No fear, only courage
Welcome to issue five 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.
Department of Theatre professor Brian Richmond recently offered an inspiring message about the endurance of the arts in his role as artistic director of the local Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre, and the importance of facing fear and uncertainty with hope and courage. It’s worth taking a minute to watch the short video, and to reflect on our faculty’s role as leaders in the Greater Victoria arts community. What more could we all be doing to make a difference, here and now?
As always, 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.
Department of Writing BA/MFA alum Jason Jobin has been shortlisted for the 2020 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for his story, “Provenance”. As the Times Colonist reported on April 21, the Yukon-raised Jobin joins 20 writers from more than a dozen countries on the short list, but is only one of five stories competing in the regional category of Canada and Europe—and is one of only two Canadians on the short list (alongside Toronto’s Marcia Walker). Regional winners will receive £2,500 (announced June 2), while the finalist will receive £5,000 (announced July 7). The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is the world’s most global literature prize, awarded to a writer each year for the best piece of unpublished short fiction.
Theatre alumni certainly have been busy during the COVID-19 crisis. Laura Jane Wallace has created the Today, I’m Bored! channel on YouTube, where she offers creative DIY projects for families like making a string of colourful three-dimensional hearts in a window or painting a fun rock monster. And Theatre SKAM artistic and managing producer Matthew Payne has been working with his son Munro on a series of updates called Mo’s Daily Briefing’s (up to Day 21 as of this writing). Mo was also recently featured on UVic’s The Great Indoors project, alongside a shout-out to this very blog.
School of Music alum Isaiah Bell is presenting his solo performance piece The Book of My Shames as part of Intrepid Theatre’s UNO Fest Online from April 28-May 3. Described as a “comic, wrenchingly personal tour-de-force” that fuses opera, stand-up comedy and the cabaret-confessional, singer-composer Bell explores a history fraught with shame and longing to reveal our universal potential for transformation in this funny and tender solo show. As a rising tenor star, Bell has performed everywhere from Carnegie Hall to the National Arts Centre, and is directed here by Sean Guist, founding Curator of Intrepid’s OUTstages queer theatre festival. The Book of My Shames had a sold-out premiere at Tapestry Opera as part of Toronto Pride in 2019.
The latest episode of the local arts podcast Check the Program features Theatre alum Britt Small discussing the latest episode of the long-running cabaret Atomic Vaudeville, which shifted online in response to the health crisis, and recent Writing MFA alum and playwriting instructor (and Theatre alum) Janet Munsil talking about her new online initiative, The Canadian Play Thing. Now in its second year and on its 35th episode, Check the Program is a podcast project spearheaded by John Threlfall and includes current Writing student Brianna Bock among its six-person team of contributors.
As part of their ongoing aid packages, on April 22 the federal government announced $9 billion in financial aid will become available for post-secondary students during the COVID-19 crisis. Students will be eligible for $1,250 a month from May through August, or $1,750 if the student is taking care of someone or has a disability. The benefit is available also to students who have jobs, but are making less than $1,000 a month.
UVic has also created the COVID-19 Emergency Bursary to provide support for students—domestic or international, undergraduate or graduate—who are experiencing emergency financial need as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This initial allocation of $200,000 will help students facing challenges such as job loss, access to housing, food, tuition, or technology to facilitate online/remote learning, mental health services, child care, transportation, and more.
Recently, the UVic Alumni Association has generously pledged $50,000 in matching funds to this emergency fund: donations to the fund will be matched dollar for dollar, doubling the support for students in need. One of the best ways we can help students right now is through the COVID-19 Emergency Bursary. If you are able, please consider joining us in supporting students through this crisis by making a gift today.
New Canada Council digital initiative
The Canada Council for the Arts has partnered with CBC/Radio-Canada on a new digital initiative, Digital Originals, which will support Canadian artists and arts organizations to reach Canadian audiences online during the COVID-19 crisis by enabling them to adapt their work for digital dissemination.
This new opportunity offers $5,000 micro-innovation grants for selected projects that CBC/Radio-Canada will then curate and feature in a digital showcase. Digital Originals will support artists and arts organizations in finding new ways to connect with audiences online during this difficult time.
The Canada Council recognizes the significant impact of COVID-19 on the Canadian arts sector, with countless performances, exhibitions, screenings, tours and festivals being cancelled or delayed due to necessary public health restrictions. With that in mind, Digital Originals is open to artists, artistic organizations and groups across the country (with a validated Canada Council profile), in all fields of practice—including new and early career artists—to adapt existing work or create new work for sharing online. No prior digital experience will be required. Note that organizations currently receiving core funding will not be eligible.
The grant application portal will open mid-May and applications will be accepted until June 15, 2020. Visit the Digital Originals web page or follow #DigitalOriginals2020 for the latest news.
A gala of go-to galleries
Getting bored with staying indoors? Missing those regular trips to art galleries and museums? You’re in luck: the new Field Trip: Art Across Canada initiative opens Canadian galleries—including the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, among other notable institutions like the National Gallery, Power Plant, Museum of Contemporary Art and over a dozen others—for online visits and activities.
But if you’re looking to virtually visit further afield, you can check out digital tours of some exhibits at The Louvre or this collection of 14 museums in Paris that have recently made digital copies of 100,000 artworks freely available to the public—including work by the likes of Rembrandt, Monet, Picasso, Cézanne, and thousands of others. Or visit this collection of 12 virtual tours that includes destinations like the British Museum, the Guggenheim, the Musée d’Orsay, the Rijksmuseum, Mexico’s National Museum of Anthropology or Seoul’s National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, to name but a few.
Lindsay Delaronde at UNO Fest Online
It’s a busy week for current Indigenous Resurgence Coordinator for the Faculty of Fine Arts and Visual Arts MFA alum Lindsay Delaronde, as she prepares for her solo performance showcase as part of Intrepid Theatre’s April 28-May 3 UNO Fest Online.
Originally hired by Intrepid as the Indigenous Curator for UNO Fest, Delaronde had to pivot sharply when the current health crisis changed both the nature and delivery of the festival. She quickly shifted from curator to performer, with the result being a new performance piece, Gemini. Using the land environment and Indigenous expressions of culture through drum, song and ritual, she has created this unique piece now delivered via a video filmed in her backyard.
Delaronde, who also holds a Masters degree in Indigenous Communities Counselling through UVic, was the City of Victoria’s inaugural Indigenous Artist in Residence (2017-2019). Her artistic practice focuses on Indigenous theatre, land-based/site-specific performance art, collaborative practice, cultural resurgence and social/political activism through the arts. You can get a taste of her work in this 2019 performance piece titled I See You (videography by Lyle Almond).
“My journey as an artist over the past two years has focused on collaborative practice and collaborative performances that reflect on reconciliation as a participatory action that involves bearing witness and observation that puts discussions of perspectives and values into action,” she says. “I have sought to take a critical stand regarding how art contributes to reconciliation [and] have explored reconciliation through working with non-Indigenous and Indigenous groups of people to co-create artworks that symbolized unity, integration and respect.”
In this telephone conversation with Fine Arts communications officer John Threlfall, Lindsay Delaronde talks about her art practice, Indigenous resurgence, learning from others and being creative in a time of crisis.
Lindsay Delaronde, Gemini - UNO Fest
This week’s musical break
This week’s musical break is brought to you courtesy of the Sobremesa Saxophone Quartet, whose members are a mix of School of Music students and alumni. Formed in September 2017, Sobremesa—a Spanish term referring to “the intimate conversation that often occurs after dinner”—is currently comprised of current students Todd Morgan (tenor saxophone) and Karsten Brewka (baritone), plus alumni Matt Ficther (alto) and Connor Stairs (soprano).
Here, they perform the “American” String Quartet Op. 96 No. 12 by Antonin Dvorak, as arranged by Connor Stairs), recorded in February 2020 at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in New Westminster, BC. This was part of their “Mountain Roads” tour, which saw the Sobremesa perform at six different concerts around the Lower Mainland.
“It was a great experience in learning how to establish your own opportunities,” says Morgan. “We did most of the advertising, poster and program creation, budgeting and logistics for each event. We even made money on it all!”
The Sobremesa Saxophone Quartet’s YouTube channel also features three other recent performances: “Three Short Tales of the Sea” by Rika Ishige, “Quatour pour Saxophones” by Pierre-Max Dubois and “Milonga del Angel” by Astor Piazzolla—all of which are well worth a listen.
Artists in dangerous times
As part of the AGGV’s Field Trip initiative, Visual Arts professors Cedric Bomford and Rick Leong, current facility and production manager Hollis Roberts and alum Michael Andrew McLean, along with Camosun College’s legendary art professor Ralph Stanbridge, are featured in the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria’s “In Conversation” series. Released on April 22, it’s part of the AGGV’s participation in the national Field Trip initiative.
Their wide-ranging conversation looks at what it’s like to be artists, professors and technicians in the times of COVID-19. As active members of Victoria’s art community through their respective and varied practices, these artists have already seen how current world events are shifting the way they, their colleagues and students are working.
The politics of art
Quite possibly one of the most iconic pieces of 20th century art, Pablo Picasso’s 1937 painting “Guernica” was his reaction to the Nazi’s bombing of the Basque town of Guernica during Spanish Civil War. But since we can’t get to Madrid’s Museo Nacional Centro de Arte to see this massive 3.5 metre by 7.8 metre piece right now, we can instead listen to Art History & Visual Studies professor Allan Antliff’s thoughts on “Guernica: A Political Odyssey”, which was originally aired on CBC Radio’s Ideas series in March 2007.
In conversation with host Paul Kennedy, Antliff discusses the politics of Picasso’s arguably most famous work of art, from its inception in the crucible of the Spanish Civil War to the covering of a replica of the painting at the UN in 2003.
Guernica - A Political Odyssey
And, given Antliff’s position as the Director of UVic’s Anarchist Archives, his 2002 Ideas episode on “Art, Anarchy, and Activism” explores the interface of the arts with anarchist activism on the cusp of the 21st century.
A Canada Research Chair (2003-2008), Antliff has taught courses on activism and art, anarchist aesthetics, Russian Constructivism, New York Dada and a host of other subjects dealing with modernism and contemporary art.
As Director of the Anarchist Archive, he is involved in archival acquisitions and the development of the collection’s digitization centre and virtual archive. He is also art editor for the interdisciplinary journals Anarchist Studies and co-editor of Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies.
Both these recording, along with a good deal of other content, can be found on the new AHVS Gateway to Art site.
Art, Anarchy & Activism
What time is it?
While there’s no shortage of online distractions these days, notice should be paid to the weekly StoryTimes livestream by local Collectivus Theatre, co-founded by current Writing MFA candidate Ellery Lamm and Theatre alum Anna Marie Anderson. Perhaps best known as the company that presented the award-winning productions of Lamm’s Summer Bucket List (in 2019) and The Fitting Room (2018), Collectivus were fast out of the gate with their livestream offerings almost as soon as the shelter-in-place notices went out.
StoryTimes—which just completed its seventh episode as of this writing—offers a range of music, poetry, comedy, character scenes and more. It’s well worth tuning in at 5pm Wednesdays weekly.
Looking to witness
If you’re looking to mix books with audio and video, consider this Witness Blanket double-play:
- listen to Writing sessional instructor Kirstie Hudson and Visual Arts Audain Professor Carey Newman discuss their recent book Picking Up The Pieces: The Making of the Witness Blanket in this April 17 episode of CBC Radio’s The Next Chapter with host (and UVic Chancellor) Shelagh Rogers
- then watch this free streaming of the documentary of the same name, directed by Carey Newman and Cody Graham, presented by the Canadian Museum of Human Rights (where the actual Witness Blanket is on permanent installation).
Celona at the VFW
Finally, you can catch celebrated author and Writing alum Marjorie Celona when she discusses her latest novel, How a Woman Becomes a Lake, with Vancouver Writers Fest Artistic Director Leslie Hurtig in a special livestream conversation at 1pm Saturday, April 25. This presentation with the National Arts Centre offers a glimpse inside one of the most hotly-anticipated titles of the season.
How a Woman Becomes a Lake is an unorthodox crime novel with overlapping viewpoints of characters, trapped by mistakes from their past and cycles of abuse. In an enthralling discussion with Vancouver Writers Fest Artistic Director Leslie Hurtig, Celona will explore her work, the depths of our human experience and the secrets we lock away—and what they reveal about us in our moments of greatest vulnerability, especially in times of crisis.
You can also listen to Celona in this March 2020 episode of CBC Radio’s The Next Chapter talk about how cold, cold weather influenced the development of How a Woman Becomes a Lake.
Visiting playwright Marcus Youssef
Back in January, Fine Arts was fortunate to host acclaimed Canadian playwright, director and writer Marcus Youssef as part of our ongoing Orion Lecture Series. In addition to his engaging and entertaining public talk, “The Drama of Working Across Difference”, Youssef spent a week on campus working with students in our departments of Writing and Theatre.
The recipient of more than a dozen national and international awards—including the $100,000 Siminovich Prize and a Governor General’s Award nomination—Youssef is the artistic director of Neworld Theatre in Vancouver, artistic advisor to the National Arts Centre, editorial advisor to Canadian Theatre Review, senior playwright in residence at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, and a Canadian Fellow to the International Society of Performing Arts. His award-winning plays include Winners and Losers, Leftovers, Ali & Ali and the aXes of Evil, and his work has been performed at theatres and festivals across North America and around the world.
Enjoy this recording of his January talk, introduced by Writing professor Kevin Kerr.