2019 in review: part one

2019 was another exciting year in Fine Arts, with the spotlight turned on our faculty, students and alumni locally, provincially, nationally and internationally. Here are just a few of the top stories from the year that’s gone by.

Orontes Quartet completes their fellowship

At the time of their arrival on campus as Artist Protection Fund fellows in November 2018, the Orontes Guitar Quartet—Gaby Albotros, Orwa Alsharaa, Nazir Salameh and Mohammed Mir Mahmoud—offered a remarkable message about the power of music, hope and determination in the face of the ongoing violence of the Syrian civil war. And while their time at UVic is now complete, in the year since their arrival as School of Music visiting artists, they continued to spread that message with appearances on campus and performances across Canada.

The Orontes with Dr Alexander Dunn (centre) at UVic’s Phillip T Young Recital Hall (UVic Photo Services)

While in Canada, the Orontes took their universal message of peace through music to cities large (Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg), small (Port Alberni, Salmon Arm, Gibsons) and in-between (Kingston, Sudbury, Red Deer). “We were surprised at how huge is Canada, and how long it takes to travel from one part to another,” says Alsharaa. “Everyone was friendly and welcoming, but the beauty of each city and its own character was the most beautiful thing.”

In addition to their travel and concerts, the Orontes also met with students, faculty and other professional musicians, and recorded some new material using the School of Music’s facilities—which, says guitar instructor and fellowship organizer Alexander Dunn, was all part of their APF experience.

“They learned that a high degree of musicianship and learning is the norm here,” he says. “They were exposed first-hand to a stream of virtuoso players that showed not only how inspiration could directly affect their craft, but that international standards and expectations—which may not have been a part of their everyday experience at home—are readily available here.”

As for the future, the guitarists are hoping for extensions to their work permits while they apply for study permits and Canadian citizenship. “The most important experience for every musician is to perform as much as possible, which is something we were able to do thanks to the APF, Alexander Dunn and, of course, UVic,” says Alsharaa. “We want to thank all the people who made our trip to Victoria possible. We are really lucky to be here in Canada, especially in Victoria—which is one of the most beautiful places on earth.”

Faculty award round-up

Speaking of Alexander Dunn, he was one of two recipients of UVic’s 2019 Advocacy & Activism Awards for his hard work and commitment in bringing the Orontes Guitar Quartet to campus. Through his efforts partnering with Remember the River.org—a non-profit organization that brings guitars to refugee camps in the Middle East and, as a Canadian associate, sees Dunn sending guitarists into First Nations and impoverished communities—and the NYC-based Institute for International Education, Dunn was able to secure the Orontes Quartet an IIE fellowship to UVic.

REACH Award winner Patrick Boyle, School of Music (UVic Photo Services)

Also honoured this year at UVic’s 2019 REACH Awards in October were Drs. Patrick Boyle (Music) and Kirsten Sadeghi-Yekta (Theatre). The third annual awards celebrate UVic scholars for their extraordinary contributions in research and teaching, showcasing how recipients lead the way in dynamic learning and make a vital impact at UVic, both in the classroom and beyond.

REACH Award winner Kirsten Sadeghi-Yekta, Theatre (UVic Photo Services)

“It is an honour for Fine Arts to be represented by colleagues whose work affects people’s lives—from students in the classroom to communities around the world,” says Acting Dean Eva Baboula.

Two of UVic’s nine 2019 Strategic Framework Impact Fund recipients were also in Fine Arts.

Theatre professor Warwick Dobson received funding for the project, “Theatre for Education: Re-examining the child welfare system with current and future gatekeepers”—a one-year initiative with PhD candidate Lauren Jerke that uses theatre to encourage decolonization and address systemic racism among law students, lawyers and judges. And Communications & Special Projects officer John Threlfall received funding to mark the upcoming Fine Arts 50th anniversary with a 30-minute documentary, Cultural Capital: 50 Years of Creating Victoria with UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts, being created with current Writing Masters candidates Ellery Lamm and Guochen Wang.

This year’s Faculty of Fine Arts Teaching Awards went to Writing professor Kevin Kerr and Music instructor Alexander Dunn. Music professor Benjamin Butterfield was honoured this fall with one of The Rubies—the annual Opera Canada awards—for “Success in Authenticity”, and Theatre design professor Mary Kerr was honoured as a “living legend” with a showcase at the prestigious Prague  Quadrennial.

“I would like to congratulate all of our awards recipients in 2019,” says Baboula. “Our instructors continue to inspire!”

Fine Arts expands international agreements

As a celebration of global contemporary art, the opening of the Venice Biennale provided the ideal backdrop for the signing of a three-year research agreement between Fine Arts and La Fondazione Morra, a major art centre in Naples. The first formal agreement between the Faculty and an Italian cultural institution, it also paved the way for further engagement, collaboration and exchange between institutions.

Visual Arts chair Paul Walde with Fondazione Morra founder Giuseppe Morra in Venice’s Piazza San Marco

“This moment creates an unprecedented joint venture that allows us to focus the attention of the Foundation on students by offering them a unique and intense experience made of crossings, connections, journeys and intersections,” said Morra director Teresa Carnevaleas, as the agreement was signed in Venice’s Piazza San Marco with Visual Arts chair Paul Walde, La Fondazione Morra founder Guiseppe Morra (above) and Dean Susan Lewis in May 2019.

This new agreement is a vivid example of the Faculty’s efforts to engage globally, promote student mobility and exchange, and share the impact of its research and creative practice on a world scale. Part of this involves visits to UVic by international partners like China’s Yunnan University (above), while Fine Arts is also being added to the more than 200 active international agreements with UVic’s Office of Global Engagement that support faculty and student exchanges.

“We have established and developed new student-focused partnerships with universities in Europe and Asia, such as the University of East Anglia and the East China Normal University,” says Acting Dean Eva Baboula. “The new Fine Arts Student Travel Fund is one example of how the great fundraising success we had will help enhance student excellence.”

This international focus also provides opportunities for more colleagues to further their research and creative goals, and deepen the impact of our activities on a global scale.

Fine Arts is in an ideal position to pursue these endeavours thanks to our Orion Endowment, which both funds faculty travel outside of BC and assists in bringing a number of guests to campus from across Canada and around the world each year.

The year of Newman

Would it have been possible for Audain Professor Carey Newman to have had a busier year in 2019? In addition to his Audain professorship teaching duties in Visual Arts, Newman’s big news was that his Witness Blanket installation would not only be part of the permanent collection at Winnipeg’s Canadian Museum of Human Rights but also mark the first time in Canadian history that a federal Crown Corporation has ratified a legally binding contract through Indigenous traditions, specifically October’s traditional ceremony at Kumugwe, the K’ómoks First Nation Bighouse on Vancouver Island.

CMHR CEO & President John Young (left) with Carey Newman (centre) & CMHR Head of Collections Heather Bidzinski (Photo: Media One)

But this year also saw Newman launch his new book Picking Up the Pieces: Residential School Memories and the Making of the Witness Blanket, written with former Writing instructor Kirstie Hudson, and present multiple screenings of his Witness Blanket documentary.

Newman was also commissioned to create three ceremonial paddles that were presented to the hosts of the fifth annual Building Reconciliation Forum, held at Algoma University in Sault Ste Marie in October. The paddles symbolize our connections to the past, present and future, and represent Coast Salish canoe teachings of everyone paddling together and encourage post-secondary institutions to work together to honour truth and reconciliation.

As if that’s not enough, he also received $50,000 in Storyhive funding to create a short documentary about carving a totem pole at Oaklands elementary school; unveiled his Saanich 150 commissioned installation, “Earth Drums”, at the Cedar Hill Park; hosted a Visual Arts student exhibit at Saanich Arts Centre; established the new Witness Legacy Award for Social Purpose and Responsibility Through Art with the Professional Arts Alliance of Greater Victoria; designed a new T-shirt image for UVic’s Orange Shirt Day (and fought off copyright infringement and illegal internet sales of the knock-off shirt); and was interviewed by CBC Radio’s Unreserved in October, as well as by Shelagh Rogers for a future episode of The Next Chapter.

Newman is also working on various projects for 2020, so stayed tuned for news about those!

Susan Lewis steps down as Dean

The end of 2019 brings a change in leadership for Fine Arts, as Dean Susan Lewis steps up to a new position as UVic’s new Associate Vice-President Academic Planning—a position she has been on secondment with since July 2019.

“Susan has a distinguished record of fostering innovative teaching and research, with a strong record in course design and delivery, experiential and work-integrated learning,” says Vice-President Academic and Provost, Valerie Kuehne.

“It has been an honour serving as Dean and a privilege to work with such a talented and dedicated group of instructors, faculty, and staff,” says Lewis, the ninth Dean since Fine Arts became a faculty in 1969 and  former School of Music Director.

“Fine Arts students and alumni are an inspiration to us all, and we’re so proud of them. I look forward to supporting creative activity, research, teaching and community engagement in my new role.”

Dean Susan Lewis (left) with Fine Arts alumna Anna Lowe, and donor & dedicated Fine Arts supporter, Eunice Lowe

Watch for part two of our 2019 roundup!

Seasonal concerts a holiday highlight

As the semester winds up and temperatures begin to drop, it’s only natural that thoughts turn to . . . holiday music. Nothing capture the season quite like a community concert, and the School of Music has a number of winter highlights coming up in the days ahead.

UVic Choirs at Christ Church Cathedral (photo: Kristy Farkas)

First up is the annual mass concert with the UVic Choirs: Tis the Season starts at 3:30pm on Saturday, Nov 30, at Christ Church Cathedral (Quadra at Rockland, by donation). Get into the holiday spirit as more than 250 voices from UVic’s combined choirs sing in harmony at this popular seasonal concert.

Featuring the UVic ChorusChamber Singers and Vocal Jazz Ensemble, directed by School of Music professors Adam Con, Susan Young and Wendell Clanton, plus UVic brass players led by Merrie Klazek, ‘Tis the Season also offers a guest performance by a cappella ensemble Fifth Street, featuring all UVic alumni. Arrive early to get a seat, as this show always packs out!  

Then, the UVic Orchesta presents their final concert of 2019 with Fantasia at 2:30pm Sunday, Dec 1, at The Farquhar at UVic (buy tickets for $10-$20). Featuring the 2019 UVic Concerto Competition-winning student Anna Betuzzi with an oboe concerto, Fantasia also offers new music, a symphony and projections of a comic strip titled Between, created by UVic Writing student Petranella Daviel. Live music by Paul Pratt—arranged by students in Csaba’s orchestration class—will accompany the illustrations.

Fantasia will open with a musical territory acknowledgment—in dialogue with the orchestra—delivered by Indigenous Visual Arts MFA alumni artist Lindsay Delaronde. Also being presented under the baton of professor and conductor Ajtony Csaba will be druck // durch, by Music alum Nolan Krell. and Shostakovich’s acrobatic and exhilarating Symphony No 9.

Fans of strings and things won’t want to miss A Holiday “Cellobration” at 7pm Sunday, Dec 8, at the Phillip T. Young Recital Hall (by donation). Hosted by Lafayette String Quartet cellist and Music professor Pamela Highbaugh Aloni, this evening brings School of Music cello students, alumni and community members together to make music and share their common enjoyment of the cello.

Inspired by our dear late colleague Gail O’Riordan, A Holiday “Cellobration” will include performances by community cello ensembles plus the opportunity for everyone to join at the end in music to ring in the holiday season. All proceeds will benefit the Gail O’Riordan Memorial Fund.

2018’s TubaChrismas (photo: Fiona Ngai)

Finally, the annual TubaChristmas concert booms back into downtown’s Market Square (560 Johnson) from 1-3pm Saturday, Dec 14. Under the leadership of School of Music alum & instructor Paul Beauchesne, this 41st annual gathering of more than 100 tuba and euphonium players from across the Pacific Northwest has become one of Victoria’s favourite holiday traditions.

All TubaChristmas donations will be accepted for the Times Colonist Christmas Fund, a charity that assists the people most in need in the Greater-Victoria community. Tuba Christmas dates back to 1974 where it originated in New York City. Concerts now take place in over 200 cities worldwide and this year marks the 46th year for Tuba Christmas internationally.

Susan Lewis named new AVP of Academic Planning

Dr. Susan Lewis, Dean of Fine Arts, has been appointed UVic’s new Associate Vice-President Academic Planning, effective January 1, 2020.

“It has been a privilege to work with such a talented and dedicated group of instructors, faculty and staff, not to mention the pride we all feel in our students and alumni,” says Lewis. “Thank you for the honour of serving as your Dean. I look forward to supporting creative activity, research, teaching and community engagement through the role of AVP Academic Planning.”

Dean Susan Lewis

Lewis—the ninth Dean since Fine Arts became a faculty in 1969—was formerly Director of the School of Music where she was also a professor of musicology; she became Dean of Fine Arts in 2016, following a one-year period as Acting Dean.

She has been on secondment with VPAC since July 2019, with Associate Dean of Fine Arts Dr. Eva Baboula functioning as the Acting Dean during this time. 

“Susan has a distinguished record of fostering innovative teaching and research, with a strong record in course design and delivery, experiential and work-integrated learning, mentorship and publication in the field of musicology,” says UVic’s Vice-President Academic and Provost, Valerie Kuehne

“The Appointment Committee was impressed with Dr. Lewis’ depth of academic and administrative experience as a faculty member, Director of the School of Music, Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts and, most recently, while serving as the Acting Associate Vice-President Academic Planning.”

Next steps

Acting Dean Eva Baboula

The Dean’s Office will now move into a transition period as a new Dean is sought. With Acting Dean Eva Baboula already scheduled to take an academic leave for the 2020 calendar year, this necessitates the appointment of a new Acting Dean for a period of six to 12 months while a search for the next Dean of Fine Arts  commences.

Consistent with the Procedures for the Appointment and Re-Appointment of Deans, the university will consult with faculty members and work collaboratively with the Faculty to appoint an Acting Dean during the search for a new Dean. 

UVic’s Director of Faculty Relations, Pamela Richards, will lead this consultation and seek feedback on potential candidates for the position of Acting Dean, who will be announced before the end of 2019. The search for a new Dean will begin in early 2020, with more information following the appointment of the new Acting Dean.

Faculty members with any questions or concerns are welcome to email Pamela Richards directly at directorfacultyrelations@uvic.ca.

“Both Dr. Lewis and I recognize the need for a smooth and efficient transition over the coming weeks and months,” says Kuehne. “I would also like to express my sincere thanks to Dr. Baboula for serving as Acting Dean of Fine Arts since July 2019.”

A passion for learning, curating and decolonizing

While a passion for Indigenous arts has been driving Melissa Granley’s studies in the Department of Art History & Visual Studies, it was her connection with the natural world that initially attracted her to UVic.

“It’s kind of silly, but rabbits have always been really important in my life; if I see a rabbit, I know I’m on the right path.” So when she first visited UVic back in grade 9—at the height of the campus bunny infestation—Granley took it as a good sign. “When I got accepted at UVic, however, the rabbits were gone,” she says with a chuckle. “But it was a really good decision to come here; I wouldn’t change it for anything.”

Initially studying linguistics, the Alberta-raised Granley soon realized her talents lay elsewhere (“I was terrible at it,” she admits)—but, as is often the case, a simple elective led to greater things. “I took an introduction to art history course and thought, ‘This is it—this is the thing for me!’”

AHVS student Melissa Granley inside the Legacy Gallery

Indigenous arts & activism

Her major in art history, plus courses in both Indigenous and gender studies, led Granley to develop a focus on Indigenous arts and activism; this, combined with a summer 2018 internship with UVic’s LE,NOṈET Indigenous support program, resulted in her current seven-month position at downtown’s Legacy Art Gallery.

As Legacy’s curatorial intern and visitor engagement assistant, she greets visitors, talks about art, offers elementary school tours and assists with exhibits. “The amount of physical, manual effort that goes into installation week was totally surprising to me,” she laughs. “You don’t realize how much work goes into an exhibit when you’re just studying.”

Graduating in November with a Bachelor of Arts in Art History & Visual Studies, she’s now seeing a concrete activation of her academic studies: in addition to preparing to curate two exhibits for First Peoples House in 2020, she recently assisted with the installation of the Legacy exhibit We Carry Our Ancestors: Cedar, Baskets and Our Relationships with the Land, curated by Lorilee Wastasecoot.

“I did my honour’s thesis on decolonizing museum and gallery spaces and the repatriation of what I consider stolen objects, so it’s been very interesting to actually work in a gallery space,” says Granley, who is Métis on her mother’s side.

“Trying to decolonize a collection is difficult, because people often don’t want to relinquish items, as their collection then gets smaller. But from working here, I’ve seen real efforts are being made towards decolonization; the staff even asked for my input—as an intern, I felt really lucky to be part of that.”

Granley points to We Carry Our Ancestors as a good example of gallery decolonization practices.

“It’s not only displaying Indigenous baskets, it was put together by an Indigenous person using Indigenous methodologies,” she explains. “It’s very different from other basketry exhibits, and I feel very lucky that I got to help put it together and work with Lorilee. It’s been important for me to have another Indigenous person guide and help me with my own curating.”

Practical experience

Looking to the future, Granley anticipates doing graduate work (“I’m not sure what I’ll do as a career path, but I really like UVic and my heart wants me to apply here”) and realizes she has accumulated invaluable concrete skills as an art history student (recording and transcribing live interviews, researching and writing for websites, object handling and curatorial practices).

“I feel like I learned so much,” she says. “It was a very rounded education . . . the art history professors are so supportive of their students, and really take a lot of interest in them. I’m really grateful for the support of the department and First Peoples House, as well as my friends and family. I wouldn’t have been able to get my degree without them.”

Whatever her career path, Granley is certain her passion for Indigenous arts and activism will remain strong. “Items that have been taken out of Indigenous communities are direct ancestors from those nations and those peoples,” she insists. “The idea of keeping items locked up in storage away from their people and other objects is just wrong.”

Phoenix produces Othello for first time in 53-year history

Conversations around race, misogyny and manipulation of the truth couldn’t be more relevant in the recent political landscape. Department of Theatre professor Brian Richmond felt it was important to bring these conversations to the stage and explore parallels between then and now through the 400 year-old classic tragedy, Othello. UVic’s Phoenix Theatre is honoured to present — for the first time in its 53-year history — Shakespeare’s Othello, from November 7 to 23.

Othello is the tale of two lovers from very different worlds: Othello, a mighty general from a foreign land, and Desdemona, a beautiful and compassionate senator’s daughter. Undeterred by prejudices, they marry; however, their love is put to the test when Othello’s trusted advisor, Iago, stokes the flames of jealousy and ruthlessly pushes the couple — and the world around them — to a tragic end. The story includes military maneuvering, political rivals, the spreading of malicious and racially charged lies, and backstabbing treachery.

Sound familiar?

As timely as now

With recent productions at prestigious institutions around the world — including the Royal Shakespeare Company (2015), Shakespeare’s Globe (2017) and Stratford Festival (2019) — it appears many theatre companies are also looking to Shakespeare as a way to help society make sense of current events.

“This play has much to tell us about the downfall of societies where there is inequity — whether racial or gender differences — or those who are exploited by false information,” says Richmond, who also directs the Phoenix production. “But it is also about ourselves: how do we react when we feel like the outcast? Where does our trust lie?”

Richmond is working with a talented creative team of professional and experienced upper-level students. The black on black, semi-industrial set, designed by fourth-year students Conor Farrell and Logan Swain, moves and rearranges effortlessly to create great halls, Venetian bridges, and private bedrooms. The costumes graphically play with the themes of black and white while clearly referencing period 17th century gowns and military uniforms.

Othello’s team of student designers (photo: Dean Kalyan)

Lighting designer, instructor and alumnus Michael Whitfield emphasizes both set and costumes through colour and shadow. Fourth-year student Olivia Wheeler brings original compositions and 17th century music to the stage for the overall sound design. And Jacques Lemay returns to the Phoenix this fall to direct the choreography and gruesome sword fight scenes.

The cast of Othello in action (photo: Dean Kalyan)

Professor Michael Elliott, who came to teach at UVic from Shakespeare’s Globe and the Royal Shakespeare Company, is assisting on his first production at the Phoenix as Voice and Text Coach. Fourth-year student Emma Jo Conlin is the Stage Manager.

Visiting guest lecturer

The Department of Theatre is also honoured to welcome Dr. Will Tosh, a guest lecturer and Research Fellow from Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London. Dr. Tosh will present a free preshow lecture called “Othello at the Globe” at 7pm Friday Nov 8.

His lecture will take us back to 1600s London to discuss how Shakespeare’s diverse first audiences might have responded to Othello.  Dr. Tosh led the Indoor Performance Practice Project (2014-16), which examined playing in the candle-lit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at the Globe.

He will also give a free lecture about the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at 12:45pm on Thursday, Nov 7, at the Phoenix Theatre.

Performances for Othello:
Public Previews: 8pm Tuesday & Wednesday, Nov 5 & 6 (tickets just $8 after 5pm)

Opening Night: 8pm Thursday, Nov 7

Evenings: 8pm Tuesdays through Saturdays

Matinees: 2pm Saturdays, Nov 16 & 23

Tickets: $15 to $28 (depending on day), student rush $16 (30 minutes at the door)

Phoenix Box Office: open Monday through Saturday from noon to 8:30pm to Nov 23,
In person or charge by phone at (250) 721-8000.

Audience advisory: Othello has some coarse language, scenes of violence & domestic abuse. Ages 15 +