The story is the boss for 2020 Distinguished Alumni recipient Richard Van Camp

He’s written in almost every genre imaginable and seen his work adapted for film. He’s won multiple awards and inspired a new generation of writers. He’s been a student and a teacher, and now internationally renowned storyteller and best-selling author Richard Van Camp can add the designation of Distinguished Alumni of the Faculty of Fine Arts to his list of accolades.

No stranger to UVic since his graduation with a BFA in 1997, the Edmonton-based Van Camp returns to campus during Alumni Week to offer the public talk “My Life As An Author”, receive his Distinguished Alumni Award, visit undergraduate classes and have a frank conversation with current grad students. But before all that happens, he took time to chat with us about his life in words.

2020's Distinguished Alumni Award winner Richard Van Camp (photo: William Au)

2020’s Distinguished Alumni Award winner Richard Van Camp (photo: William Au)

All are welcome to join Richard Van Camp at his public talk, from 2:30-4pm Monday, February 3, in room 159 of UVic’s Fraser building. 

A near miss into politics

A proud member of the Dogrib (Tlicho) Nation from Fort Smith, NWT, Van Camp came to UVic’s acclaimed Writing department as a graduate of the En’owkin International School of Writing in Penticton, before later getting a Master’s in Creative Writing at UBC. But his original intention was not to become a writer, but to go into politics instead.

“I was studying land claims at Aurora College in Yellowknife but had started writing book and music reviews for the Yellowknife newspaper, The Prss Independent,” he recalls. “I was also writing poems and short stories that my English instructor, Ron Klassen, was reading in his spare time. I owe Ron so much because he told me not to get into politics because I was a writer.” (Ron, the Canadian literary scene owes you a debt!)

It was Klassen who encouraged him to attend the En’owkin Centre: not only has their program specialized in Indigenous writers and artists for the past 30 years, but En’owkin also has a vibrant partnership with UVic, which smoothed the path to Victoria for Van Camp.

Once here, he studied with some of the department’s literary legends like WD Valgardson, Marilyn Bowering, Jack Hodgins and Stephen Hume, but was also inspired by his fellow students — many of whom went on to literary acclaim themselves, including Billeh Nickerson, Aislinn Hunter and Teresa McWhirter.

 A story for every genre

Given his vast — 24 books in 24 years — and diverse literary output — including two novels, five collections of short stories, two children’s books, four baby books (the first of which, Welcome Song for Baby: A Lullaby for Newborns was given to every newborn baby in BC in 2008), six graphic novels and four seasons with CBC TV’s North of 60, plus a feature film adaptation of his novel, The Lesser Blessed, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival — Van Camp seems to revel in taking on new challenges. Was that something he learned as a student?

“It was the En’owkin Centre that encouraged all of us to work in every genre,” says the award-winning writer. “I am continually surprised that so many creative writing institutions limit you when selecting the genres you wish to explore. The one thing I always mention when I teach is, ‘The story is the boss.’ It’s up to you to help decide if the story that’s chosen you is best relayed as a short story, novella, graphic novel, movie, poem, prose piece, mind blur, photo, video, etcetera.”

Between writing contracts, Van Camp has taught creative writing at UBC, Emily Carr University and has held writer-in-residence positions at the University of Alberta and MacEwan University. He’s also been quite diverse in the delivery of his works: all of his children’s books are available in Braille for free, anywhere in the world, and his baby book, Little You, was published in Bush Cree, Dene and South Slavey.

Helping the next generation

As the 2020 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient, Van Camp now joins the ranks of previous Fine Arts DAA winners, including Banff Centre managing director of performing arts Nathan Medd (BFA ’01), country music stars Twin Kennedy (BMus ’08), 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).

And while many of his works feature strong characters mentoring youth — notably his graphic novels, which have tackled issues ranging from gangs, sexual health, restorative justice, peace-making, mental health and suicide prevention — Van Camp also feels it’s important to give back himself.

“Alumni should be looking out for and promoting other alumni,” he says. “We’re a family and we deserve to help new writers the same way I was helped while on campus. I’m also grateful for [UVic’s Torch] alumni magazine that arrives to our home in Edmonton. I find I’m starving to see what everyone’s up to.”

With his latest short story collection, Moccasin Square Gardens, released in 2019 from Douglas & McIntyre, and his public DAA talk titled “My Life As A Writer”, does Van Camp have any advice for current Writing students?

“With 24 books out these past 24 years and five books on the way, working with 12 different publishers and working with two different literary agencies, I feel I can share my experience of how to make a great living as an author today and, at the same time, talk about the challenges writers can face balancing family, touring, writing and deadlines,” he chuckles. “I can’t wait to share the story about how I was fired by one of my publishers . . . only to return years later with a book that changed all of our lives forever.”

And what does it mean to him, personally and professionally, to be named a Distinguished Alumni?

“I wouldn’t be the writer or human being that I am today had it not been for UVic,” he admits. “I’m so grateful for the mentorship, the friendships and the guidance I received while there. I will always say yes when UVic calls me to return to help.”

Explore UVic—and Fine Arts—on Feb 1

Know a high school student who’s thinking about a future in Fine Arts? Don’t miss Explore UVic on Saturday, February 1—your chance to find out more about our departments of Writing, Visual Arts, Theatre, Art History & Visual Studies and School of Music.

Whether you’re applying for September 2020 or just thinking ahead, Explore UVic is your chance to see what we’re all about.

Who should attend:

  • High school students in grades 10 & 11 starting to research universities
  • High school students in their graduating (grade 12) years
  • High school graduates ready to begin their post-secondary studies
  • Students transferring to UVic from other post-secondary institutions

The Fine Arts building, one of 4 buildings in our Fine Arts complex (photo: Leon Fei)

About Fine Arts

As BC’s only stand-alone Fine Arts faculty, UVic’s Fine Arts offers a dynamic community where curiosity, experimentation and exploration are the cornerstones of the learning environment—whatever your creative path.

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

Come spend the day with us on Saturday, February 1!

Explore work by Visual Arts students

Event schedule

There’s a lot to do at Explore UVic, and you can pick and choose what you’ll do and when you’ll do it. Take in everything we have to offer, or focus on the activities that matter most to you! Check out our tentative activity schedule (PDF) to plan your day and make the most of your time.

Please note that activities, times and locations are subject to change.

Visit our desk in the University Centre to get your Explore UVic information package. We’ll help you plan your day and find your way around campus.

Go on a walking tour of our campus, led by a current UVic student. Tours start at the University Centre and are offered on a first-come-first-serve basis.

Music student Josh Lovell belts out the Vikes Rally Song before a game (photo: Armando Tura)

ƒLearn more about UVic at one of three presentations held at the Engineering & Computer Science building:
  • Grade 12 applicants: for high school students and recent graduates applying for September 2020
  • ƒ Transfer applicants: for students transferring to UVic from other colleges or universities
  • ƒ Future applicants: for students who are researching UVic, but are not applying this year

Student experience panels (10:15am – 5:15)

Participate in a student experience panel at the Engineering & Computer Science building to meet current UVic students, learn about their experiences, and ask your questions about life at UVic.

Attend a sample lecture by a UVic faculty member at the Engineering & Computer Science building and get a real university classroom experience. Fine Arts is offering two: “Pixar & the Hero’s Journey” (10:15am) and “Cinema & Video Games in the Age of VR” (3:15pm).

VR is about more than entertainment (UVic Photo Services)

Drop by the information & faculty fair in the Student Union Building to learn about our academic programs and the support services we provide for students.

Get an up-close look at the buildings and classrooms that serve our faculties and academic programs. Faculty tours are offered on a first-come-first-serve basis, and space is limited. Refer to the schedule and map for times and locations.

Fine Arts tours meet in the lobby of the Fine Arts building, and run at the following times:
  • Music: 10:30-11:30am + 1:30-2:30pm
  • Writing: 11:30am-12:30pm + 2:30-3:30pm
  • Visual Arts + Art History & Visual Studies: 12:30-1:30pm + 3:30-4:30pm
  • Theatre is hosting their own intensives “I Want to be in Theatre!” event from noon to 2:30pm. This extended session is specially designed for students (and their parents or teachers) to experience UVic’s hands-on approach to theatre arts, explore our world-class facilities, and get acquainted with some of our outstanding faculty and staff – all in a fun and informative session. Register at

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

Bus transportation

UVic is even putting on buses to get you to the campus! Catch the 9am ferry from Tsawwassen as a walk-on passenger. We’ll pick you up at Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal and get you back for the 7pm sailing in the evening.

Note: Pre-registration for the bus service is required, and closes when capacity is reached. Please note that you are responsible for your own BC Ferries fares.

Register for UVic now!

Piano stars celebrate Steinway anniversary

Beginning January 19, the School of Music is celebrating its 12-year anniversary as an All-Steinway School with a series of concerts showcasing the Steinway concert grand pianos, as well as guest talks and unique Steinway experiences. Critically acclaimed pianist, Steinway artistand School of Music professor Arthur Rowe will perform an all-Beethoven concert that afternoon to launch the special series.

Steinway artist Arthur Rowe

Hear Arthur Rowe perform at 2:30pm Sunday, January 19, in the Phillip T. Young Recital Hall, in the of B-Wing UVic’s MacLaurin Building. Admission is by donation.

Canada’s very first All-Steinway School

The School of Music became Canada’s very first All-Steinway School in 2008 when UVic acquired 63 new Steinway pianos—49 uprights for practice rooms and faculty offices, 13 grand pianos for the teaching faculty and rehearsal halls, and a Steinway Concert Grand for the Phillip T. Young Recital Hall.

Considering we’re still Canada’s only All-Steinway School, it’s a designation we’re justifiably proud of. Back in 2008, we were the 99th All-Steinway School in the world, joining famous schools such as The Juilliard School and the Yale School of Music. It was announced at the time that the $1.1-million acquisition was being funded through a financing arrangement between UVic and Tom Lee Music.

Rowe—a recitalist, soloist with orchestra and chamber musician—teaches piano at UVic and is the artistic director of the Victoria Summer Music Festival. Among other works, the Jan. 19 program will include Beethoven’s Sonata in B-flat Major, Op. 106 “Hammerklavier,” which is widely viewed as one of the greatest piano sonatas of all time and one of the most demanding solo works in the classical piano repertoire.

More to come in March

Further anniversary celebration concerts will be held in March, with performances from UBC’s Mark AndersonEmerging Steinway Stars and Bruce Vogt. Enjoy pre-concert talks at each event and a demonstration of Steinway’s Spirio|r, the world’s finest high-resolution player piano capable of live performance capture and playback.

Proceeds from this year’s special concert series will benefit the school’s Steinway Legacy Fund, which is dedicated to the enhancement and expansion of this valuable collection of instruments.

Help us grow and maintain our Steinways by donating online here.

Grad student call for Ocean Networks Canada Artist-in-Residence program

The Faculty of Fine Arts and Ocean Networks Canada (ONC) at the University of Victoria are sponsoring an Artist-in-Residence program.

The concept strengthens connections between art and science to broaden and cross-fertilize perspectives and critical discourse on today’s major issues such as the environment, technology, oceans, culture, biodiversity and healthy communities.

This program is open to all current graduate students who have completed most of their course requirements in UVic’s Fine Arts faculty, with practice in any visual,  written, musical or performance media.

For the previous 2018-2019 residency, emerging artist Colton Hash produced a ​series of interactive art applications centred on the Salish Sea​.

Colton Hash with his “Resonant Disintegration” sculpture

About the position

The Artist-in-Residence intern will interact with Fine Arts faculty members and scientists at ONC as well as with other individuals using the world-leading ocean facilities to ignite cross-disciplinary exchanges. The artist will learn from and engage with the current  research, connecting it to their own practice, and to wider societal and cultural aspects, creating a body of work to be presented at the end of the program. Regular interaction with scientists at ONC will be arranged, and the interaction with ONC will inform their graduate work (MA, MFA or PhD program).

The selected artist will actively engage with researchers on a variety of ocean science themes that may include:

  • understanding human-induced change in the northeast Pacific Ocean​
  • life in the environments of the northeast Pacific Ocean and Salish Sea​
  • interconnections among the seafloor, ocean and atmosphere​
  • or seafloor and sediment in motion​.
The ONC Artist-in-Residence program is established to:
  • explore arts or the potential of alternative cultural practices in the area of the visions and challenges around oceans, as well as philosophical, aesthetic, and ethical aspect of the ocean and the impacts humans have on it
  • add a complementary artistic and creative perspective to ocean science, the societal ramifications of its exploitation, and its cultural aspects
  • reveal interconnections between indigenous ways of knowing, scientific research and the arts
  • and help envision the potential long-term impacts of ocean changes on humanity.

The details

The period of the residency will be from September to December 2020, or January to April 2021. A cost-of-living stipend of $2,000/month CDN ($8,000 total) is currently available to be paid to the selected artist, and can be held in conjunction with other graduate funding.

During the residency, academic supervision will continue with the regular supervisor(s) in the Faculty of Fine Arts. Following the residency, a public exhibit or performance of the resulting art will be displayed or performed in summer / fall 2021. This showing/performance will be promoted by ONC, UVic and the faculties of Fine Arts and Science.

Please send applications to ONC’s Dwight Owens at (​) with the subject line “Ocean Networks Canada Artist in Residence Program.”

The application should include your CV, a concise portfolio of previous relevant artistic work, a letter of motivation for the residency and a 500-word project proposal with a separate project-costs budget (up to $2,000 currently available). The application period closes on February 28, 2020.

Applications will be reviewed by representatives of UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts and Ocean Networks Canada, and students may be contacted for an interview or to supply further information.

About the residency partners

About ONC: Established in 2007 as a major initiative of the University of Victoria, Ocean Networks Canada operates world-leading ocean observatories for the advancement of science  and the benefit of Canada. The observatories collect data on physical, chemical, biological, and geological aspects of the ocean over long time periods, supporting research on complex Earth processes in ways not previously possible. The observatories provide unique scientific and technical  capabilities that permit researchers to operate instruments remotely and receive data at their home  laboratories anywhere on the globe in real time. These facilities extend and complement other research platforms and programs, whether currently operating or planned for future deployment.

About the Faculty of Fine Arts: With experiential learning at its core, Fine Arts provides the finest  training and learning environment for artists, professionals, and students. Through our departments of  Art History and Visual Studies, Theatre, Visual Arts, Writing and School of Music, we aspire to lead in  arts-based research and creative activity and education in local, national, and global contexts. We  integrate and advance creation and scholarship in the arts in a dynamic learning environment. As  British Columbia’s only Faculty exclusively dedicated to the arts, Fine Arts is an extraordinary setting  that supports new discoveries, interdisciplinary and diverse contributions to creativity, and the cultural  experiences of the students and communities we serve.

2019 in review: part two

From our amazing alumni and stellar students to new creative spaces, a $1 million-plus donation and the passing of a literary legend, here are the final five top Fine Arts stories of 2019.

Active alumni

It was a good year for Fine Arts alumni, with School of Music alumni composers Linda Catlin Smith and Cassandra Miller both making venerable UK newspaper The Guardian’s “Best Classical Music of the 21st Century” list .

In Writing, alumni Eve Joseph won the Griffin Poetry Prize, Jenny Boychuk won the CBC CNF Prize, Steven Price was shortlisted for the Giller Prize, and Jenny Manzer and Esi Edugyan were nominated for the City of Victoria Book Prize. Recent Art History & Visual Studies PhD alumna Atri Hatef was awarded a postdoc at MIT’s Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture.

Theatre alumni and noted CBC comedy writer Sam Mullins brought his Weaksauce & Other Stories to the annual Spotlight on Alumni, the Banff Centre’s new managing director of performing arts, Nathan Medd, was named the recipient of the 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award for Fine Arts, and puppeteer Ingrid Hansen appeared as a lead character on Helpsters, Apple TV’s new Sesame Workshop production.

That’s Theatre alum Ingrid Hansen as the big orange creature, Heart

And three Fine Arts alumni received all the ProArt awards in 2019, including two from Visual Arts—MFA Lindsay Delaronde received the inaugural Early-Career Artist Award, and Colton Hash was honoured with the new Witness Legacy Award for Social Purpose and Responsibility Through Art—while Theatre alum and Theatre SKAM artistic producer Matthew Payne picked up the Mid-Career Artist Award.

Student successes

Of course, no one in Fine Arts has to wait to graduate to start succeeding: current Visual Arts undergrad Austin Willis was named the only Canadian winner of the US-based International Sculpture Centre’s 2019 student achievement awards for his piece, “Framed Landscape”. With 325 nominations from 139 institutions in 4 countries, Willis— a painter and sculptor due to graduate in spring 2020—was one of the 11 overall winners. Current Visual Arts MFA candidate Danielle Proteau was named one of five recipients of the inaugural Audain Foundation $7,500  travel awards in September.

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

It was exciting to see current Writing undergrad Kai Conradi make the top-three finalists in the annual Writers Trust Journey Prize, while current Writing MFA candidate Troy Sebastien received the inaugural Roger J. Bishop Writing Prize and fellow MFA candidate Ellery Lamm picked up a pair of Pick of the Fringe Awards at the Victoria Fringe Festival for the debut run of her new play, Summer Bucket List. And a passion for Indigenous arts and activism led Art History & Visual Studies undergrad Melissa Granley to a seven-month position at downtown’s Legacy Art Gallery; she will also be curating two exhibits for First Peoples House in 2020.

Current Theatre undergrad Tallas Munro had the honour of taking the lead role in the historic Phoenix Theatre production of Shakespeare’s Othello—performed for the first time in the Theatre department’s 53 year history. A number of Theatre students also mounted productions during the Victoria Fringe Festival, including the new play Summer Bucket List which won Favourite New Work and Favourite Drama for not only student playwright Ellery Lamm and alumni director Anna Marie Anderson, but also the talents of current Theatre students Aaron Smail, Hina Nishioka, Devon Vecchio, Arielle Parsons, Emily Hay, Willa Hladun and Isaiah Adachi. 

Theatre student Tallas Munro in the lead role of Othello (photo: Dean Kalyan)

Three School of Music undergraduates were named winners of the annual UVic Concerto Competition: Anna Betuzzi (oboe), Jeanel Liang (violin) and Xheni Sinaj (piano). Liang performed Brahms’ Violin Concerto in D Majorwith the UVic Orchestra in November, while Betuzzi was a featured performer at the December Orchestra concert, performing the Oboe Concerto by Richard Strauss, and Sinaj will be performing Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major with the Orchestra on January 21, 2020.

Creating the new CREATE Lab

Whether it’s Queen recording their iconic title track in Bohemian Rhapsody or Will Ferrell’s hilarious “More Cowbell” sketch on Saturday Night Live, what happens in the recording studio has long been mythologized in popular culture. Now, students and faculty are able to activate that knowledge first-hand in the School of Music’s new Create Lab: a dedicated, state-of-the-art recording studio where music technology professor Kirk McNally and his students explore the role of sound recording engineers and music producers.

Kirk McNally in the School of Music’s Create Lab, with music student Ayari Kasukawa (UVIC Photo Services)

Completed in early 2019, the half-million-dollar Create Lab is already being booked 15 hours a day by student composers, musicians, engineers and sound artists in the undergraduate Music and Computer Science program—unique in Canada—and with Master of Music Technology students.

“It all comes down to listening,” says McNally. “Our job as engineers is to communicate something—either through technical or verbal means—in a way that’s understood by the person on the other side of the glass. That’s the importance of having a space where you can understand exactly what the sound is.”

Roger Bishop’s $1.6 million donation

If the name Roger J. Bishop rings a bell, it’s likely from his namesake theatre space in the Theatre building. But future students will also know the late local scholar, avid book collector and lifetime supporter of the arts at UVic better as the creator of a series of new student scholarships and prizes—thanks to a $1.6-million donation from Bishop’s estate to UVic in September.

“Roger Bishop’s generosity, as represented by this gift, will directly and positively contribute to the success of our students and continue the great legacy of excellence in the Theatre department which he helped to found,” says Theatre chair Anthony Vickery.

UVic alumnus Brian D. Young, estate executor and close family friend of the Bishops, with UVic Music student Emily Markwart, one of the first recipients of the new Roger and Ailsa Bishop Travel Award in Music, outside the Bishop Theatre (UVic Photo Services)

Over $300,000 of the estate gift goes specifically to Fine Arts for the creation of three new endowments: the Ailsa and Roger Bishop Entrance Scholarship in Theatre, the Roger J. Bishop Writing Prize, and the Ailsa and Roger Bishop Travel Award in Music.

Remembering Patrick Lane

When award-winning poet, novelist and former Writing instructor Patrick Lane passed away in March, he was described as “one of Canada’s most renowned writers” — a claim few would argue.

“BC’s poetry power couple”: Lane & his wife, Lorna Crozier

His distinguished career spanned 50 years and 25 volumes of poetry, as well as award-winning books of fiction and non-fiction, published in over a dozen countries. The winner of numerous accolades — including the Governor General’s Award for Poetry, the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence, the Canadian Authors Association Award and three National Magazine Awards — Lane was named an officer of the Order of Canada in 2014.

Husband to beloved Writing professor emeritus Lorna Crozier, Patrick’s passing made headlines in every major media outlet nation-wide, with a number of his former students and Writing colleagues quoted in the memorials.

Be sure to read part one of our 2019 top-10 roundup here.