There was certainly no shortage of Fine Arts news in 2018, given that we tracked nearly 300 local, national and international media stories about the creative activities of our faculty, alumni, students and staff . . . and those are just the stories we know about.
From our new faculty members—including Rick Leong, Sasha Kovacs, Deborah Campbell, Katharina Clausius and Michael Elliott—to a new batch of websites for our departments of Art History & Visual Studies, Theatre, Visual Arts, Writing and the School of Music, Fine Arts continues to grow and evolve as we move closer to our 50th anniversary in 2019/20.
While it was hard to choose favourites from amongst the many stories that appeared in both traditional and social media, here (in no particular order) are our choices for the top 10 Fine Arts stories from our faculty blog.
Benjamin Butterfield named to the Royal Society of Canada
Benjamin Butterfield (UVic Photo Services)
Three UVic faculty members received the country’s highest academic honour by being named 2018 fellows of the Royal Society of Canada (RSC) in September—and among those joining the distinguished ranks was School of Music professor Benjamin Butterfield.
While Butterfield has won international plaudits as one of Canada’s best operatic tenors, he is equally passionate about his role as head of voice for UVic’s School of Music.
“With a performance career, the more you’re in the game, the more you’ll be asked to be in the game,” he explains. “But my obligation is really to teaching . . . for me, it’s less about pursuing my ‘career’ and more about being here for students who sing, and who want to learn to sing—that’s my day job, that’s my real life, that’s what’s most important.”
Butterfield is now the eighth Fine Arts faculty member to be inducted into the RSC, including Fellows Mary Kerr (Theatre), Harald Krebs (Music), Tim Lilburn (Writing), Joan MacLeod (Writing) and Sandra Meigs (Visual Arts), as well as RSC College member Dániel Péter Biró (Music) and RSC Medal winner Jack Hodgins (Writing, retired).
Read more about Butterfield’s RSC appointment here.
Esi Edugyan wins second Giller Prize
Fine Arts has no shortage of alumni success stories, but it’s hard to top internationally acclaimed Department of Writing alumna Esi Edugyan, who won her second Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2018 for her latest novel, Washington Black.
Edugyan won $100,000 on the 25th anniversary of Canada’s richest literary award, and also earns the distinction of being one of only three authors to twice win the Giller Prize, alongside M.G. Vassanji and Alice Munro.
Washington Black was also nominated for the Man Booker Prize and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize—as was her previous 2011 Giller Prize-winning novel Half-Blood Blues. Indeed, having only published three novels (including her debut, The Second Life of Samuel Tyne), Edugyan’s back-to-back wins for Washington Black and Half-Blood Blues is doubly remarkable, especially when you consider both were shortlisted for the coveted trifecta of fiction awards.
Read more about Edugyan’s Giller win here.
Carey Newman is the new Audain Professor
Carey Newman receiving his Order of BC from
Lieutenant Governor the Honourable Janet Austin and Premier John Horgan in September
When Kwagiulth and Coast Salish artist Carey Newman’s Witness Blanket was unveiled at the University of Victoria in 2014, it was clear the large-scale installation would quickly become a national monument and spark reflection and conversation about residential schools, settler-Indigenous relations and reconciliation. Now, Newman will continue the conversation as the sixth Audain Professor of Contemporary Art Practice of the Pacific Northwest with the Visual Arts department.
“This is breaking new ground for me,” said Newman in June. “I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to convert the experience of mentorship into a more formal educational setting.”
It’s been a big year for Newman: on top of being declared the Audian Professor for the next three years, he was granted the Order of BC, was named the inaugural recipient of the Professional Arts Alliance of Greater Victoria’s Regional Arts Award, played a role in the Aboriginal Canadian Entrepreneurs program with the Gustavson School of Business, received a Saanich150 art commission and debuted his new “Witness Blanket” documentary at the Vancouver International Film Festival.
Read more about Newman’s Audain position here.
Carolyn Butler Palmer advises on new $10 bill
When Art History & Visual Studies professor Carolyn Butler-Palmer received an email from the Bank of Canada back in 2017, she didn’t put much stock in it. “To be honest, I thought it was a scam email,” she laughs, “but in fact they wanted to speak to me as an art historian.”
While it’s no secret now that Canada’s new vertical $10 bill features Nova Scotia civil libertarian Viola Desmond, Butler-Palmer was under a strict confidentiality order for several months starting in summer 2017 while she was consulted by the Bank of Canada about the proposed design. One of a number of experts contacted, Butler-Palmer came to their attention due to the Globe and Mail coverage of her early 2017 exhibit Ellen Neel: The First Woman Totem Pole Carver at UVic’s Legacy Gallery.
“It was a real honour to be asked and to be able to work on such an important change in our currency,” Butler-Palmer said in this recent interview with the Martlet. “I think the change is really reflected too, [particularly] that they changed the orientation as well . . . to signify the change in the way that they represent Viola Desmond on that bill.”
Find out more about Butler Palmer’s involvement in the $10 bill here.
The Drowsy Chaperone a stunning success
Douglas Peerless as the Man in the Chair (photo: Dean Kalyan)
The response to Phoenix’s fall mainstage production of The Drowsy Chaperone, directed by Jacques Lemay, was fantastic. Audiences and reviewers alike praised this production as one of the finest in Phoenix’s 50-plus year history.
“This is one of the best shows staged by the university’s theatre department in recent years and should not be missed,” notes thisTimes Colonist review by Adrian Chamberlain. “Everything about this elegant, detailed production works well: the excellent costumes, set, acting, dancing, choreography . . . . [this is] a truly superior piece of theatre that will undoubtedly be a highlight of the season.”
It was such a hit, in fact, that they ended up adding two additional shows after the entire run was essentially sold out in November!
Read more about the amazing success of The Drowsy Chaperone here.
The Orontes Guitar Quartet welcomed as Visiting Artists
(l-r) Orwa Al Sharaa, Gaby Al Botros, Nazir Salameh & Mohammed Mir Mahmoud in front of UVic’s Fine Arts Building, November 2018. (UVic Photo Services)
The dramatic story of four musicians escaping daily violence in Syria for a fellowship in UVic’s School of Music caught the attention of The Globe and Mail in December, and became one of UVic’s top news stories of 2018.
Alexander Dunn, an internationally renowned guitarist and UVic music instructor for nearly three decades, played a vital role in bringing the guitar quartet to UVic by working for the past 18 months with two US-based organizations—the Artist Protection Fund (APF), an innovative initiative of the Institute of International Education, and the non-profit organization Remember the River.
Now safely in Victoria as the recipients of a prestigious Artist Protection Fund Fellowship grant, the Orontes quartet offer a remarkable message about the power of music, hope and determination. The quartet told the Globe and Mail that their peaceful lives in Syria had been disrupted by the civil war, and violence and terror became commonplace. But when the ensemble started to play together, “we forgot everything because we just focused on what we are doing,” as recounted to The Globe’s arts reporter Marsha Lederman in a December 8 article in the national edition of the newspaper.
Read more about the Orontes Quartet here—and be sure to watch this Globe and Mail video of the quartet playing together.
Colton Hash named Artist in Residence for Ocean Networks Canada
Colton Hash with his full-size sculpture of an adolescent female orca (photo: Ashton Sciacallo)
Victoria-based artist Colton Hash became the inaugural recipient of an Artist-in-Residence program by the Faculty of Fine Arts and Ocean Networks Canada (ONC), a UVic initiative. The new ONC residency will strengthen connections between art and science, and broaden perspectives on major issues ranging from technology and the environment to biodiversity and healthy communities.
A recent graduate of UVic’s combined undergraduate program in Visual Arts and computer science, Hash was selected for the residency from a field of nearly 70 local, national and international applicants. He will hold the position from November 2018 to March 2019 and, following his residency, will provide a public exhibition of the resulting body of work.
“I see this as a great opportunity to collaborate with ocean scientists and experiment with digital media to communicate some of the dynamic processes that play a critical role in coastal waters,” says Hash. “Whether it’s how a kelp forest responds to climate change or how the thawing of frozen methane affects sediment stability of submarine slopes, I hope I can use interactive art to inspire viewers to care more about what is happening beneath the ocean’s surface.”
Read more about Hash’s ONC residency here.
Fine Arts hosts Reconciliation & the Arts forum
There was a capacity audience for the Nov 15 forum at the Baumann Ctr (photo: Fiona Ngai)
The fourth annual Building Reconciliation Forum was hosted at UVic in November and, as part of the two-day event, Fine Arts hosted a panel discussion on First Nations Art Practice & Reconciliation.
Presented in partnership with Universities Canada, the Building Reconciliation Forum brought together close to 250 thought leaders from universities, Indigenous governing bodies and communities, and federal and regional government officials from acorss Canada to consider how universities are answering the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.
As part of the Forum, Fine Arts Dean Dr. Susan Lewis hosted a near-capacity panel discussion on First Nations Art Practice & Reconciliation at downtown’s Baumann Centre, featuring a range of local artists, administrators, activists and alumni discussing how Victoria’s arts community can advance decolonization and reconciliation.
Panelists included Visual Arts MFA alumna and the City of Victoria’s inaugural Indigenous Artist in Residence Lindsay Delaronde; the Belfry Theatre’s Indigenous cultural advisor Kristy Charlie and executive director Ivan Habel; Pacific Opera’s director of community engagement Rebecca Hass; Open Space board member and Visual Arts sessional instructor Charles Campbell; Legacy Gallery director Mary Jo Hughes; and Art Gallery of Greater Victoria curator of engagement Nicole Stanbridge.
Also during the forum, the Theatre department hosted Nomad, a musical and visual journey through Inuit history with Inuk singer-songwriter and Order of Canada recipient Susan Aglukark.
Find out more about the First Nations Art Practice & Reconciliation event here.
Bill Gaston wins Victoria Book Prize
Department of Writing professor Bill Gaston won the 2018 City of Victoria Butler Book Prize for his short-story collection The Mariner’s Guide to Self Sabotage (Douglas & McIntyre). Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps and co-sponsor Brian Butler presented Gaston with his $5,000 prize at a gala October 17 event at downtown’s Union Club.
2018 was a strong year for the Writing department at the Victoria Book Prize, given that fellow nominees included professor emerita Lorna Crozier (What the Soul Doesn’t Want), longtime instructor Patrick Friesen (Songen) and longtime Faculty of Fine Arts colleague and Dean’s External Advisory Committee member Maria Tippett (Sculpture in Canada: A History).
Gaston is also one of 10 authors nominated for the prestigious RBC Taylor Prize for his 2018 memoir, Just Let Me Look At You (Hamish Hamilton).
Read more about Gaston’s win here.
Twin Kennedy win Distinguished Alumni Award
Twin Kennedy are now Distinguished Alumni (UVic Photo Services)
It’s only been 10 years since sister duo Twin Kennedy graduated from the School of Music, but during that short decade, the acclaimed country/roots duo already released two albums, toured across North America, moved to Nashville and won the hearts of country radio and fans alike. The sisters headed back to UVic in February to be honoured as the Fine Arts winners of UVic’s 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award—an award that’s doubly special this year, given that it was presented during the School of Music’s 50th anniversary.
Know for their distinctly “Canadiana” country roots sound, seamless harmonies and heartfelt songwriting, Carli and Julie Kennedy (BMus ’08) have been dubbed “the next big thing in country music” by the Nashville Music Examiner and Twin Kennedy’s 2017 winter single “Cold Weather” was chosen by Rolling Stone as one of the “10 new country and Americana Christmas songs to hear right now!”
“We’re very proud of years at UVic,” says Carli. “Not everyone in the popular-music world has a degree, and it’s an important part of our story. To be recognized for that side of our career is a huge honour; it means a lot to us.”
“And we did it together!” laughs Julie.
They now join the ranks of our previous Fine Arts Distinguished Alumni Award winners: visual artist Althea Thauberger (MFA ’02) director Glynis Leyshon (BFA ’73), author Esi Edugyan (BA ’99), lighting designer Michael J. Whitfield (BA ’67), director and filmmaker Mercedes Bátiz-Benét (BFA ’02), poet Carla Funk (BFA ’97), musician Paul Beauchesne (BMus ’88), author Deborah Willis (BA ’06), environmental designer Valerie Murray (BA ’78), author Eden Robinson (BFA ’92) and visual anthropologist Andrea Walsh (BA ’91).
Find out more about Twin Kennedy’s award here.
Nothing says the holidays quite like a quiz—whether it’s focused on movies, carols or the roots of traditions, a holiday quiz has become a staple for most people. With that in mind, the annual Art History & Visual Studies Christmas Quiz is back to challenge your visual knowledge.
Created by AHVS chair Marcus Milwright, this third Christmas Quiz follows the same format as the previous incarnations:
- each of the eight slides shows a composite made up of four different images
- each image comes with a question you’ll have to answer (name of the artist, subject of the painting, title of the film, and so on)
- follow the instructions and select one letter from each answer, which will form a word solution
- all the correct words are employed in art history and manuscript studies
- the names of all artists are in the forms they are most commonly found in art historical publications
Once you have completed the quiz — or as much of it as you can — write the completed words on a postcard with your name and contact email, then drop your postcard into the Christmas Quiz box in the Art History and Visual Studies department main office by January 7, 2019 (Room 151 of the Fine Arts building).
Download a PDF of the AHVS Christmas Quiz here.
This quiz is open to all UVic students, regardless of department, and you may compete as teams (but only one postcard submission per team). There will be a main prize for the winner, as well as two runner-up prizes. Winners will be announced on January 11, 2019.
The dramatic story of a Syrian guitar quartet escaping the ongoing destruction of the Syrian civil war for a fellowship at the University of Victoria offers a remarkable message about the power of music, hope and determination. Alexander Dunn, an internationally renowned guitarist and instructor with UVic’s School of Music for nearly three decades, played a vital role in bringing the Orontes Guitar Quartet to the university as recipients of a prestigious Artist Protection Fund Fellowship grant.
(l-r) Orwa Al Sharaa, Gaby Al Botros, Nazir Salameh & Mohammed Mir Mahmoud in front of UVic’s Fine Arts Building, November 2018. (UVic Photo Services)
To secure the quartet’s arrival in Canada, Dunn worked closely for the past 18 months with two US-based organizations—the Artist Protection Fund (APF), an innovative initiative of the Institute of International Education, and the non-profit organization Remember the River.
The quartet told the Globe and Mail that their peaceful lives in Syria had been disrupted by the civil war, and violence and terror became commonplace. But when the ensemble started to play together, “we forgot everything because we just focused on what we are doing,” as recounted to The Globe’s arts reporter Marsha Lederman in a December 8 article in the national edition of the newspaper.
First collective to be named Artist Protection Fund Fellows
The classical guitar ensemble—Gaby Al Botros, Orwa Al Sharaa, Nazir Salameh and Mohammed Mir Mahmoud—faced violence in Damascus where they and their families were at risk from extremist groups and often targeted as musicians.
They are among the youngest artists—and the first collective—to be named fellows of the APF and were welcomed as Visiting Artists to UVic’s School of Music in early November.
Dunn’s colleague and friend, the highly esteemed classical guitarist and US composer Susan McDonald who teaches in conflict hot spots, also played a crucial role in bringing the four musicians to North America. The quartet was unable to travel to the States due to the ongoing travel ban.
Unique guitar culture and respected music program
The Orontes with Dr Alexander Dunn (centre) at UVic’s Phillip T Young Recital Hall (UVic Photo Services)
Dunn has built a unique guitar culture here which garners global respect and led to UVic being identified as an ideal haven for the quartet. During the ensemble’s time at UVic, Dunn will serve as their mentor, organize musical activities and provide coaching.
“The Orontes Quartet’s visit will enrich local musical activity and have positive repercussions in the greater community and across Canada for their compelling story of music and political affairs in the Middle East,” adds Dunn.
His local non-profit the Victoria Guitar Society will also provide daily practical support to the quartet.
Formed in 2015 at the University of Notre Dame Louaize in Beirut, the quartet has defied all odds to create careers as concert guitarists. While in Syria, they appeared with the Syrian Philharmonic, on Syrian MTV and Sky Arabia. They also arranged multiple concerts, some of which had to be cancelled at the last minute due to violent incursions. They have also worked as teaching assistants in Lebanon and taught a guitar program for Syrian refugees.
Upcoming performances in new year
The Orontes in performance (UVic Photo Services)
While at UVic, the Orontes Quartet will coach UVic students, produce a digital recording using UVic School of Music facilities, give talks on their experiences and musical activity, as well as perform publicly including at local churches and mosques. They also hope to mount a limited tour of Canada in 2019, with potential dates in Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg and Toronto.
Funded in partnership with global initiatives
Remember the River supports artists in war zones and the APF fills a critical unmet need by providing fellowship grants to threatened artists and placing them at welcoming institutions in safe countries where they can continue their work and plan for their futures.
UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts and School of Music have partnered with the APF to support the Orontes Guitar Quartet through September 2019.
Get a taste of what makes the Orontes Guitar Quartet special as they play Boccherini’s “Fandango” in this video:
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He felt the bomb before he heard it. . Nazir Salameh’s right arm, the one he played guitar with, had been hit. Salameh ran to the nearest car, which happened to be a taxi. “To the hospital, to the hospital! Hurry up!” he told the driver, who set off through the streets of Damascus toward help. . The pain was excruciating; Salameh had to hold his right arm up with his left hand. When the shelling began, he had been waiting for two of his bandmates on their way to a rehearsal for their quartet; he had to leave his guitar behind. . Salameh says he had one thought on his way to the hospital: “If I will not play [guitar] again, I prefer to die.” . Telling the story three years later during an interview from the safety of the University of Victoria, the 26-year-old Syrian rolls up his shirt sleeve. “There was a mortar shell that entered from here,” he points to the scar on the top of his arm near his bicep, “and outside from here,” he says, lifting his arm to show another scar on its underside. . Despite the severity of his injury, Salameh was able to play guitar again. This skill eventually brought him here, to the School of Music building on UVic’s forested campus, along with the three other members of the Orontes Guitar Quartet. Gaby Al-Botros, Mohammed Mir Mahmoud, Orwa Al-Shara’a – all 25 – and Salameh, 26, arrived two weeks earlier. . The men are spending the year in the B.C. capital on fellowships organized by the Artist Protection Fund (APF). Based in New York and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the APF supports threatened artists around the world by providing fellowship grants and designing residency programs at academic or cultural institutions in safe countries, following a rigorous application process. . “Finally, and after everything we’ve been through, the dream has come true!” Orontes posted on their Facebook page from Victoria on Nov. 11, Remembrance Day. “Many thanks to APF … for doing the impossible.” — Follow the link in our bio for more from Marsha Lederman Photos by Rafal Gerszak, The Globe and Mail, @rafalgerszak
Support your local tubas!
For 40 years now, tuba and euphonium players from all across Vancouver Island and beyond have been gathering at Market Square in downtown Victoria for one of the city’s most anticipated holiday traditions. TubaChristmas returns to once again raise money for the Times Colonist Christmas Fund, a charity that assists the people most in need in the Greater-Victoria community.
TubaChristmas, as performed by the Victoria TubaChristmas Ensemble, runs from 1-3pm Saturday, Dec. 8, in Market Square, 560 Johnson Street. Donations will be accepted throughout the duration of the event.
Last year, an impressive 101 brass musicians gathered to play an afternoon of favourite carols, and the resulting donations far exceeded those collected in previous years. Tubist and UVic instructor Paul Beauchesne — who will lead the ensemble for the fourth year — has his sights on record-breaking numbers for the 40th anniversary of this beloved event. And this year, local video production company Roll.Focus and CHEK TV are partnering to produce the first livestream of the event.
Paul Beauchesne leading the TubaChristmas ensemble
Beauchesne describes the sound of massed tubas and euphoniums as a “sonic hug,” filling the square with music that will echo through the surrounding streets. Jointly sponsored by Market Square and UVic’s School of Music, TubaChristmas was established in Victoria by the much-loved tubist, Eugene Dowling, who succumbed to cancer in June 2015. Dowling was one of Beauchesne’s tuba instructors, as well as a mentor and friend, and Beauchesne is proud to carry forward the TubaChristmas torch.
TubaChristmas dates back to 1974 where it originated in New York City by the late Harvey Phillips of Indiana University. Concerts now take place in over 200 cities worldwide and this year marks the 45th year for TubaChristmas internationally. The original concept was to honour the late William Bell (1902-1971) — Phillips’ teacher and former tubist with the New York Philharmonic — who was born on Christmas Day, but over the decades it has grown to become so much more.
Don’t miss this once-a-year occurance, which has grown into one of Victoria’s most beloved seasonal events!
From telling stories that helped us understand what it meant to be Canadian to inspiring future generations of writers, Richard Wagamase was one of Canada’s most beloved authors. His death in 2017 at just 61 was a profound loss for our country’s literary culture, and now his final novel, Starlight, is being launched locally at a special event hosted by UVic Chancellor Shelagh Rogers who is also host of CBC Radio’s The Next Chapter and a longtime friend of Wagamese.
The Starlight book launch runs from 7-8:30pm Tuesday, Dec 4, at UVic’s First Peoples House. Admission is free, and all are welcome.
Starlight tells the story of an abused woman who discovers sanctuary on the farm of an Indigenous man, and is an apt conclusion to his literary legacy.
“This book is not only a last gift to his readers, it is a masterpiece,” says Rogers. “It will be wonderful to be among friends to pay tribute to his life and his writing, and it’s wonderful that this event takes place at UVic, as Richard loved the university and his time here.”
Joining Rogers will be 2018 Governor General’s Award winner Darrel J. McLeod (Mamaskatch), 2018 Bolen Book Prize winner Monique Gray Smith (Speaking Our Truth: A Journey of Reconciliation), current Writing MFA candidate Troy Sebastian and Writing professor emerita Lorna Crozier.
Richard Wagamese (photo: John Threlfall)
As one of the Harvey Southam Guest Lecturers in the Department of Writing, Wagamase had a lasting influence on UVic students and the local community by mentoring young writers and sharing his vision of the power of Indigenous storytelling.
“Richard Wagamase had a profound impact on our national culture through his novels, his essays, his memoirs and his memorable readings and talks,” says Writing chair David Leach, moderator of this event.
“As our Southam Lecturer in 2011, he inspired and challenged our students to move out of their comfort zones as writers and explore the power of oral storytelling. It was such a great pleasure to hear Richard’s big-hearted laugh in our hallways and talk with him about books or baseball or the blues. It’s still a shock to realize we will never get another chance to hear him read aloud from his richly detailed and deeply humane novels and essays.”
By drawing upon his work as a journalist and his experiences as a residential school survivor, Wagamese created memorable and award-winning novels such as Indian Horse and Medicine Walk, as well as compelling works of nonfiction, including as One Native Life and Embers.
Copies of Starlight will be available for sale at the event.
UVic is accessible by sustainable travel options including transit and cycling. For those arriving by car, pay parking is in effect. Evening parking is $3.