A creative community
Welcome to week two of The Fine Arts Connector, your weekly listing of news, resources, activities and other shareable content from the Faculty of Fine Arts, specifically compiled for distribution during the current health crisis.
One thing we’re all increasingly aware of these days is the vital importance of the arts when it comes to a sense of community. While a vast and varied range of socially distant arts options continue to flourish online, and people are discovering the quirky joys of things like choir practices via Zoom, we are still being rocked by news of event cancellations now stretching into the summer—like the TD Toronto Jazz Festival, originally scheduled for June 18-28, and all of Edinburgh’s festivals through to the end of August . . . including the fabled Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
But we’re continually heartened by the collective outreach efforts of our Fine Arts community—consider recording stars and School of Music Distinguished Alumni Twin Kennedy, who have pivoted #TheHomeboundTour they had planned for this spring into a series of Facebook live performances from their living room.
Please enjoy—and circulate—this collection of material featuring our faculty, students, alumni, staff and guests as a way of both sharing what our creative community is up to and keeping us connected in this difficult moment in history. You can also help by keeping us in the loop if you’re working on a live-streaming project, have online material to share or are involved in something you’d like people to know about: just email either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Finally, you can sign up here to receive automatic notice of The Connector each week.
The funding for the National Arts Centre’s admirable short-term relief fund series #CanadaPerforms is now up to $600,000, thanks to additional donations of $200,000 each from the RBC Foundation and SiriusXM Canada. They’re currently scheduling content by professional Canadian performing artists through to April 30, so you’ve still got until April 13 to apply with your 45-to-60-minute online performance concept. #CanadaPerforms was originally launched with a pair of $100K donations by each Facebook Canada and Slaight Music, as a way for the NAC to ease the financial strain for Canadian artists impacted by the closure of performance venues across Canada related to COVID-19, and to lift the spirits of Canadians during the crisis.
In related news, the Hollywood Reporter is reporting that “Netflix has donated $1 million to the Toronto-based Actors Fund of Canada for emergency financial relief to reach out-of-work artists in Canadian film, TV, music, theatre and dance. Netflix also gave another $500,000 to The Fondation des Artistes, which supports Quebec artists in need.”
Germany invests in their artists
Looking for an inspiring national story during these trying times? As noted in this story on ArtNet.com, Germany’s federal government has announced a €50 billion aid package for the country’s creative and cultural sectors. The €50 billion will be provided specifically to small businesses and freelancers, including those from the cultural, creative, and media sectors. “Artists are not only indispensable, but also vital, especially now,” says Germany’s culture minister, Monika Grütters.
Compare that to the $300 million US the American government is giving to arts organizations—a small fraction of the overall $2 trillion recently approved bailout package, which saw $500 billion going to big business—or the £160 million earmarked by Arts Council England for arts relief efforts.
Heads-up for Phoenix students and recent grads
Canada’s National Theatre School is earmarking $60,000 in financial help for theatre school students and recent graduates during the current health crisis—regardless of what theatrical institution they attended. NTS will award 80 Art Apart bursaries of $750 each to young and emerging actors, playwrights, directors and designers, who will present a piece of art online. Selected applicants will also get their work disseminated through the school’s social networks with the hashtag #ArtApart.
“There are a lot of folks in theatre programs with cancelled plays, readings, end-of-year performances,” says Gideon Arthurs, the chief executive officer of NTS, said in this Globe and Mail interview. “Our fund also is open to students who have graduated in the last five years . . . . All those part-time jobs [many emerging artists] rely on are evaporating as well.”
BC Arts Council administers $3 million relief fund
Recent news that BC’s provincial government is setting up a $3 million fund comes as a bit of relief for eligible arts organizations, who will receive up to $15,000 to help pay their bills during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Times Colonist is reporting. Administered by the BC Arts Council, the fund will provide 50 percent advances on 2020-21 funding for arts groups. Workers in the arts sector who have lost income because of COVID-19 are also eligible to apply for a one-time payment of $1,000 under the B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers.
For more information, see the BC Arts Council’s COVID-19 FAQs for Arts and Culture Grant Recipients & Applicants—where you can also find answers to questions about travel, performance gatherings, cancellations, pending applications and more.
CBC Arts a key resource
If you’re not subscribed to the weekly CBC Arts newsletter, you really should be. Each week it offers an invaluable roundup of specifically arts-related news, profiles and funding options for these difficult times. Their latest issue lists over 22 arts advocacy groups and more than a dozen emergency funding sources for writers, musicians, LGBTQ2S artists, technicians and others.
A scene from the 2014 Phoenix Theatre production of Unity (1918), written and directed by Kevin Kerr (photo: David Lowes)
Kevin Kerr’s Unity (1918)
Inspired as it was by the global Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, Department of Writing professor Kevin Kerr‘s 2001 play Unity (1918) is an apt example of the oft-repeated phrase “art imitates life”—but, as we’re seeing with the current health crisis, it’s also a good example of how life sometimes imitates art, now that we’re faced with another flu pandemic just a century later.
Set during the final few weeks of World War I, Unity (1918) sees the Spanish Flu spreading across the country and has the entire town of Unity, Saskatchewan, under siege from an invisible enemy . . . more horrifying and deadly than the war. Seen through the lives of the charming, eccentric townsfolk—including several young women driven by their dreams of finding true passion—this gothic romance explores human needs of love, sex and faith, during their desperate embrace of life at the edge of death.
While Kerr’s play won the 2002 Governor General’s Award for its touching, intensely human and darkly comic portrayal of a forgotten chapter in Canadian history, the 2014 Phoenix Theatre mounting was ironically rocked by a flu outbreak during its run, with a number of cast and crew falling ill—to the point that Kerr, who also directed this production, had to step in and act in some performances.
Developed as part of Touchstone Theatre’s Playwright-in-Residence Program during the 1999/2000 season, and originally produced in March 2001 at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre, Unity (1918) has since become a staple in the Canadian theatre scene. Most recently, it was presented by our colleagues at the Canadian College of Performing Arts in November 2019, where it was directed by Distinguished Alumni Glynis Leyshon. The leads of that production were interviewed in this March 28 Victoria News article about the show’s parallels to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Basically, all fun things were canceled then too,” said actor Darren Saretsky. “The town people were quarrelling with one another, not because of illness, but because of fear of illness.”
Short films by Writing students
While UVic’s Department of Writing is well-known for producing outstanding authors, poets, playwrights and journalists, it has also been producing some fantastic filmmakers over the past decade. Case in point? Connor Gaston, who completed both his BFA and MFA with Writing and is currently building a name for himself as a feature film director (The Devout) while helping to develop the next-generation of talent as a sessional instructor in Writing. We’re happy to present here a pair of short films Gaston directed, featuring the talents of Writing students.
The first, 2013’s ‘Til Death, was penned by Writing alumni Ryan Bright, produced by Writing professor Maureen Bradley and created with the talents of the Writing 420 film production and screenwriting class. After losing his soul mate in a fatal bicycle accident, 10-year-old Zachary sets out on a journey to bring Samantha back to life in this magical, modern fairytale.
Til Death won a number of awards, including “Best Student Short” at the Montreal World Film Festival, Phoenix Film Festival and Vancouver Short Film Festival, plus “Audience Choice” at the Victoria Film Festival and “Best Screenplay” at the Vancouver Short Film Festival.
The second, 2012’s Bardo Light, was written, directed and edited by Gaston, and features the talents of a number of UVic alumni, including actors Shaan Rahman (Phoenix Theatre) and Chris Mackie (Law), and producer Sandi Barrett (Writing). Accused of murdering his father, a young inventor maintains his innocence, claiming the real culprit was a modified television set.
Bardo Light was an official selection at the Toronto International Film Festival and film festivals in Newport Beach, Sedona, Victoria and the Short Circuit festival.
Jazz up your day
Looking for some new sounds to liven up your day? School of Music professor Patrick Boyle has a brand new album out: Swivel features 10 solid tracks with Boyle on trumpet and flugel, plus Lorne Lofsky on electric guitar and Sean Drabitt on double bass. A chance meeting between the three musicians at one of the most famous recording studios in the world—Vancouver’s fabled The Warehouse—led to Boyle inviting Lofsky and Drabbit to spend an afternoon together playing a few originals and standards.
Listen to Swivel now at this Bandcamp link—where you can also pick up a digital or physical copy of it. And if you buy the CD, it features album art representing both the old and new blue bridges here in Victoria, with photography by Boyle as well. That same link also features a link where you can buy all six of Boyle’s releases on Bandcamp and save a whopping 50 percent. (“Almost all my records are on Spotify, too,” Boyle reminds us.)
Also, you can get a taste of Boyle’s talent in the classroom via this archived performance of the UVic Jazz Ensemble, of which he is the director (far right in the picture below). This concert was recorded on March 16, 2019. This concert features music by Horace Silver, Jimmy Giuffree, Wayne Shorter, Clifford Brown and more.
This version of the UVic Jazz Ensemble includes students Baylie Adams, Karsten Brewka, Matthew Gannon, Adam Jaseniuk, Todd Morgan & Michael Vielguth (saxophones); Espen Lyngberg, Sophia Olim, Ben Pakosz, Darius Pomeroy & Will Quinn (trombones); Anthony Shackell (trumpet); Taya Haldane (flute); Dante Andre-Kahan, Lachlan Barry, Cole Burns, Rachel Burtman, Owen Chernikhowsky, Will Lynch & Isley Owens (percussion).
"My Little Suede Shoes"
"Strasbourg St. Denis"
"All The Things You Are"
"The Blues Walk"
Step inside this student art project
One of the most fascinating aspects of the Department of Visual Arts is simply walking through the building and discovering what students are working on. One of the busiest undergrads this past year has to be Josh Franklin, whose various projects were remarkable in both scale and concept. As well as being the recipient of a Jamie Cassels Undergraduate Research Award (JCURA) for his project, “Holon Inc: A Multidisciplinary Exploration of Holistic Process Based Art”, Franklin was also recently named the recipient of the $1000 Pat Martin Bates Legacy Award at the 2020 Victoria Visual Arts Legacy Society Awards.
Working under the supervision of Visual Arts professor Rick Leong, Franklin describes his JCURA project “Holon Inc” as “a durational, multimedia, performance-based, installation project where I will live within a self-built and site-specific structure for seven days and while in it, complete a finite number of pre-dictated tasks. The main objective and or explorative aspect of this performance are to present an unadulterated experience of viewing what occurs from a projects genesis to its dynamic resolution.”
Franklin feels that by exhibiting his my own body in the action of building an environment, the viewer will be given the opportunity to watch and contemplate the work that must be undertaken to actualize the project.
Now the fun part—you can take a self-guided 360-degree walking tour of “Holon Inc” simply by clicking on the image on the right and then using your mouse or keyboard to navigate your way around it.
And once you’ve gotten the hang of that, you can take the same kind of virtual tour of Franklin’s 2019 project, “A Paradox in Connection (Walk-In Structure)”.
Take a self-guided 360-degree walking tour of Franklin’s “Holon Inc”
A glimpse inside Urban Regalia
Last fall, the first part of Urban Regalia: An Exhibition in Two Movements opened at UVic’s downtown Legacy Gallery. Curated by Art History & Visual Studies professor Carolyn Butler Palmer, it offered a stunning collection of Indigenous couture by Gitxsan designer Yolonda Skelton, whose Sug-ii-t Lukxs Designs mixes the aesthetics of Gitxsan button blanket robes with a twist of Audrey Hepburn’s style.
“I started to make different things, because you can’t wear your regalia out,” Skelton explains in this CBC article about the exhibition. “It’s [the regalia] for the feast. It is for special ceremonial purposes . . . you don’t walk around town wearing it. So, I start to think, OK well, I need to start to make things that can show who I am and where I come from.”
Skelton grew up learning her Indigenous culture from her relations in Haida Gwaii, but her designs have since appeared on fashion runways in both Paris and Vancouver.
“Colonialism had and continues to have a devastating impact on indigenous peoples all over the world,” says Skelton. “My hope is that a step towards de-colonization is possible, by learning about each other’s cultures through the medium of art. Peoples of the world want to glimpse the true essence of other cultures and to respect the people they are learning about. They want to understand the impact of colonization and do their part to change it—and I would like to do my part and help them.”
As the name suggests, Urban Regalia was conceived as a two-part Legacy Gallery exhibit; the first part, featuring Skelton’s designs, ran September 28-December 21 2019, while the second part—Urban Regalia: Westshore Stories—opened on January 18 and was still up when the COVID-19 health crisis closed the galleries. Curated by Butler Palmer’s AHVS students and featuring button blankets by Skelton’s students at the Westshore Centre for Learning and Training-Colwood Campus, Westshore Stories offered a dynamic pairing of students on both sides of the gallery process. (Watch for a gallery of images of that exhibit next week in this space.)
Enjoy these images of the first part of Urban Regalia, taken by current Fine Arts student photographer Leon Fei.