordan, in many countries around the Middle East: we’re losing the very materials we’re supposed to be working with,” says Hatef, who, as an Iranian, is also affected by the US travel ban. “Seeing monuments destroyed in Aleppo and Palmyra is very painful, and you can see how these things could happen in other places — like Iran, which is under constant threat from the US.”

It’s these kind of headlines that make the Learning Through Looking exhibit an idea part of the AHVS panel discussion “Why Art Matters in Dangerous Times” at UVic’s Ideafest. Featuring AHVS professors Victoria WyattAstri WrightMelia BelliEvanthia Baboula and Lianne McLarty, this lively panel will discuss how, at a time when (sadly) xenophobia, ethnocentrism, political tensions and censorship are on the rise, art and the visual — from the meme to the masterpiece — have more to offer society than ever before in human history. All are welcome from 5 – 7pm Wednesday, March 8, in room 025 of the McPherson Library (right next door to the exhibit space).

Jaiya Anka

But it’s no coincidence the exhibit is titled Learning Through Looking, says co-curator and Master’s candidate Jaiya Anka. “While the intention of the exhibit is to tell the story of our department and to celebrate the scope of our teaching, we hope the significance of the discipline will emerge through the stories of the objects.”

Indeed, given the vast chronological and geographical range of objects on display, the diverse focus of the AHVS teaching faculty is easy to discern. With cases dedicated to the nine full-time professors — as well as the history of the department itself — the exhibit nicely encompasses their global reach while still maintaining a local focus: the community engagement represented by the button blanket project, say, or the juxtaposition of 19th century objects recovered from Swan Lake with pottery shards from medieval Cairo.

Erin Campbell (right) at the exhibit opening

“We were pioneers in the field when we were founded 50 years ago — not just in Canada but across North America,” notes department chair Dr. Erin Campbell of what was then the History in Art program. “At the time, art history was very Western-focused but we were one of the few institutions willing to look at Asian and Indigenous art. And we are still one of the largest world art history departments in Canada.”

You can learn more about the exhibit at the Curators’ Talk with Hatef, Anka, Campbell and AHVS professors Victoria Wyatt and Astri Wright, 1 – 2 p.m. Tuesday, March 14, in the Legacy Maltwood Gallery on the lower level of McPherson Library.

Campbell says the recent addition of “Visual Studies” to the department’s title is indicative of changes to both the world and the program itself, which continues to attract students from nearly every other faculty on campus with its popular range of electives. “As society becomes more and more digital, the importance of visual literacy is obvious: visual studies has grown beyond art and architecture to include everything from fashion and advertising to film, graffiti and digital culture itself. It’s essential to keep up with that.”

Anka hopes the exhibit, which continues until April 30, captures the department’s far-reaching implications. “Art history is a discipline that touches everything and changes the way we look at and understand the world. Each object has a story — it embodies a place, a time and a people, but also economics, chemistry, religion, language . . . . every day I learn something new, and I love that.”