It’s not often you find an off-campus arts event that’s almost exclusively organized by Fine Arts alumni and students, but that’s exactly what you’ll find when you peak behind the curtain at 2017’s Integrate Arts Festival.

Originally dubbed the Off-The-Grid Art Crawl, Integrate is now organized annually by the Integrate Arts Society — where two of the three current Board of Directors are Art History & Visual Studies alumni (president Brin O’Hare and vice-president Alanah Garcin). Even better, eight of their nine planning committee members also have ties to the AHVS department: development coordinator Regan Shrumm & operations coordinator Stephanie Dermann are both alumni, while communications coordinator Kristi Hoffman, partnership coordinator Megan Quigley, art coordinator Zahra Kazani and event coordinators Olivia Prior and Margaret Lapp are all current students. Rounding out the pack is art director Anna Shkuratoff, a recent Visual Arts alumna.

AHVS grad & Integrate president Brin O’Hare

IAS president Brin O’Hare credits AHVS for providing an “initial awareness” of the vibrancy of Victoria’s art scene, and says it helped push her — and many of Integrate’s team — to become involved in the festival.

“I think UVic’s Art History program, and particularly their graduate program, facilitates students awareness and involvement in this community,” she says. “For example, field trips to the Legacy Gallery and Kilshaw’s Auctioneers, and work experience within the arts community, are often available to students, and many courses use local artists, galleries and organizations as case studies for learning as well. This provides students with an opportunity to become aware of the arts community within Victoria.”

Now in its 11th year, the Integrate Arts Festival runs August 25-27 at a number of downtown locations and serves to do exactly what it’s name implies: integrate various galleries and exhibition spaces with a series of exclusive events, performances and tours.

Centered around an en-masse art crawl, it encourages interaction with artworks and performances by local artists, as well as the exploration of local galleries, art spaces, and artist-run centres. Best of all, Integrate remains a completely free festival celebrating Victoria’s diverse arts community.

To see a complete list of events, performances, parties and tours, be sure to check out the complete festival program.

Putting her academic training to good use, O’Hare — who worked as a research assistant for AHVS professor Carolyn Butler Palmer and graduated with an MA in 2014 — feels her work with Integrate provides a good opportunity to correct the “misguided perception” that art history is solely a study of the past.

“To give a personal example, my focus was modern and contemporary Canadian art. As a UVic Art History student, we did, of course, study artists of the past; however, we also focused a great deal on living, contemporary artists. A particular interest of mine — which was fostered by my studies at UVic — is how art historical traditions and concepts of the past play a role in shaping the practices of contemporary artists. This interest to a great extent pushed me to become more familiar with the artists working in Victoria and to help further awareness of our city’s amazing arts community by getting involved in the festival.”

Laura Gildner

Given that two of Integrate’s goals are to raise awareness of Victoria’s arts scene and to help facilitate the growth of diverse, emerging artists within the community, their collective Fine Arts background is serving them well — especially when you consider that a number of the festival’s featured artists are alumni of the Visual Arts department, including Courtney Chaney, Colton Hash, and Romi Kim, plus current students Laura GildnerLeah McInnis and Libby Oliver. Also on view at various galleries and locations during the festival will be work by alumni Maddy Knott, Jim Holyoak and Matt Shane.

Artist Laura Gildner, for example, will be guiding a participant-driven performative walking tour between selected Integrate exhibitions in the downtown core from 1 to 2pm Saturday. Fueled entirely through anecdotal recollections sourced by interviewing strangers throughout Victoria, the piece — titled “Public Displays of Affection” — will examine layered intersections between the body, identity and art as they relate to urban geography.

Libby Oliver

There are also a number of workshops and special events planned, ranging from performance art and artist talks to dance, podcasting and zine-making workshops, . . . and, of course, the de rigueur opening night party running from 7-10:30pm Friday at Integrate HQ in the Bay Centre.

One highlight features alumna artist Courtney Chaney offering a performance of “Habitat,” which focuses on “the relationship between human and nature by allowing the viewer to encounter an exposed vulnerability within the space as the performer embodies a fetus or seed through direct contact with composted soil.” You can see that from 7-9pm Saturday at Integrate HQ.

Whether you go for the whole weekend or just take in one or two exhibits, Integrate offers a fantastic opportunity to catch some of Victoria’s emerging artists and to see our dynamic Art History alumni in action.