Exhibition reframes Innocence of 1960s artists

In 1963, National Film Board director Léonard Forest travelled from Montreal to the west coast to direct a documentary about artists and poets working in Vancouver and Victoria. Forest said he came here with “zero idea” of what he would find. He made the resulting 27-minute film, In Search of Innocence, with an innocent eye.

AHVS grad student & exhibit curator Nellie Lamb

Now, the latest Legacy Gallery exhibit, Innocence: West Coast Art and Artists Through a Visitor’s Eyes pairs the original NFB documentary with work by artists featured in the film — but guest curator Nellie Lamb also examines the notion of innocence as it pertains to the West Coast in the 1960s.

Lamb, a graduate student with the Art History & Visual Studies department, selected work by the likes of Jack Shadbolt, Margaret Peterson, Roy Kiyooka, bill bissett, Joy Long, Sing Lim, Jack Hardman, and former UVic Visual Arts professors Fred Douglas and Donald Jarvis for the exhibit.

Curious to learn more? Lamb will be giving a special curator’s talk and tour from 3-4:30pm Saturday, February 3.

Lamb says she first saw the NFB film back in 2013, when her mother gave her a copy for Christmas. “My dad, Fred Douglas, appears in it,” she explains. “He passed away when I was 12 so I’ve been getting to know him as an adult through documents like this, and through his friends, co-workers and students.”

Some of Fred Douglas’ original manuscript pages appear in the exhibit

Douglas was a noted Vancouver artist who eventually joined UVic’s Visual Arts department as a professor.

She calls it a “happy accident” that UVic’s impressive art collection holds pieces by some of the artists in the film; the exhibit also features some pieces on loan from UBC, SFU, and the AGGV. “That’s one of the fun things I’ve found about researching local artists, often their work is right here where we can see it up close.”

Lamb says she tried to select works that were created close to the time In Search of Innocence was shot. “Margaret Peterson’s ‘Horos, The Welcome Figure’ (1962) was actually in her solo exhibit at AGGV, which is shown in part in In Search of Innocence,” she explains. “ ’Horos’ also relates to the idea of the West Coast as a place that is — at least in some imaginations — ‘natural’ and ‘mystical.’”

A more innocent time?

Was there actually a sense of innocence among west coast artists of the 1960s? “I think Forest’s use of the term ‘innocence’ is much more nuanced and nebulous than what we typically use the word to mean,” Lamb explains.

“Part of my research is about teasing apart what he might have meant and I think what he meant has many facets, depending on which artist he was looking at. For example, Jack Shadbolt’s search for innocence was different from Al Neil’s. Forest features a diverse group in his film . . . [but] the artists in In Search of Innocence wouldn’t have called themselves innocent.”

Yet Lamb does acknowledge that “the west” has long been seen as a place of opportunity, and that “unrealized opportunity” itself is a type of innocence. Add that to the continued perception that the West Coast is distant from the art-world centers (Europe, New York, Montreal, Toronto), and that West Coast cities like LA and Vancouver are “culturally devoid” compared to their eastern equivalents.

“Of course, anyone involved in the arts communities out here knows that’s untrue,” insists Lamb. “But being removed from these major art centers, and choosing to remain physically and sometimes ideologically marginal, can be seen as an innocent choice or, a search for innocence.”

The researcher as audience & curtor

As an AHVS grad student, Lamb says her Legacy exhibit is just one part of a larger research project focusing on documentary film theory, building a history of Vancouver and the West Coast in the 1960s, and considering her own role as audience and curator.

“Sometimes seeing something we are familiar with through another’s eyes reminds us how incredible that thing is,” she explains. “I hope visitors leave the gallery with a feeling of wonder about the place that we live, and the artists who have worked here for thousands of years and continue to . . . . that’s the feeling in [both the film] and the artworks in this exhibition give me.”

“Innocence” at Legacy Gallery Downtown

Originally from Vancouver, Lamb chose UVic for both her undergraduate degree and her graduate work. “I’m from Vancouver and I had originally planned on moving back there after graduating with my BA . . . . [but] I’ve found that both the AHVS department and Victoria’s art community are overflowing with opportunities for students to put their research and related skills into practice.”

Despite the 55-year gap between the NFB documentary and now, when urban growth and development have radically changed both the physical and cultural landscape, Lamb feels some things do remain recognizable.

“I bounce back and forth between lamenting how much has changed — how much has been lost to development and rising cost of living — and then noticing how much is the same,” she says. “The land is still awe-inspiring, there are still diverse and interconnected communities of artists working in just as diverse media, and some of them are still searching for the same ineffable thing that Forest called innocence.”

Innocence: West Coast Art and Artists Through a Visitor’s Eyes runs to March 29 at UVic’s Legacy Downtown, 630 Yates (open Wed-Sat, 10-4pm).  

It’s twice the charm for 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award winners, Twin Kennedy

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. Now, the sisters are headed back to UVic on February 5th to be honoured among UVic’s 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award winners — an award that’s doubly special this year, given 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) are the latest recipients of the Distinguished Alumni Award for the Faculty of Fine Arts.

Dubbed “the next big thing in country music” by the Nashville Music Examiner, Twin Kennedy’s latest album — 2015’s It’s a Love Thing — was produced by Canadian country superstar George Canyon, and their 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!

Each year at Alumni Week, UVic’s Alumni Association — in partnership with the universtiy’s faculties and divisions — present Distinguished Alumni Awards to outstanding members of the alumni community. The recipients are selected by their respective faculties or divisions based on a number of criteria, including career accomplishments or service to their community.

Twin Kennedy now join the ranks of previous Fine Arts Distinguished Alumni Award winners, including visual artist Althea Thauberger (MFA ’02) director Glynis Leyshon (BFA ’73), author Esi Edugyan (BA ’99), lighting designer Michael J. Whitfield (BA ’67), 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).

“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.

Twin Kennedy will be performing a free, on-campus show as part of the Orion Series in Fine Arts during Alumni Week: their intimate, acoustic concert at Felicita’s kicks off at 8pm on Wednesday, February 7, and is already almost sold out. Reserve your free tickets now. And you can read more about them in this Feb 1 Black Press article.

First, and best, choice

Originally hailing from Powell River, the twin sisters specifically chose UVic’s School of Music to study for their Bachelors of Music, with Carli focusing on classical guitar performance and Julie on violin. “We didn’t plan it, but guitar and violin go really well together,” says Carli.

“UVic was definitely our first choice, because it’s the best string program in Canada, hands down,” says Julie. “We did go and do some lessons with teachers at other universities while we were deciding, but fell in love with the Lafayette String Quartet and [guitar professor] Alexander Dunn.”

“I distinctly remember Carli’s audition at UVic,” says Dunn. “After a few moments, it was apparent there was a true musical mind at work — innate musicianship, ease of execution, effortless focus. I was made aware that her sister was auditioning as well. I nervously contacted the strings instructor to make sure she was aware of the Kennedys. Naturally, they both sailed through and, in the course of their studies, evolved into mature musicians and a wonderful duo.”

Lafayette String Quartet violinist Ann Elliott-Goldschmid similarly recalls her time working with Julie. “Innately talented, Julie had the disposition of a performer from the moment she auditioned,” says Elliott-Goldschmid. “She had a beautiful, singing tone and a will to constantly improve. I remember her captivating Franck Sonata and excellent Saint-Saens concerto to this day!”

Beyond focusing on their individual instruments, the Kennedys were also instrumental in the development of UVic’s Vocal Jazz Ensemble, which is still very active today, under the guidance of Wendell Clanton. “He created a directed study for us, and helped to build the whole vocal jazz program—we were the first year of that,” says Carli. “He really encouraged us to try some really out-of-the-box stuff, which is a big part of what we do now,” agrees Julie.

Victoria had an impact on the Kennedys beyond their studies, however, resulting in their family moving to “this beautiful city” and their sister Katelyn choosing UVic for her Education degree. “Where you go to school can really change your life in ways you never even realize,” says Julie.

“We found this out later, but we were both asked the same question at our entrance interview: ‘What are you going to do if your sister quits music?’ And I just couldn’t conceive of that,” she admits. “We’ve always known from the beginning that our path would be together, so I said, ‘That’s not a possibility.’ And they were like, ‘Sure, sure.’” Both sisters pause, look at each other, and burst out laughing. “Look at us now!”

For his part, Dunn isn’t surprised by their success. “I know their dedication and hard work have afforded an unshakable musical foundation,” he says. “I am proud of their accomplishments and will always regard the Kennedys with great fondness and admiration.

Perhaps because they are twins, there’s a clear connection between the two sisters that goes beyond both the personal and professional. (“And we are actually twins—which we got asked recently—although it’s pretty obvious,” laughs Julie.) They frequently finish each other’s sentences, and never hesitate to chime in with additional details.

“Lots of family groups break up, but we work really hard at our professional and personal relationships,” says Carli. “And because we’re legitimately best friends, we’re also pretty lucky. You have this built-in best friend who agrees with you musically 99% of the time.”

“It’s only with Carli that I could do this, and I couldn’t do this without her,” Julie admits with a smile.

Achieving, and inspiring, excellence

With a steadily growing amount of industry recognition — including multiple nominations from the Canadian Country Music Association (three) and the BC Country Music Association (12) — Twin Kennedy have also already won two John Lennon Songwriting awards for their song “Secondhand Gold,” which picked up the Grand Prize (Country) in 2015 and Best Country Song in 2016, as well as a pair of Vancouver Island Music Awards (Country Album of the Year).

“I’m really delighted that Julie and Carli have succeeded so brilliantly in this business,” says the LSQ’s Elliott-Goldschmid, “but I never doubted for a moment that they would go far with their many talents and incredible generosity of spirit.”

But it’s their roots in classical music that continue to set Twin Kennedy apart. Combining classical training with country roots allowed them to not only establish their signature sound and unique live show, but also develop their unique “Classical to Country Workshop” geared towards young musicians. By visiting elementary schools, high schools, and community music programs, Carli and Julie help music students craft their skills and find their confidence on stage.

“It’s really fun to bring both styles into classrooms,” says Julie. “We bridge the two worlds, which are totally different worlds. My favourite thing is when people come up and say, ‘You know, I don’t really like classical music but I really like what you did.’ You give them a taste and hopefully they’ll go to the symphony next.”

“But music is music,” Carli interjects. ”Being in Nashville, we’re surrounded by more people who do what we do, but we’re also exposed to more audiences and more styles of music. The world is getting more genre-less.”

As part of Alumni Week, Twin Kennedy will also be visiting the School of Music and sharing their experiences as recording and touring artists with the likes of the “Business of Music” class. Now based in Nashville, the sisters feel they’re getting “a Master’s degree in songwriting” just by living there.

“All the publishing houses, record labels, writers, artists . . . they’re all there — and not just doing country,” says Julie. “In the music industry, there’s LA, New York City, Toronto and Nashville. And for Americana — or Canadiana — Nashville is the place to be. You’ve gotta go where your music is the thing.”

“Every country song you hear on the radio, 99% of the writers live in Nashville, so we just go to their houses to write,” says Carli. “It’s really elevated our songwriting, once we started working with these hit writers; you can’t help but grow. It’s like coming to UVic—you get to work with the best professors.”

“This is your best possible foundation”

When asked for advice for current students, the Kennedy’s stress the importance of what students are actually doing right now.

“This is the best possible foundation ever: developing your technique and discipline, honing your abilities, dealing with performance pressures,” says Julie. “The study seems incredibly intense, but it really pays off.”

“There’s a lot of people in Nashville who can’t do what we can, because they never went to school,” agrees Carli. “We can do country and classical, but we can also do workshops and recording sessions and write songs . . .  that’s the way to make it nowadays. We’re so grateful to have had the time to study and learn before we got out there.”

Beyond an academic background, however, the Kennedys stress the importance of keeping it real. “As an artist, the biggest thing is staying true to who you are,” says Carli. “Maybe it changes, maybe you don’t figure it out right away, but in the world of popular music, it’s all about getting on the road, touring, making an album, putting it out there, booking the gigs, getting a deal, losing a deal, finding an agent . . . you learn by riding the wave.”

“That’s true of any business, but with music it feels so much more personal,” says Julie. “It’s essential to stay genuine to yourself and follow your path, however it may change.”

“People ask what we do for fun, and . . . we do this,” laughs Carli.

And really, how much better can it get than that? “Oh, a world tour, Madison Square Gardens, the Grand Ol Opry, the Grammys, a JUNO Award,” laughs Julie. “How much space do you have?”

“If we get to keep writing songs, making music, building fans — and that’s our career? I’m so grateful for it every day,” concludes Carli. “This award just proves that — we’re so lucky.”

“We really are,” Julie agrees.

And if the School of Music can keep producing talents like Twin Kennedy, then so are we.

Following their homecoming in February, Twin Kennedy will be hitting the road once again for a US tour in March. Keep a close eye on their social pages for further updates.

New Music & Digital Media Festival

The landscape of new and experimental music in Canada has been greatly influenced by the creative individuals who have taught and studied at the UVic School of Music. From February 2-4, this dynamic community spanning five decades — from former faculty to current students — will converge for a New Music & Digital Media Festival as part of the School’s ongoing 50th anniversary season. 

Music composition has been a vital part of the program at the School of Music since the early days. In 1971 Rudolf Komorous was named Head of Composition and the School’s first analogue electronic music studio was established. “New and experimental music has always been central to what we do,” explains School of Music Director, composition instructor and alumnus Christopher Butterfield. “Many of Canada’s leading composers and interpreters of contemporary music had their training here . . . and our Music and Computer Science program, a major draw for the School, is the only one of its kind in the country.”

Rudolf Komorous & then-student Tony Genge work in the electronic music studio circa 1979

As a direct result of our program, where contemporary music study, creation and practice are at the core, Victoria itself is recognized world-wide as a hub for new music. Faculty and alumni initiatives — including the Aventa Ensemble, A Place to Listen, the Victoria Composers Collective, and collaborations with organizations such as the Victoria Symphony, Pacific Opera Victoria, and Open Space — continue to produce and perform some of the most exciting music of our time, all on the tip of this island off Canada’s west coast. “Show me any place in the country with that kind of activity,” says Butterfield.

The festival will be a great opportunity to hear music by many of the School’s alumni. On February 2, the UVic Orchestra will perform Cassandra Miller’s Round, a new commission from the Toronto Symphony; Miller has twice received the Jules-Léger Prize for New Chamber Music, Canada’s highest honour for composition. 

In a UVic Minute on February 3, features clarinetist Heather Roche and pianist Tzenka Dianova — two leading interpreters of new music — with the Chroma String Quartet performing a smorgasbord of miniature compositions (some written especially for this occasion) by 20 Music alumni. Along with works by Linda Catlin Smith, Anna Hostman, and Nicholas Fairbank, you’ll hear festina lente by Rodney Sharman. Sharman was recently awarded the prestigious $50,000 Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts, which recognizes the highest level of artistic excellence and distinguished career achievements by a Canadian professional artist in music, theatre or dance. The Faculty Chamber Music concert on February 3 offers a program of music by the School’s current and former composition faculty as well as Kristy Farkas and Liova Bueno.

Music alumna Tzenka Dianova

Many UVic School of Music faculty and alumni can be seen and heard during the screening on February 3 of five short films from the Canadian Music Centre BC’s Legacy Composer Film Series. Produced and directed by award-winning filmmaker John Bolton, each film features a performance of a signature work by the composer juxtaposed against a storyline unique to that piece. 

A highlight of the festival is sure to be the lecture-recital with electronic music pioneer and Buchla synthesizer specialist, Suzanne Ciani, on February 4. While the School of Music has a vintage Buchla 200 Series from the 1970s, Ciani will perform on her own Buchla 200e, a modern model of the instrument. 

Of course, our current student body is central to the festival. Find out what the School’s composition students are up to at the Fridaymusic  concert on February 2. UVic’s experimental music ensemble, Sonic Lab, as well as the UVic Percussion Ensemble, will each also give performances on February 4. 

—Kristy Farkas


Iconic literary journal celebrates 50 years of excellence

It’s said nothing succeeds like success, which is an aphorism well-appreciated in the offices of The Malahat Review. Currently celebrating both its 50th anniversary and 200th issue, UVic’s venerable and revered literary journal has served as a springboard for some of the most recognizable names in Canadian publishing over its lifetime.

Writing grad & outgoing Malahat Review editor John Barton (UVic Photo Services)

For instance, the Malahat was the first magazine to publish a short story by Yann Martel — 14 years before he went on to win the Booker Prize for the international bestseller Life of Pi. In 1977, the journal dedicated an entire issue to Margaret Atwood’s work, before she became internationally known. Poets such as Michael Ondaatje, Dionne Brand, Patricia Young and beloved Department of Writing professor Lorna Crozier have frequently graced its pages.

“Publishing in The Malahat is a rite of passage for many writers, who feel that they have ‘arrived,’” says outgoing editor, poet and Writing alumnus John Barton, who has nurtured the journal for more than a decade. “Writers who have won our contests have gone on to win National Magazine Awards, the Journey Prize and to get book contracts.”

Hear Barton discuss the Malahat legacy on this January 9 CFAX Radio interview, or in this January 4 Times Colonist article. He was also interviewed on CBC Radio’s All Points West recently (link not available).

One of the world’s best literary mags, right here at UVic

Established in 1967 by fabled Writing professor Robin Skelton and English professor John Peter, The Malahat Review has showcased works by established writers, discovered promising new talent and presented perceptive critical comment on other pieces including essays on both literature and the visual arts.

“Without The Malahat Review, I wouldn’t be the writer I am now,” admits Martel, whose short story “Mister Ali and the Barrelmaker” was published in 1988. The journal has won more National Magazine Awards than any other literary journal in the country and has had six editors over its lifetime, including Writing professor emeritus Derk Wynand, Constance Rooke, Marlene Cookshaw, Barton, and Skelton and Peter.

“The magazine has been an inspiration to generations of writers and students at UVic, in Victoria and across the country — as a place to read some of the best writing from around the world and as a high-profile publication to dream of seeing your own work in one day,” says Writing chair and alumna David Leach. “As a student at UVic, I remember reading one of Yann Martel’s early stories in the Malahat and being blown away by its originality . . . . To have one of the best literary magazines in the world located right here on campus has helped to establish UVic and Victoria as important centres of Canadian literary culture.”

And while the Malahat may have gotten its start back in the days when Writing was part of UVic’s Faculty of Humanities, it has long ties to us here in Fine Arts. “The Malahat Review has a long history with the Faculty of Fine Arts that spans decades,” says Dean Susan Lewis.

“Colleagues in the Department of Writing play key roles on editorial and advisory boards, and our students have learned about the literary publishing industry through the Department of Writing Internship program, established in 2004. The Malahat’s status as one of Canada’s leading literary journals makes it a desirable place for our faculty to publish. The journal enjoys an impressive list of accolades — including 12 times as either winner or finalist of the Western Magazine Award’s ‘Magazine of the Year’ and 14 Malahat authors in the National Magazine Foundation’s roster of finalists, with five gold and four silver awards.”

It’s already been a busy anniversary for the Malahat, given last November’s 200th issue launch party, which paid tribute to the Victoria literary scene and artists — past, present and future — with two previously unpublished poems from the late P.K. Page and creative nonfiction from painter Emily Carr. The issue also offers work by Writing professors (current and past), including Tim Lilburn, Patrick Lane, Lorna Croizer, Shane Book and Patrick Friesen, plus alumni Kyeren Regehr, Danielle Janess, Leah Callen, Philip Kevin Paul, Arlene Pare, Jason Jobin and Annabel Howard, as well as former Writing instructors like Madeline Sonik and Alisa Gordaneer.

200 issues, one fantastic special edition

To better mark the occasion, UVic Libraries is releasing a limited-edition monograph on January 25, edited by Barton: The Malahat Review at Fifty: Canada’s Iconic Literary Magazine is richly illustrated with archival material from UVic Special Collections and University Archives. Contributing authors include broadcaster and UVic Chancellor Shelagh Rogers, as well as Martel, Paul, Wynand, Young, Eve Joseph, Jay Ruzesky, Nicholas Bradley, Heather Dean, Jonathan Bengtson, Jan Zwicky and rising alumna literary star Eliza Robertson, among others.

The Malahat Review at Fifty features extraordinary stories and memoirs from a range of celebrated contributors, recognizing the vital culture impact of The Malahat Review on the Canadian and international literary scene,” says UVic librarian and local poet Christine Walde,  who, as general editor of the series, led the commemorative project.

There will also be a special art exhibition, Landmarks: The Art of The Malahat Review. Curated by Caroline Riedel of UVic Legacy Art Galleries, Landmarks opens January 25 in UVic’s Legacy Maltwood gallery, located in the lower level of the UVic library. Running until May 13, it highlights the role of art in the journal and includes 200 selected cover images. Canadian artists have dominated the visual identity of The Malahat Review and the synergy between art and literature is particularly evident in the cover art and essays of the journal’s first decade, which featured new work by internationally acclaimed artists such as Henry Moore, Andy Warhol, Mel Ramos and Joan Miró.

Indeed, it would be hard to beat Dean Susan Lewis for a more simple, heartfelt acknowledgement of the magazine’s accomplishments. “My congratulations to The Malahat Review on its 50th anniversary and best wishes for continued excellence in the decades to come.”

Fine Arts Wellness Day

Feeling tired? Got the sniffles? Worried about new classes? Start the semester off with a healthy sense of well-being at our Fine Arts Wellness Day! Running 11am – 2pm on Wednesday, January 17, in the lobby of the Fine Arts building, students can shuffle off their January blahs with a variety of special events.

Wellness is an important part of both a general approach to life and student mental health. Fine Arts students often find themselves under additional pressures not shared by other students across campus, given the demands of rehearsals, instrument practice, performance and the push to be creative on top of maintaining a regular class schedule and keeping grades up.

Add to that the unique physical demands that go with being a creative practitioner and you’ve got a lot of good reasons to stay healthy during your academic career.

With that in mind, Fine Arts Wellness Day will feature a number of free services and information essential to your sense of wellness, including

  • free chair massage
  • healthy snacks (including a DIY trail mix bar)
  • a hydration station (featuring both lemon and cucumber water)
  • information about good & simple nutrition
  • tips on stress-reduction and counseling services

And don’t miss the therapy pets at the nearby Pet Cafe (2:30 – 4pm at the nearby Interfaith Chapel), as well as free yoga from 4:30-5:30pm in Hodges 104 (Residence Hub), brought to you by UVic’s SHAPE (Student Health Ambassadors and Peer Educators).

Please join us for this fun and healthy event!