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

“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 +

Visual Arts undergrad Austin Willis the only Canadian winner of US student sculpture award

There may have been 325 nominations from 139 institutions in 4 countries — but, out of the 11 overall winners, there was ultimately only 1 Canadian recipient of the US-based International Sculpture Center‘s 2019 Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award: current Visual Arts undergraduate Austin Willis.

Willis, a painter and sculptor due to graduate in spring 2020, has been awarded the prestigious award for his piece, “Framed Landscape”. He says it feels “A-okay!” to be named the only Canadian winner for his sculpture.

Framing a landscape

“I wanted this piece to reference painting while pushing into the realm of sculpture,” he explains. “In pursuit of this goal, I ‘framed’ the image of a landscape, using the sensibility of abstract painting but constructing the object out of a wooden assemblage. I like how the framing device and aesthetics of the assemblage indicate painting, while the sculpture itself asserts its own three-dimensionality, undermining any painterly illusions.”

While he was allowed to enter images of three different pieces, Willis says he was “trying to have fun” with the dynamic composition of “Framed Landscape” by bringing together solid geometric shapes with the hectic assemblage of wood. “Look at those shapes and colours!”

“Framed Landscape” by Austin Willis

About the prize

The International Sculpture Center (ISC) established the annual outstanding student award program in 1994 to recognize young sculptors and to encourage their continued commitment to the field. It was also designed to draw attention to sculpture programs of participating universities, colleges and art schools.

Austin Willis with his “Framed Landscape” at the ISC conference in Portland

Willis was nominated by the Visual Arts department, with Megan Dickie as faculty sponsor.

The judging panel included Michigan ceramicist, sculptor and designer Ebitenyefa Baralaye; Kentucky’s Josephine Sculpture Park artistic director and founder Melanie Van Houten; and Michigan artist, curator and educator Alison Wong. In addition to the 11 recipients, 18 honorable mentions were also named.

The 11 award recipients will participate in a future exhibition, and will see their work featured in the September/October 2019 issue of the International Sculpture Center’s award-winning Sculpture magazine, as well as on the ISC’s website. Willis’ piece will also be featured in a congratulatory ad by the Visual Arts department in the winter 2019 issue of Canadian Art magazine.

A year of achievement

In October, Willis also had the pleasure of attending the ISC conference in Portland, Oregon, where his winning sculpture was on display with the other winning pieces.

“I had seen snippets of the show online and through social media, but seeing everything installed in person was truly something special,” he says. “The other students involved produced some exceptional work and it was a phenomenal show. I feel honoured and grateful to have been a part of it.”

Willis was one of the more active student artists off-campus during his time in the department. In addition to organizing a pop-up exhibition at Intrepid Theatre plus having work featured in the Ministry of Casual Living Window Gallery, he also mounted solo exhibits at the Arts Centre at Cedar Hill, arc.hive artist run centre and Xchanges Gallery and did a co-op term working with the Victoria Jazz Society, where he will also return next summer.

Willis with his Commercial Gallery pieces in 2018 (photo: Fiona Ngai)

He was also selected to participate in two City of Victoria emerging artist initiatives — the ongoing Commute: Bus Shelter Art Exhibition and the Commercial Art Gallery, where he was the sixth artist to be featured in the outdoor public art space between Yates Street and Bastion Square; he also participated in a public art talk with the City in September.

“As an emerging artist, I have a great interest in public art and creating work that beautifies spaces,” he says.

Coming up next

Upcoming for Willis is an April 2020 stint as Artist in Residence at The Ou Gallery in Duncan, as well as furthering his own practice. “I’ll be generally engaged in producing more art and getting my work out there,” he says.

The International Sculpture Center (ISC) is a member-supported, nonprofit organization founded in 1960 to champion the creation and understanding of sculpture and its unique, vital contribution to society. Members include sculptors, collectors, patrons, architects, developers, journalists, curators, historians, critics, educators, foundries, galleries, and museums-anyone with an interest in and commitment to the field of sculpture.