Doing our part

Welcome to issue six 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.

Another inspiring message about the arts appeared as an op-ed in the April 26 edition of the Times Colonist. In addition to pointing out the vital importance of the arts during this crisis, Pacific Opera Victoria CEO Ian Rye also noted the role our community will play in the difficult months ahead. “We will need the arts more than ever when we emerge from this crisis and rediscover the power of live song and story and the importance of coming together as a community,” he writes. “When that time comes and we can once again share those extraordinary moments of live music, drama and meaning, the arts will be there. We will celebrate together.”

While many of us have been struggling to maintain a relatively normal end-of-semester life with course completion, marking and other administrative duties, a number of our faculty colleagues have also been adding to the community effort during the current health crisis:

  • Visual Arts alum Libby Oliver has organized a phone campaign for seniors in care-home lockdowns as part of her current position as Listener-in-Residence at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, assisted by AHVS alum and AGGV assistant curator Regan Shrumm
  • Theatre instructor Bryn Finer contributed Theatre’s 3D printer to UVic’s overall face shield initiative
  • Art History & Visual Studies PhD candidate Ambreen Hussaini created a series of short video updates with her family, and also contributed a message to UVic’s Kind Mail campaign
  • Theatre’s head of wardrobe Karla Stout and Visual Arts instructor Laura Dutton have been sewing and donating face masks 
  • Fine Arts communications officer John Threlfall has been delivering groceries weekly as part of the Fernwood NRG’s increased community Good Food Box program
  • Current theatre student Nathan Harvey has been using his home 3D printer to print necessary parts for plastic face shields for front-line workers
  • Writing professor and poet Tim Lilburn has been asked to contribute to a new anthology, tentatively titled COVID-19 Diary: World’s Anthology of Poetry, organized by poet Dr Christopher Okemwa, who teaches literature at Kisii University in Kenya.

But whether it’s live-streaming your work, checking in on elderly neighbours, banging pots at 7pm or simply practicing proper social distancing, we’re all doing our part in these strange times.  

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 or

Finally, you can sign up here to receive automatic notice of The Connector each week. 

Visual Arts alum Libby Oliver has been organizing calls to seniors in care homes

John Threlfall: communications officer by day, delivery driver by choice 


Livestreaming this week

Fine Arts alumni continue to be active in National Arts Centre’s ongoing #CanadaPerforms series: in addition to the likes of previous performers Charles Ross and Meg Braem (Theatre), Clare Yuan and Stephanie Chua (Music), Marjorie Celona and current MFA candidate Kim Senklip Harvey (Writing), this week sees two more alumni stepping into the national spotlight:

  • Writing/Theatre alum and current sessional instructor Mark Leiren Young is hosting a triple book launch at noon PST on Friday, May 1, for his set of new books for young readers: Orcas of the Salish Sea, Big Whales, Small World and Orcas Everywhere, all from Orca Books—and eager young readers can even post questions to his Facebook page in advance and Mark will answer them during his reading
  • Writing MFA alum Sally Stubbs is presenting a livestream performance of her play Our Ghosts Collective, starting at 5pm EST on Saturday, May 2 (interestingly, the same play also received a live online reading on April 11 as part of The Canadian Play Thing series, hosted by fellow Writing MFA Janet Munsil).

But this week’s livestreaming doesn’t end there. In addition to the ongoing UnoFest Online performances of Visual Arts alum and current Fine Arts Indigenous Resurgence Coordinator Lindsay Delaronde (Gemini to May 3) and Music alum Isaiah Bell (The Book of My Shames, to May 3), there are a number of other performances happening in the week ahead:

  • Our colleagues at Pacific Opera Victoria are offering their latest Listening Party Podcast at 4pm Friday, May 1, with School of Music repetiteur and sessional instructor Kinza Tyrrell as a guest, alongside host Rebecca Hass plus Rachel Fenlon and Doug MacNaughton—expect to hear Kinza chat about her “Karaoke with Kinza” project, where vocalists send song requests for her to perform, then she returns the track for them to sing along to; Her latest episode features Music alum Joé Lampron-Dandonneau in a gorgeous performance of Schubert’s “Nacht und Träume”
  • Recent Theatre & Writing alum Nicholas Guerreiro is having a livestream reading of his new play The Milkshake Duck at 7:30pm Friday, May 1, as part of the Canadian Play Thing
  • Rising Music alumni folk trio West My Friend (Eden Oliver, Jeff Poynter, Alix Rempel) were thrilled to release their latest album In Constellation album last fall, but they recently had to cancel their planned European tour because of, well, you know; now, they’ll be hosting a livestream concert on their Facebook page at 11am PST Saturday, May 2—the concert is timed for an evening show in Europe, but you can enjoy brunch here in BC
  • Theatre alum Charles Ross is livestreaming a performance of his widely acclaimed One Man Star Wars Trilogy, starting at 5pm PST Monday May 4 (as in May the Fourth be with you); more than just a great show, this is also a fundraiser for the UVic Student Relief Fund—tune in to his Facebook page to watch.
  • Finally, Music alum and Victoria-raised tenor Josh Lovell will be featured as part of the weekly “Acoustic Afternoon” series from Pacific Opera Victoria. Josh will be singing from his home in Vienna in a stream that will be available starting at 1pm Friday, May 8.  

Be sure to tune in for some (or all) of these if you can!

Writing alum Sally Stubbs presents Our Ghosts 

School of Music alumni trio West My Friend

Theatre alum Charles Ross uses the force to fundraise for UVic’s Student Relief Fund

Now incubating at the Belfry

Our colleagues at the Belfry Theatre just announced participants for their 2020 Incubator Program. While the full list also includes local theatre artists Rick Waines, David Elendune and Jo Leslie, the majority of the participants are all Fine Arts alumni (mostly from Theatre): 

  • Anna Marie Anderson & Ellery Lamm of Collectivus Theatre, further developing their award-winning play Summer Bucket List
  • Molly Beatrice, Emily Hay, Hailee Jake Friesen & Alexander Moorman, developing The Fear Project
  • Andrew Barrett & Patricia Reilly of Impulse Theatre, developing The Soft Spaces
  • Nicholas Guerreiro, Annie Konstantinova & Julie McGuire of Bragi Theatre, developing Tricky Gylfi
  • Hannah Mariko Bell, developing Momotarō 
  • Sarah Pitman, developing Remarkable Engines
  • plus former students Monica Ogden & kp dennis (formerly Ann-Bernice Thomas) of Rage Sweater Theatre, developing 100 YT Guys in an Hour.

Incubator participants receive the use of the Belfry’s studios, mentorship from artistic director and Theatre sessional Michael Shamata and recent Theatre PhD alum Taiwo Afolabi—now the Belfry’s artistic and community liaison—as well as administrative mentoring from executive director Ivan Habel and other members of the Belfry staff. They’ll also get use of the Belfry Tower as a writing studio, and participation in the Belfry’s newly formed Playwright’s Unit, facilitated by Governor General’s Award-winning playwright and Writing professor Kevin Kerr.

Watch for the Belfry to feature these works-in-development at their first “mini SPARK festival”, which will throw a spotlight on the creative projects being developed by the participants of the New Incubator Project and the Playwright’s Unit. 

Got an idea for Incubator 2021? Deadline for submissions is November 30, 2020. Priority will be given to applicants from diverse communities, applicants wanting to challenge their traditional artistic practice, and projects that provide participants with opportunities to explore new creative territory. Click here for full details.

A scene from Collectivus Theatre’s Summer Bucket List, which won awards for Best Drama and Best Original New Work at the 2019 Victoria Fringe Festival

New publications

Writing MFA alum Melanie Siebert has just launched her new book, Heads Up: Changing Minds on Mental Health, with Orca Books. Aimed at youth 12 & up, Heads Up features real-life stories of people who have found hope and meaning in the midst of life’s struggles. Described as a “go-to guide for teenagers who want to know about mental health, mental illness, trauma and recovery”, Heads Up highlights innovative approaches such as trauma-informed activities like yoga and hip-hop, police mental health teams and peer support for youth.

Our colleagues at the Victoria Arts Council have launched a new online magazine titled UNTIL. Co-created by VAC director Kegan McFadden and Visual Arts alum Leah McInnis, the theme of issue one is “Interconnectedness” and features contributions by Visual Arts alumni Randie Feil, John G Boehme, Cassia Powell, Mike McLean, Rachel Kiers and current sessional instructor Todd Lambeth, as well as Theatre alum Matthew Payne. Issue two looks at the idea of “tender” with contributions by AHVS student Monic Liu, Visual Arts alumni Katie Brown and Cassidy Luteijn, plus sessional instructor Emily Geen and professor Daniel Laskarin. Is there a piece you could contribute to a future issue? “Resilience” is the theme of issue 3, and contributions are being accepted until May 6.  

Recent Writing MFA and sessional instructor Troy Sebastian / nupqu _a·k_am_ has just been announced as a double-nominee in the National Magazine Awards: his stories “The Art of the Snag” and “Raptors Revolution”—both for The Walrus—have been nominated in the “short feature” and “essays” categories respectively. Winners will be announced in early June.  


Digital Scholarship Commons

Thinking ahead to the fall semester? Keep in mind that the Digital Scholarship Commons in UVic Libraries offers a variety of tools, resources and training. Even now, their digital scholarship librarians and staff are available for online consultations and teaching. 

The Digital Scholarship Commons is there to assist faculty, students and staff in learning digital tools and methodologies which will help you pursue your passions and tell your research stories in engaging ways. Their services help the UVic community become well-versed in digital information fluency through training, workshops, digital curriculum development advice, tools, software and more. Their schedule for May workshops has just been posted. 

Looking for somewhere to start? Check out their online podcasting 101 workshop.

Virtual Fitness

Concerned about flattening the ever-increasing curve around our collective waists? UVic’s Vikes Active Living program is offering a new virtual fitness membership. You can do a workout from anywhere, anytime, with your six different CARSA instructors and a variety of classes. All you need is 30 minutes, a bit of space and a computer, phone or tablet.

For just $20, you’ll receive 21 workouts starting May 1, available at 7am daily. Classes include Booty Bootcamp, Restorative Flow Yoga, Muscle Hustle, Core 30 and Functional Fitness, with more being added. Just pick a playlist, start your workout . . . and prepare to get sweaty.

Project quarantine

As well as being an invaluable resource for artists, curators, art writers and gallery staff right now, the editorial team at Canadian Art magazine are looking to share the work of Canadian artists who may have had exhibits cancelled by COVID-19 in the “Agenda” section of their website.

As such, Canadian Art is encouraging artists and gallerists to submit social-distancing-friendly events, online gatherings, projects and launches. Each exhibition or event posting can include one image, a list of artists, curators, start/end dates and a 150-character text about the project you are promoting. 


Paying artists during crisis

Speaking of exhibits, as the national voice of Canada’s professional visual artists, Canadian Artists Representation Le Front Des Artistes Canadiens (CARFAC)  has released this list of recommended practices for paying artists during the COVID-19 crisis. If you’re an artist who was at any stage of negotiation with presenters when the crisis hit—signed contracts, verbal agreement or something more informal—you should expect presenters to honour these agreements.

CARFAC also encourages presenters to support artists to the best of their abilities and to consider the financial pressures many self-employed artists are currently facing—including compensating artists for additional labour if exhibit formats change from physical to online, screening, etc. Their guidelines are designed to help the visual and media arts community establish procedures for paying artists when exhibitions, screenings, and other opportunities are disrupted due to cancellations or postponements.

Vocal Jazz in the spotlight

This week’s musical break features the UVic Vocal Jazz Ensemble in their 2019 Autumn Showcase. Recorded in the School of Music’s Phillip T Young Recital Hall on November 24, it was sadly the final concert of the academic year by the group, as their Spring Showcase was cancelled due to COVID-19.

Under the direction of Music professor Wendell Clanton, the Vocal Jazz Ensemble has established a reputation for artistic excellence, stylistic flexibility and performances of original and inspiring arrangements. (You can check out the Vocal Jazz blog for more details.) “May any temptation to disappointment at the cancellation of the Spring Showcase be accompanied and transformed by the recognition of your artistry and enthusiasm, your skill and achievement which is undiminished by adversity,” writes Clanton to the ensemble. “Please take a moment for yourselves to reflect on the joy you have brought to others through your music.”

Members of the 2019/2020 Vocal Jazz Ensemble include Aaron Ruddell, Allie Bertholm, Andrew Wolf, Anton Sokalski, Ben Mendes, Brendan Ciccone, Brittnie Spriel, Cassidy Stahr, Clay Dowdell, Chris Clarke, Connie Goetz, Davey Bastin-Decaste, Dilly Cooner, Fionalee Lustado, Ila Zbarsky, Ken Kosowick, Katherine Allen, Lindsey Bellman, Megan Handley, Noah Mellemstrand, Odyn Mulder, Patrick Schjelderup, Sophie Groves andVictoria Jackson. Special guests at the Autumn Showcase included James Waddell, Rachel Burtman (bass), Noah Mellemstrand (violin) and Allie Bertholm (trumpet).

The Vocal Jazz Ensemble, from their 2019 Autumn Showcase program

The Vocal Jazz Ensemble opening for The Real Group and the Fifth Street vocal quintet in October 2019 at The Farquhar (photo & wide shot: Leon Fei)

Exhibit closed, video live

Like so many artists right now, all of the current exhibitions by Department of Visual Arts professor Kelly Richardson are currently closed—and, for Richardson, that translates to the loss of three international exhibits, both solo (Attenborough Art Gallery at the University of Leicester) and group (Trondheim International Biennale for Art and Technology, Hestercome Gallery).  

But fortunately, the Hestercombe Gallery in Taunton, England, have produced this video that speaks to the work and context of their now-closed exhibition Most Admirably Improved By Art, which was due to run until June 28, 2020. Richardson’s “Orion Tide” was featured alongside work by Charlotte Hodes, Rebecca Partridge and Fiona Hingston, as well as original works by 18th century English artist Coplestone Warre Bampfylde (Hestercombe’s former owner). The exhibit was intented to build links between Bampfylde’s Georgian endeavours and the concerns of artists today.

As Art Toronto noted, “Drawing from the aesthetics of cinema and dystopian stories, Orion Tide presents a Roswell-esque desert with spurts of light and smoke repeatedly taking off into the dark night sky, resting somewhere in the territory between science fiction and biblical wraths.”

While Richardson’s HD video installation may seem an unusual juxtaposition alongside paintings, sculpture and ceramic installation, Most Admirably Improved by Art brought together four contemporary artists who, like Bampfylde, began their careers drawing and painting, and now through a range of media respond to the landscapes and the environment of today, inspired through the history of art.

You can watch the eight-minute video here.

Kelly Richardson’s “Orion Tide”

Most Admirably Improved by Art, Hestercombe Gallery, 01.03.20 – 28.06.20

Writing student readings

Among the many, many end-of-year events cancelled in Fine Arts this spring was the annual launch party for issue 18 of This Side of West, UVic’s undergraduate writing journal. But since the live readings couldn’t happen, four of the contributing Department of Writing majors—Brianna Bock, Chloe CooksonBryant Linton and Tosh Sherkat—took the plunge and offer at-home digital readings of their work instead. Click on the playlist to watch them all.

No word yet on whether the new issue made it to the printers in time, but it’s usually for sale at the UVic Bookstore.

Gateway to art—and art history

If you’ve ever wondered what it is that art historians actually do, the Department of Art History & Visual Studieshas kicked off a new website aimed at exploring exactly that: Gateway to Art offers a layperson’s look at the objects and ideas that inspire UVic’s art historians. But while the idea had been germinating with AHVS chair Marcus Milwright for a while now, ironically it took the COVID-19 crisis to bring it to fruition.   

“I’ve always been interested in finding ways for people to engage with art history, but this came about because I was stuck at home and was trying to think what I could do with a laptop and the objects I’m interested in,” says Milwright.

The new website also features a section titled Talking About Art, a series of short audio explorations of objects reflecting the various areas of research and teaching in AHVS. Ranging from the everyday (bricks, coins, maps, bowls) to the more esoteric (medieval architecture, an ancient act of iconoclasm), each 7-10 minute talk explores the central idea of what art is trying to tell us.

“We can draw out narratives from objects—what they were made from, who made them, the context of why such things were done,” explains Milwright, who is both an archaeologist and art historian. “Simple objects can be really fascinating when you pull out the details; it’s not just about the practical things they do.”

He points to an inscribed ceramic jug from Raqqa as an example. “Someone chose to write an entire section of the Koran around the surface of it in ink, and then it becomes something entirely different—it transforms.”  

Still in its early days, Milwright is working on a set of contributor guidelines for his teaching faculty and is considering future contributions from the likes of frequent AHVS colleagues in UVic’s Legacy Gallery, Special Collections and possibly the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.

“The whole point is showing why the arts are important, whether studying it or creating it.”

Watch for further developments to Gateway to Art in the months ahead. But for now, be sure to take a crack at Milwright’s Stay-at-Home art history visual quiz on the site: it’s sure to keep you puzzling while you attempt to solve it.

Unglazed ceramic jug excavated in Raqqa, Syria. Late eighth or early ninth century. Raqqa Archaeological Museum

An Inscribed Ceramic Jug from Raqqa

by Marcus Milwright | Talking about art

Creative placemaking 

From the nation’s capital to one of the world’s leading creative spaces, the career of Department of Theatre alum Nathan Medd (BFA ’01) has gone far and fast since his graduation. Named the 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient for the Faculty of Fine Arts, Medd has been making a name for himself as one of Canada’s brightest young arts leaders.

Devoted to developing the performing arts in Canada, Medd is currently Managing Director of Performing Arts for the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity—the nation’s largest arts training institution and incubator of new works—a position he took up in August 2018. Prior to that, he was the Managing Director of English Theatre at the National Arts Centre, where his team successfully championed Canadian creators and initiated a new national stage for Indigenous performance. 

But prior to those key positions, he was Managing Producer of Vancouver’s Electric Company Theatre, where he produced original works for Vancouver’s 2010 Cultural Olympiad and co-founded Progress Lab 1422, the performing arts creation studio in East Vancouver, in 2009. And before that, he was the Operations and Development Manager for Victoria’s Intrepid Theatre, where he co-founded Metro Studio — still a flagship venue for Vancouver Island — and also held positions with both the BC Arts Council (programs officer and policy analyst) and the Belfry Theatre (front of house manager), where he started right out of university.

In this video about the importance of creative placemaking (recorded in the Bishop Theatre in February 2019 as part of UVic’s Alumni Week activities), Medd is joined by fellow Theatre alumni and Metro Studio co-founders Ian Case and Janet Munsil, plus Writing professor Kevin Kerr, co-founder of Vancouver’s Electric Company.

“My work these past 10 years has been about building infrastructure and altering practices that were built in the 1960s but no longer serve everyone who wants to work in or attend the arts,” Medd explains. “It’s not just a question of physical space, but programmatic space too . . . we’re making space for communities I wasn’t thinking of 10 years ago. With NAC, it was the idea of becoming the living room of the capital: you start with the idea that we’re all artists and we all need a space to be creative.”

Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Nathan Medd

More to come weekly

We’ll be posting more content from our faculty, students and alumni each week—be sure to check back!