Victoria Wyatt Wins REACH Award

As anyone who has ever benefited from one well knows, having an inspirational teacher or teaching mentor can make all the difference in an academic career—for both students and instructors alike. Those who know her will not be surprised to learn that Art History & Visual Studies professor Victoria Wyatt has been named the recipient of the Harry Hickman Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching and Educational Leadership for 2020.

Wyatt, who joined AHVS (or History in Art, as it was then called) in 1989, has been recognized with UVic’s highest teaching award because of her commitment to foster inclusive and culturally aware teaching practices, emphasizing non-linear thinking and Indigenous ways of knowing.

AHVS professor Victoria Wyatt
2020 REACH Award winner Victoria Wyatt (UVic Photo Services)
“It means a tremendous amount to me that my students and colleagues supported me in this way,” she says, noting that both were required to nominate her for this honour. “AHVS has been a very supportive place for me . . . we have a lot of flexibility to develop our own approaches to teaching and our curriculum so we each can apply our own strengths in our classrooms. That environment made this award possible for me . . . . I appreciate working in a department of colleagues so dedicated to research-informed teaching.”

That’s a sentiment shared by Art History & Visual Studies.

“The department is delighted that Dr. Wyatt has received this significant award,” says chair, Dr. Marcus Milwright. “We are fortunate to have such a dedicated and innovative instructor. She is a passionate advocate for students and, for many years, has embraced online technology in her teaching. She is committed to decolonizing the curriculum and teaching practices through respect for Indigenous ways of knowing.”

Embracing creativity & resilience

Victoria Wyatt’s teaching and research focuses on the creativity and resilience of North American Indigenous artists in response to colonization—an interest that originated during her Masters and PhD studies at Yale.

“I got the opportunity to curate an historical exhibition focusing on ways Northwest Coast Indigenous artists responded with inspiring creativity and resilience to contact with settlers, despite the devastating impacts of colonization,” she explains. “At a time when—even more than today—academic historical disciplines were based on written sources left by settlers, these arts spoke directly in the voices of the artists. I wanted to keep exploring that.”

Wyatt’s innovative teaching practices include adapted lesson plans, flexible due dates and meeting a wide range of learning needs; her commitment to teaching is also reflected in her leadership roles within the faculty, UVic and the Canadian Association of University Teachers.

“An inspirational teacher can help students develop the habit of considering diverse perspectives and alternative explanations,” she says. “That orientation is important in all areas of life; for our society to make progress with anti-racism, decolonization and social justice, it’s essential.”

She says she was “very fortunate” to have great instructors as a post-secondary student herself. “I went to Kenyon College, a small undergraduate liberal arts college [in Ohio], which put a very strong emphasis on research-informed teaching,” she recalls. “There were so many tremendous instructors there, with very diverse teaching styles. I absorbed a lot about teaching from watching them. As students, we got to know them well, and some of my instructors there have remained lifelong friends

Wyatt (right) with undergrad Baylee Woodley in the new AHVS art collections classroom in 2017

Fostering inclusive & culturally aware teaching

While art history may be Wyatt’s passion, she feels her practice of fostering inclusive and culturally aware teaching practices—as well as emphasizing non-linear thinking and Indigenous ways of knowing—should apply to all students in all courses.

The world works like an ecosystem, a constellation of complex relationships, rather than a linear hierarchy,” she explains. “Non-linear thinking—the awareness that everything connects—is essential to addressing the global challenges we face. The alternative—focusing on individual components of a system while ignoring the dynamic relationships between them—is based on the fallacy that we must simplify to understand.”

Wyatt feels this kind of reductionism is typical of a Western perspective. “Many cultures in various parts of the world never stopped acknowledging and celebrating such interconnections,” she continues. “I’m curious what the impact of the Internet will be: it is a very nonlinear system, and now an entire generation in colonial contexts has grown up with it. I’m hoping this will encourage more nonlinear thinking and more focus on interconnections and relationships.”

Celebrating diversity & complexity

She admits her own teaching has significantly changed over the years, noting an “Aha!” moment where she was having difficulty writing an introductory lecture for the first class of the year.

Rather than “artificially slice interconnected experience into discrete categories” that inherently “disrespected these arts” and “misrepresented reality”, she instead decided to explore how themes of diversity, complexity, relationships and process converge in each art work and in all our lived experiences.

“In a colonial context, we’re often expected to label and classify . . . . I was trying to isolate, but everything connects,” she explains. “We need to think in such terms—which represent the way the real world functions—if we are going to address global challenges such as climate change,” she says.

Wyatt (far right) participating in a Fine Arts panel on creativity during UVic’s Ideafest in 2013 (Photo: Colton Hash)

Advocating for innovation & mentorship

A passionate advocate for innovative pedagogy locally and nationally, Wyatt provides invaluable mentorship to colleagues at all career stages.

“There are great opportunities at UVic to talk with other instructors and exchange ideas,” she says, pointing to the Learning & Teaching Support & Innovation workshops and annual Let’s Talk About Teaching symposium. ”It’s exciting and revitalizing to hear what others are doing and what has worked for them. At the same time, teaching has to feel authentic, and an approach that suits one instructor may feel awkward to another. So it’s a process of listening to a lot of ideas and experimenting with those that seem like a good fit for one’s personality and style.”

Wyatt also stresses the importance of maintaining a lifelong commitment to learning for instructors.

“It is hard to teach effectively if one doesn’t,” she says. “It’s often less of a conscious commitment to continue learning, and more just what naturally happens from an eagerness to keep current with contemporary issues and to demonstrate the ongoing relevance of our work.”

Esi Edugyan muses on values of a new world

The COVID-19 pandemic has uncovered some of the biggest challenges of our time, including systemic racism, economic inequity and the climate crisis. What comes next and will it shape a new world?

In such situations, some people yearn for a return to a remembered (or perhaps imagined) former normalcy. Others hope that perhaps we can put things back—but better. Still others are convinced that we face both the opportunity and the necessity of creating something entirely new.

If there is to be a new world, must it be founded on fundamentally new and different shared values and assumptions?  If so, what might those be? How might they be different from what has gone before and (some would say) brought us to this place? How do we identify and articulate our convictions and beliefs in ways that are honest, humane, productive and inclusive?

Enter the great change

Writing and the Great Change Upon Us looks exactly at these issues. Starting at 5pm on Thursday, Dec 3, internationally acclaimed writer and UVic Department of Writing  alumna Esi Edugyan explores what this new world might look like, and the role of writers in shaping it, in the first of a new series of public lectures organized by UVic’s Centre for Studies in Religion and Society (CSRS).

Everyone is welcome to register for this free virtual event led by another eminent Canadian literary figure: poet, essayist and current Writing professor Tim Lilburn.

A novelist, essayist and cultural commentator, Edugyan is the author of the best-selling Half-Blood Blues (2011) and Washington Black (2018). She is a two-time winner of the Giller Prize, a Distinguished Alumni of UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts and a former instructor in our Writing department.

Lilburn is a member of the Royal Society of Canada, was the first Canadian to receive the European Medal of Poetry and Art, and has been twice nominated for the Governor General’s Award, which he won for his poetry collection, Kill-site.

Values for a new world

Edugyan’s talk is the first of the lecture series, “Values for a New World,” running December through March. The series delves into urgent questions such as:

  • What role, if any, do religion and spirituality play in helping to inform deep conversations about current and future challenges?
  • How do we articulate convictions and beliefs in ways that are honest, humane, productive and inclusive?
  • How do we proceed if respectful yet frank dialogue is becoming increasingly difficult?

The series, presented annually as a joint initiative of CSRS and the Anglican Diocese of Islands and Inlets of British Columbia, is reinvented this year—like so much else in this new time—by going virtual.

Its group of speakers—including Noam Chomsky (Feb 2), Miroslav Volf (Jan 7), Thomas Homer-Dixon (Feb 23) and Linda Woodhead (March 4)—will each participate in an interactive online talk, and one panel discussion on March 16.

December 1 is Giving Tuesday

Are you ready to “add sprinkles” to the UVic experience on Giving Tuesday on December 1?

Giving Tuesday is a global celebration of philanthropy that inspires people to support their favourite causes in any way they can. At UVic, Giving Tuesday is where small acts of philanthropy add up to make a big difference to our campus, students and community—much like sprinkles being added to a cookie or cupcake.

UVic has been celebrating Giving Tuesday for a number of years now, with more than $250,000 raised overall—last year alone saw over 3,300 people in our campus and alumni community raise over $167,000! 

Just visit UVic’s Giving Tuesday page to help us reach this year’s goal—donations run from midnight November 30 to 11:59pm on December 1.


Fine Arts Student Community Impact Award

We are looking for 25 Giving Tuesday donors to the Community Impact Award—five for each of our five innovative Fine Arts departments. And thanks to a generous matching gift, if we reach this goal, we will unlock an additional $500 for the award!

We’re asking you to show what UVic means to you by donating or unlocking dollars (through participating in games and challenges) for the Giving Tuesday fund of your choice. This year, working with faculties and departments across campus, UVic has identified 20 Giving Tuesday Priority Funds that range from supporting health and wellness to COVID-19 research, social justice and community outreach programs. 

Anyone can take part through a variety of ways—through donating, playing the online games and engaging on social media—that will help us reach our fundraising and participation goals.

Theatre students brought live performance to an arts-starved Victoria this summer with Theatre SKAM’s portable play projects


How it works

🔍 PLAY: Campus Quest – RBC Temple of Generosity. To celebrate Giving Tuesday, world famous UVic Alumni, Dr. Phil Anthropist has announced they’ve hidden a treasure on campus and is challenging students to locate it. UVic students have just 24 hours to work together to unlock up to $5,500 in donations before the Temple of Generosity disappears forever!

BUY COFFEE: Pick up a java at Boardwalk café or Starbucks on campus between 8am & noon and UVic Food Services will donate $1 from drip or $2 from specialty to UVic’s Giving Tuesday funds. (Or simply add a $2 donation to your order!)

🤳 SHARE: #AddSprinklesUVic Using this hashtag on your social media posts will unlock $2 donation from the UVic Alumni Association.

⏱️ DONATE: There are over 20 funds to choose from. Any gift, big or small, will make a difference and help us reach our fundraising and participation goals.

💌 GIVING GRAMS: Spread sprinkles by sending a gift – a donation to the UVic fund of the recipient’s choice – along with a message of gratitude or positivity to a friend, colleague, or individual. Every Giving Gram sent will unlock funds from a sponsor to support the UVSS Food Bank & Free Store.

🔑  UNLOCK: Check out the 24-hr challenges to see how your gift can unlock up to $48k and double or triple your impact.


What the heck is “add sprinkles” anyway?

If you’ve ever wondered what “adding sprinkles” is all about, current Department of Theatre student Justin Little invites you to follow along as he makes delicious sprinkle cookies, all the while explaining the university budget and how donations—particularly donations made on Giving Tuesday—are so important to UVic.

Bottom line, it all comes down to you—our students have a long history of doing good work in the community, but we’d like to continue to support them through this new award.

Remember, any donations big or small made through UVic’s Giving Tuesday page will help us reach this year’s goal. You’ve only got one day to #AddSprinkles!

Curating experience: Barkerville curator Mandy Kilsby

Curating experience: Barkerville curator Mandy Kilsby

Perhaps one of the biggest cultural misperceptions is that history never changes—when, in fact, it changes as quickly as it’s written. Consider BC’s iconic Barkerville Historic Town: ground zero for the 1860s Cariboo gold rush, its unique collection of 125 heritage buildings has evolved over the past 70 years from a simple tourist attraction to a living example of cultural preservation and community development.

But as Mandy Kilsby well knows, it’s no easy task managing a collection of nearly half-a-million archival objects and photographs in a remote location with one road in . . . and only about 100 snow-free days a year.

While she has been Barkerville’s curator since 2014, Kilsby has spent the past 15 years working with the collection in multiple roles—but, like most professionals, finds it difficult to balance daily tasks with the need for professional development.

Mandy Kilsby in Barkerville in October 2020

The essentials of professional development 

Enter UVic’s Professional Specialization Certificate (PSC) in Collections Management, which allows museum professionals like Kilsby to develop applicable knowledge and skills in a flexible format that suits their busy schedules.

“This was a good opportunity to learn best practices and current methods, and to connect with other people in the field,” says Kilsby, one of 11 professionals receiving their PSC through the Department of Art History & Visual Studies this fall. “It’s just good training—the chance to have a bit more knowledge of what I’m doing, as everything otherwise is learned on the job.”

Administrated by Continuing Studies as part of their Cultural Resource Management program, Kilsby was able to undertake her PSC studies at her own pace while balancing multiple duties as Barkerville’s curator, a councillor with the District of Wells (site of its own gold rush in the 1930s), the museum collections and staff manager for the Wells Historical Society, and her role as a new parent.

It’s no easy feat curating a living museum like Barkerville (Photo: Thomas Drasdauskis, courtesy of the Union of BC Municipalities/Picture BC)

Sharpening her focus

Given the sheer size of Barkerville’s collection, Kilsby emphasizes the importance of good collections management skills. “A couple of years ago we were going through paper records and I came across a reference to a ‘Barker company axe’—it had been in the collection since [town namesake] Billy Barker owned it, but no one had seen it for years or knew it existed, so we tracked it down. It was all very exciting!”

While Kilsby’s PSC studies provided the opportunity to brush up on her archival and risk management skills, it also helped sharpen her focus on the importance of historical collections like the one she manages daily. “We can’t right past wrongs unless we know what really happened,” she says of BC’s often-problematic colonial past. “We’re moving away from doing interpretive history as a nostalgic experience and approaching it more like, ‘Holy cow, things were bad then—what can we do about it?’”

As Barkerville continues to evolve with its 160-year history—from climate-change issues like flooding, freezing and forest fires to shifts in tourism fueled by changing demographics, COVID and travel restrictions—Kilsby firmly believes our provincial past has an important role to play in BC’s future. “There’s still lots of our story to tell, and the older Barkerville’s buildings get, the more valuable a resource they are historically—and you can’t beat our location.”

Zoom into our Fine Arts Open House

Thinking about enrolling in UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts for the 2021 academic year? Bring your questions to our free Fine Arts online open house, happening at 5pm Thursday, Nov 12 via Zoom.

Register for the open house here. Registration closes two hours before the event.

Join representatives from each of our departments to learn how our programs can help you achieve your creative future.

From Art History & Visual Studies to Theatre, Visual Arts, Writing and our School of Music, we offer BC’s only dedicated fine arts faculty—which means you’ll be creating and learning in a like-minded community!

Whatever your creative path, UVic’s Fine Arts faculty offers a dynamic community where curiosity, experimentation and exploration are the cornerstones of the learning environment.

Our focus on dynamic, hands-on learning—anchored by state-of-the-art, purpose-built facilities—offers an extraordinary environment for artistic expression and the integration of research and education.

Here you’ll develop the critical thinking and communications skills necessary to navigate and succeed in our rapidly changing and increasingly interconnected society. With us, you’ll make ideas come to life, develop and hone your abilities, all while collaborating with peers from various disciplines.

Join us on Nov 12 to find out more!